Man, Circle Empires got close to being a really cool take on the RTS genre. Casual enough for anyone to jump in and have a good time, but deep enough to keep long-time veterans of the genre interested enough in a few quick play sessions a night. They almost did it. However, when you go for a goal that is such a fine line between two different types of games, you walk a tightrope. Unfortunately, Iceberg Interactive couldn’t balance on that rope and fell off pretty hard.
I will state upfront that the game is… fun? Depending on what type of game you enjoy. If you like steamrolling AI in games, this may be worth the asking price, which is sub $10 USD. I only mention the price here because it is very important to understand that this is an indie title through and through, and priced any higher, would be a game I wrote a tweet about to keep you away. Instead, the game deserves a proper review as the content you get is worth the asking price; if you are okay with some of the concessions Circle Empires makes.
You won’t need to look for a Circle Empires wiki, to find strategies to get you through the game. The reason for this is that the game is not all that difficult, even on the hardest difficulty setting. Generally, you can build up your empire with little more than 50-60 horse archers and let them do the work. I spent more time trying to figure out how to attack in Circle Empires than I did actually learning any other part of the game. This is because there is no traditional attack move or need for grouping your units in unique control groups. This is very much a game that leans on the old-school strategy games of building a giant army and clicking on the enemy circle.
The circle, in Circle Empires, is more than just a clever naming device. It is what defines the game. Each map is procedurally generated with up to 49 separate circles representing a small base for your… nation? The game starts with you choosing your general, each bringing unique abilities to the match. These abilities could be additional resources, units, or game-changing play styles such as turning your harvesters into pumpkins when they run out of things to do. Once you decide on your general, leader, commander, or whatever you want to call them, you choose the map size, difficulty and game mode.
Modes in the game include “wipe out all the AI”, “destroy the monsters”, and “conquer everything you see.” Once you make all your selections you are dropped into the game with a number of circles surrounding your starting point. The number you see is limited, based on your location. You’ll see between 2 and 4 circles to start, and you’ll control one. As stated earlier, there can be as many as 49 circles in a map, so you’ll never know what to expect as you move past the fog of war, which clears as you take more and more circles. This taking of circles is essentially done by highlighting your army and telling them to destroy the structures on a neighboring circle. Once done, you add that circle to your empire, but it can be recaptured or conquered by other enemies.
Of all the modes and options mentioned, you may have noticed that I forgot to include the multiplayer option. I didn’t. There isn’t a multiplayer option, locally or online. You are going to be playing against an AI that is passable at best. Hopefully, down the line multiplayer will be added in an expansion or as a free update, as that would significantly improve the game, but as it is now, this is a single-player game only.
The rhythm of the game is to build some harvesters, gather resources, take the next circle, and do it again. My problem was that once I saw the power of 50 horse archers, there was no reason for me to build anything but that particular unit and just plan my pathway to keep my captured circles as safe as possible. In situations where a circle was exposed on multiple sides, I would just toss up a few towers and keep moving – racing against the AI for lack of a better term.
Each circle has four entry points, 2 or 3 for circles on the edge of the map which is a giant square of circles, and those entry points can be protected with a wall. Which is exactly why horse archers are the superior unit in the game. The dragon is arguably stronger, but you can’t build as many as quickly. The walls, though, can take some time to bring down. Archers don’t care. They just fire over the walls to destroy all the stuff built on the other side. Kill the units. Then take out the wall.
As far as all the structures inside of a circle, don’t expect much. You’ll have a central storage/town hall building, a tower or two, possibly a bank, and maybe a life structure to help your units stay alive in combat. It’s like a church, but it simply buffs a unit to help it continue to fight as it rises in levels. The leveling is a cool addition, but as I stated earlier, combat is essentially a giant movement of all your units as one big mosh pit on the path to destroy everything they see. There isn’t a need to micro-manage, so the leveling doesn’t really matter that much in the grand scheme of things.
I guess that ultimately is the problem with Circle Empires; it just does things okay. If there was a Circle Empires IOS or Circle Empires Android released, I would happily recommend it as a fun time waster for a quick RTS-lite experience. It does handle the quick run through a game very well. The longest game I’ve played so far was completed in less than half an hour. The game has come a long way since the alpha version (watch some YouTube videos of early versions of the game) but it still feels like a game that needs a lot of polish. It is possible that the game becomes something special that fills a very unique niche if it continues to get polished up, but for now, that is a long way off.
- A Perfectly Average Game
- Fun to Steam Roll Enemies
- Simple Artwork Clearly Defines Most Units
- Good Amount of Unlockables
- You Only Need to Use One Unit to Win Most Games
- The Circle Idea Doesn't Add to the Game
- On the Attack, Ranged Units are Overpowered
- Feels Like a Flash Game With a Few Extra Options
- No Multiplayer At All