Age of Civilization is a browser-based strategy game that pits players as the lord of an empire during the middle age of Europe. The gameplay revolves around building up a city, raising an army, and using that army to win battles loosely based on the history and mythology of Europe. The game is published by NGames (known as the publisher of Pockie Ninja, Pockie Kingdom and Grand Voyage) under its platform Game321.com.
The game’s got sort of a haphazard opening, but essentially an evil dude named Seth is resurrected and mummy Seth ushers in the legendary dark ages for the entire continent. You watch as Seth beats down the army of an inaccurately feminine Joan of Arc, then before you know it, you’re a lord having dialogue with your advisor, Silica. It’s up to you to lead your people against the dark forces. Throughout the game, you will collect all the Time Shards and use them to defeat Seth once and for all.
At the start of the game, you can choose between six male and six female avatars (either way, your title will be “Lord”). You’ve also got to choose a name. Here you can type in a name or — like many other MMOs — you can opt for a random name. Age of Civilization probably has the wackiest random name generator I’ve ever encountered, with gems like “Hunchback Buggy”, “Flyfish Ivy”, and “Aardwolf Sunny” coming up in just the first 10 names I rolled. I finally settled on “Mono-eye Kitty” for my Lord.
The game is pretty standard as far as city-building goes. You’ve got a City Hall as the sort of central building that everything else relies on. The City Hall’s level determines the maximum level for all your other buildings, and you can enter the Hall to handle various affairs within your city (like Dwelling affairs and Lumber affairs). The game has some pretty funny text, undoubtedly some of it is intentional, but it seems like most of the credit goes to the imperfect translation. In the case of settling your city’s affairs, you simply press the “Just do it” button.
There are, of course, a bunch of other buildings. For the most part, they contribute resources to your cause (Dwellings bring in money, Quarries bring in stone, etc.). New units can be hired at the Tavern and the Blacksmith sells and upgrades equipment for your units. Guild buildings let you form guilds with other players, and as they are upgraded, each member of your guild gets various bonuses from them.
You hire units for your army in the form of cards. The cards sort of represent a hero unit and then the hero brings a few generic soldiers into battle alongside them when they spawn. In this way, your actual customized army will only ever contain six cards, but you might have more than twenty units actually hit the battlefield. Hero cards can be powered up by spending precious gold on them or else by devouring other cards, usually duplicates or special feast cards. As they level up, heroes have improved stats, spawn with more soldiers by their side, and gain access to active and passive abilities. On top of all that, each hero can equip six different pieces of equipment, all of which can be upgraded independently through the Blacksmith.
Battles are fought out entirely without your input, so the only you can insure victory is by constantly strengthening your heroes and then by putting them in a formation that will be to your advantage. You see, each hero fits into one of three categories that form a rock-paper-scissors relationship with each other: infantry, cavalry, and archers. You choose which order your heroes will spawn in. Being able to see your opponent’s formation before the battle means you can go in and reorganize your own formation to take advantage of a type match-up. I’m not at all a fan of automated combat, so I’m pretty disappointed with what Age of Civilization has to offer. There is literally nothing you can do to affect the battle once it has begun. Your army’s power is indicated by a numerical power number, and brute strength is really the key strategy to success — the higher you can get that power number, the higher your chances of victory. That said, I will concede that at least there’s a little more to battle than that, as a team with a slightly lower rating can still win if the formations match up in its favor. Overall though, I’m not impressed.
Visually, combat is shown as the first hero from each side’s formation spawning on their own side of the battlefield with a handful of troops. They rush towards the middle where they will meet in combat and slash at each other (or shoot arrows, in the case of archers). Units who are defeated go flying backwards and disappear. If a soldier’s hero is defeated before they are, they will flee in fear. The next heroes in the formation spawn with their soldiers 5–10 seconds later, and the process repeats until one side has lost all of its heroes. The characters are all shown with 3D models. They have decent animations, but the game is quick to lag when there are 20 animated characters independently hacking away at each other.
So, the game’s not really doing anything special. We’ve seen city builders hundreds of times and fully automated combat isn’t exactly an exciting feature. For the most part, everything’s just pretty decent. Totally playable, but never really fun. Perhaps the most tedious part is that the game’s tutorial just seems incredibly drawn out. A box on the right side of the screen holds your current missions, giving you an idea of what to do next. The thing is, the stream of missions is seemingly endless and many of the missions won’t let you do anything except what they ask. I was two hours into the game and still locked into whatever action my mission was asking me to do. The thing is, I already knew how to play the game at this point. I’m okay with a mission guiding my progress, but if I really want to do something else (like build more buildings or replay old missions to get some three-star ratings), I should be able to. The game almost pokes fun at itself for its linear nature when your advisor mentions several times that she had to check the Civilization Walkthrough because she wasn’t sure what you should do next to grow your empire. Apparently, empire-building is extremely formulaic and you’re just knocking out a to-do list to get it done.