Long time PC gamers are likely to be most familiar with the management and strategy genres. The keyboard and mouse proved to be an excellent control method for commanding troops, building empires and managing economies. They’re compelling too. A good strategy or management title can keep you utterly engrossed for hours on end as you work towards a ‘big picture’ goal. 8 Realms, developed by Jagex, is the latest strategy/management title to incorporate a free to play model and browser based play. It’s also highly successful in tapping into what makes these kinds of titles so engaging.
8 Realms starts you off with a small village under threat from barbarian hordes and allows you to develop and protect this settlement until it becomes a vast metropolis. Following a gradual timeline of technological progression you’ll be gathering resources, constructing buildings, researching technology and, of course, occasionally commanding troops against those who wish your growing civilisation harm. You’ll always be working towards something, whether it’s micro-managing the income of resources or building and researching something specific. The goal is to be prosperous and maintain it; as such it’s a long process.
However, 8 Realms is designed to be played in short bursts then left to run in the background. Building, researching and gathering resources takes time, and in 8 Realms case, is measured in real time. Smaller, simpler endeavours will take mere minutes to complete; meanwhile grander goals can takes several hours. It’s a great way of pacing the experience. Development is steady to give you a sense of progression and satisfaction whilst also introducing elements slowly to maintain your interest over a long period of time.
My time with it proved to be hard to put down. The initial quests spend a good 45 minutes with the basic tasks of setting up a civilisation and completing the tutorials. After which the quests shifted to tasks that took half an hour or longer to complete, allowing me to leave it be and return later. Without a doubt 8 Realms succeeded in pulling me back periodically over a week of play. Whether following quests dished out by a charming villager or chasing my own agenda, days soon revolved around when I needed to return to my growing empire so not to waste time idling.
To aid with time management, gems allow players to buy boosts to quicken the time it takes to complete certain things. These gems could either be bought with real money or earned in-game. However, one issue did begin to grate on the otherwise positive experience. There is a significant delay with the interface. Initially it was an inconvenience during the tutorial quests but it became hugely frustrating later on. Coming back to your civilisation to quickly issue new commands was a much slower affair than it should be, contradicting the very nature of the quick dip in and out premise. In fact the interface as a whole suffers. The play screen is limited to a box in the centre of the screen and menu boxes are intrusive. It’s cluttered but certainly not a game breaker.
Indeed 8 Realms is fun and compelling with a free to play model that doesn’t punish non-paying player. The slow interface is an issue that needs attention but otherwise it’s shaping up to a great strategy/management title and is well worth checking out.
You can play 8 Realms for free here.