Review: Total Domination: Nuclear Strategy (Facebook)

Ah, the ever-growing popularity of Facebook games. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re taking the online strategy world by storm – in fact, browser titles have seen a slight but steady decline in logged users over the past 12 months since developers like Zynga and titles in beloved Travian-style have revolutionized the scene. Marrying the best (or worst) of both networking-and-gaming worlds into a system that effectively serves up (some) high-quality games to Facebook-ers by the millions shows no signs of stopping, and being the trend-whores that we are, we’re taking a look at one such popular Facebook strategy title, Total Domination: Nuclear Strategy.

“Build mighty empires and form powerful armies! Find lost artifacts and survive in nuclear Wastelands! The World is waiting for your domination – Total Domination!” Familiar, no? Developed by Plarium and released last summer, Total Domination: Nuclear Strategy blends the aforementioned military simulation with empire building and is wracking in 4K unique players every day. That’s a modest number, but it’s been growing since the game’s release last year. The approach is totally by the book, and in this respect, disappointing – but it looks so good doing it that you just might be able to overlook the similarity to Empires & Allies and the like. These titles follow a tried-and-true time-consuming formula of resource mining and offensive/defensive strategy execution to build a massively powerful empire of sorts. They love consuming more and more of your life until you’re checking your status every waking moment of the day: before breakfast, on your phone in the car, on your computer at work, on your netbook in the toilet, etc. Total Domination is no different – in fact, it may be even more of a life-waster than other popular FB titles like Empires & Allies simply due to its excellent visual prowess.

Domination uses an intricate 3D-like mapping system which allows Player to create a fully-animated environment, not unlike Sim City in regards to building structures and land holdings. Developers actually intend the game to be played in full-screen mode, which is easier said than done depending on what type of desktop / notebook you have – but it’s a workaround that makes the title feel much more like a fully-featured console or desktop game than typical Facebook games. When progressing through the tutorial, the game actually asks you to play in fullscreen for a more immersive experience. I found it pretty effective in holding my attention and keeping distractions (from a game, ironic) to a minimum. The first five or six hours during my preliminary testing was nearly non-interrupted. Woo hoo!

In testing this title, I spent a fair amount of time exploring the physical environment and conversing with “friends” found online more than actually fortifying and conquering, but the storyline is pretty well developed. Total Domination plays out in post-war-stricken sector grids where sad saps assume the position of soldiers assigned to separate sectors on the nuclear wasteland where they take control of politics and militia. The system is built around quests to find, harvest and manufacture technological and natural resources, Uranium, Credits and Titanium. Mines generating these three resources (vital to your expansion) are on the priority list of construction plan.Player will be simultaneously building / erecting political facilities and army units, commanding and expanding territory to the greatest extent possible. Explore, Expand, Exterminate and Exploit, nothing new.

One unique aspect of Total Domination is that resources can be picked up on the back end by raiding opposing player warehouses, cat-burgler style. It’s really only useful when Player has attained a powerful group of troops, thus advisable only when the attacking party is strong enough – I didn’t have a whole lot of luck with this but I suspect once you spend over 20 hours with this title, it can become a fun way to stock up. Social integration is done very well – in the sectors of allied friends, Player can collect extra resources and currency; allied friends can send each other resources, modules and even troop reinforcements useful for building facilities or calling in backup and so on. Forming strong alliances is how you elevate yourself to baller status in Total Domination.

So the gameplay isn’t really unique, but it is fun – and the devs have put a lot of sweat into making the game look and feel beautiful. If you’re a graphics junkie like me, you’ll be hooked for at least a few days. The detailed vector design of Total Domination‘s environments are solid. Details like stone and dirt floor renderings are rich in shadow detail and material color. Structure design is pretty accurate and very real looking, on par with most Halo renderings on the XBox 360. Voice acting in the title is great too – for quest text to convey the feeling that you’re a recruit going through basic training, a game’s dialogue VO has to be both written and cast with a discerning eye. Total Domination hits on both points. There are a few game menus as well which are artfully created and look super futuristic (and believable). Think Total Recall (the original, not the shitty remake). If you’re not a Facebook game fan, I’d say look elsewhere. On the other hand, if tight social integration is your cup of strategy gaming tea, give Total Domination: Nuclear Strategy a taste.


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