While massively multiplayer online (MMO) strategy games can be traced back almost as far back as the world wide web itself – the seminal title Mankind was released in December 1998 – it’s only over the past couple of years that the genre has really come into its own.
With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, and the subsequent rise of the free-to-play monetisation model that followed, developers have turned online real-time strategy (RTS) gameplay into a big business.
Originally seen as a rather inaccessible genre to casual players, with its often deep and demanding user interface, the mobile revolution has led to creators rethinking the core mechanics of the RTS genre; simplifying gameplay to the point where player tasks are narrower but more refined – in turn, lending itself to a generation of mobile gamers who are used to picking up and playing titles for short bursts in between their busy lifestyles.
The widespread success of some of the forerunners of the ‘rebirth’ of the genre has led to a great consumer appetite for MMORTSs, and a gap in the market for those titles who want to do something a little differently.
Over the past several years, mobile and social game developer Plarium has been building an impressive portfolio of such titles, including the likes of Soldiers Inc. and Sparta: Wars of Empire. In 2015, the company released its most ambitious title to date, Vikings: War of Clans, for iOS and Android devices, with desktop and browser versions following in 2016 and earlier this year, respectively.
Much like some of Plarium’s earlier efforts, Vikings is built around the key gameplay tenets of resource management, unit selection and distribution and base-building which remain at the forefront of the player experience throughout.
Steeped in history, Vikings: War of Clans sees players create, maintain and develop their own warrior clans, towns and military units using a variety of in-game resources acquired through performing various tasks. The game manages to distinguish itself from similar titles in the genre with a light-to-moderate focus on roleplaying elements, with hero customisation, upgrade trees and equipment crafting all adding an extra level of depth to proceedings.
Plarium’s propensity for creating engaging social games carries through into Vikings, with violent clan warfare and PvP playing vitally important roles in delivering a brutally satisfying player experience. Players can create or join a clan made up of up to 100 other users, with a hierarchical management system and other collaborative functions on offer. The overall goal of each clan is to seize power over the centre of their current kingdom, which are distinct in-game geographical locations, housing upwards of 40,000 players.
Having spent some time with both the mobile and desktop browser versions of Vikings: War of Clans, the game performs equally as effectively using either a mouse/trackpad or touchscreen; Plarium have optimised each version according to the user’s current input device. Graphically, Vikings employs an isometric look that will be instantly familiar to RTS veterans, although the developers’ choice of an animated, colourful aesthetic – it has a sort-of fantasy RPG feel about it – makes a refreshing change from other strategy titles.
All-in-all, if you’re looking for a free-to-play MMO title that provides something a little different to the cookie-cutter strategy games we’re accustomed to seeing, you may want read more about Vikings: War of Clans and ultimately decide to try it out for yourself.