As part of my service to the world of online strategy games, I’ve recently played through several of the latest iOS strategy titles. And once I had finished I realized I had not made a single decision. I just clicked the next thing in the “recommended path”, upgrading anything and everything with no thought as to why.
And then I found Dominus. A free browser based strategy game. The true heir to Travian?
Here is the extent of Dominus’ tutorial:
In Dominus I spent half an hour exploring and thinking about what my next move would be. Where will be the best place for my next village? Which spot yields the most resources, of the types that I need, but how far away is it and can I defend it? This guy’s village is in the perfect spot! I could take it from him, but can I afford to make him my enemy?
Dominus is incredibly elegant, doing so much with so little. There are only 5 troop types. But the differences between them are clear and significant. There are 6 resources types, and each of them servers a specific purpose. You can build many villages on the map, and can conquer other players, making them your vassal (and earning a % of their resources) until someone else comes and takes them from you. Victory is found by using your armies to take as much as you can without biting off more than you can chew, in challenging the right opponents at the right time, and in the right way. And occasionally sending your cavalry to intercept the enemy catapults before they reach your gates.
In contrast Game of War is all fluff and no substance. Upgrade all your buildings all the time in the very specific order you are allowed to. Log in every day to claim your “secret gift” and do your “daily quests” that involve pressing the “do this quest” button and no thought. It’s a corporate drone simulator. The only strategy is to have more troops than the other guy, which means having sunk more time or money into the game. It’s all about how far down the road you are, not the path you chose to take.
And yet Game of War has millions of players and Dominus has a few hundred. What does this say about the state of Online Strategy Games? What does this say about the world we live in? And what are we going to do about it?