By Jordan Hall(ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
Stick Empires is a neat little browser-based real-time strategy game. It is the sequel to the popular Stick Wars and developed by Jason Whitham (CRAZYJAY), Brock White, and Winston Zhang. There are elements from traditional RTS games, but with special twist to make the game unique. Two players are pitted against each other, choosing one of the factions available, and duke it out until one of them falls. All combined, this makes for a great casual gaming experience.
Most RTS games do not feature any kind of customization. Stick Empires, however, does. They accomplish this by giving us the Armory, where you can spend Empire Points to purchase customizations for your troops. These customizations range from weapons for melee units, to hats for archers, to colorful bags that your miners can drag around. Empire Points are gained by winning matches or purchasing them for real money.
Contrary to what the name might suggest, Stick Empires has some pretty nice artwork and animations. These are far from basic stick figures with Microsoft Paint backgrounds that I initially thought there would be. The maps are quality artwork and a lot of care went into crafting the “stick” units. It’s hard to be critical about the graphics, because this is the chosen art style for the game. I think the graphics were wonderfully crafted.
Stick Empires has a decently sized community, and there are usually around two-hundred people online at any time. I did not get a chance to judge the helpfulness of the community, however. As the only way to communicate is if you are in a game with someone. Unfortunately, in the majority of my games, my opponent was silent. So while it certaintly does have a healthy community, it’s not a very socialable.
Everything in Stick Empires can be done with your mouse, though some task can be done with the keyboard if you like. I found the controls to be smooth and did not have an issue with them. They were designed with convenience in mind and they pulled off an easy control scheme that is comforatable to use. This is in part due to how simple the game is, but also due to good foresight by the developers. No complaints in this area.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Stick Empires has your typical RTS-style elements. Things such as troop purchasing, upgrades, short-term resource gathering, and quick action. The developers have managed to include the essentials, while keeping them very casual so you can hop on and have a quick game. Although being a very casual experience, there is a lot of room for strategy.
In each match, you start with a couple of miners. You can set these up to mine gold in your mines, or pray at your statue for mana. All units requires gold, while only the more advanced units require mana. It’s pretty straight forward that you should invest in more miners early on. Throughout the game you will want to manage your resource gathering to make sure you have the edge over your opponent.
You can use your resources to buy units or upgrade units and give them new abilities to use. The first part of the game is usually spent on building up your army and giving them upgrades along the way. You can also build defenses, such as archers on your castle, or a wall around your mine. This is where a lot of the strategy in the game comes in. Should you upgrade a unit, or produce a new one? Maybe it would be better to put a third archer on your walls.
Combat is what you would expect from an RTS. You can select and control individual or groups of units and direct them to move to certain locations or attack certain targets. There are ranged, melee, and magic units. Some examples on what you can expect are flying ranged units, shield bearing defensive units, and healing cleric units. At the time of writing, there are two factions, Order and Chaos. I have heard that a third faction was in the makings, centered around the elements.
Stick Empires is fun, fast paced, and easy to get into. But, it does offer a lot of options to bring strategy into the fold. Unfortunately, while it is easy to find a game at even the early hours of the night, you probably wont talk much with your fellow players unless you seek out a discussion forum. It would have been nice to have a chat system that allowed you to talk with other players waiting for a game. Overall, it is a great casual RTS game that can be played in the browser or on facebook.
Features – 3/5 – There could be more features in the game, but everything in the game was done well.
Customization – 3/5 – I was surprised that there was even customization in the game.
Graphics – 4/5 I enjoyed the artstyle.
Community – 2/5 Large but silent and hard to interact with unless you seek out a forum.
Controls – 5/5 – Done very well for a browser game.
Overall: 4/5 – I had fun with this casual RTS, and the fact that it can be played in the browser made the experience all the better.