8 Realms: Hands-on preview

8 Realms is a browser based real-time strategy game from Jagex Game Studios, which is free to play. Anyone familiar with The Settlers or Civilisation games will know what to expect, and players are tasked with building their empires from the humble Ancient age through to the high tech Future age. So is it worth spending your time on, when there are already so many other well-established games in the genre?

You begin the game by planting the foundations of your civilisation in a colourful glade with help from the wonderfully named Gary, who is basically your guide on how to play the game. Gary helps you navigate the menus, and makes suggestions on what you should do next. The menu system is clean and easy to use, and is very user friendly, which will help new players feel immediatly at home. The game world is viewed from an isometric viewpoint which works well, and lets you see the whole of your empire without any need to change camera angles etc. The graphics are functional, with a pleasant cartoony look to them. When you build your structures on the squares available, the area is animated with your townsfolk working away on the scene. Each ‘square’ is a self-contained part of the society, and you don’t need to worry about road systems to connect the various amenities together. The main aim of the game consists of constructing and researching to gain culture to help you progress to the next age. To reach the next age you need to reach 100% culture, and then build a Wonder to cement your empire. The 8 Realms of the title signifies the 8 different ages that you progress through. Ancient is obviously the first age, and as you progress you pass through the Classical, Feudal, Renaissance, Imperial, Industrial, Modern and finally Future ages.

Our mate Gary! Your number two.

As is the norm in these games, resource management is key to creating an all-conquering empire. You start the game with three resources: food, wood and stone. To earn these resources you need to build farms, lumber mills and quarries on the relevant squares where these resources are available. Unfortunately these buildings can take a very long time to build in real time, which slows down the gameplay. You can get gems which help speed up the process – but you need real money. These buildings are upgradeable, and you can add extra structures if you need more of a certain resource. The other main resource is Gold, which you gain by taxing your local population. This can be adjusted if you need extra finance, but don’t expect the local population to be too happy, as our own coalition government recently found out! You do have the option to appease the populous by building things to keep them happy. Building a library is an important aspect to your gameplan (take note Clegg and Cameron), as with it you can research new technology (um…), which gives you access to new building structures, classes of people and other bonuses. Research is laid out in a tree-like structure, where you need to research certain things to enable you to branch out into other areas.

Your kingdom is quite compact and bijou.

Once you have sustained your main city, you can then expand out into the wider world, where there are pockets of hostile barbarians who defend much needed resources. Once you have built up your army, through research and resources, you can raid or capture these outposts, and build your own trade outpost. Be warned though barbarians can attack these captured outposts, so you need to ensure that you have adequate defences to repel them. Unfortunately all the battles in 8 Realms are carried out automatically, and you don’t get to see any of the battles that ensue. It’s just a case of waiting to see if your troops triumph or are sent home in disgrace, with a Battle Report that gives you the details of what transpired.

You can expand your realm to the wider world.

8 Realms is a good introduction to the RTS genre for casual players, but we’re not sure more battle weary players will be intoxicated by its charms. The initial bit of land that you get to create your kingdom is small, which limits you somewhat; although its compact nature means it’s easy to keep an eye on what is happening in your glorious empire. The slow building process really hampers play, as some structures can take between one to four hours to build in real time! The gems help speed the building process up, but they are costly at £5 for 85 gems, which we can’t imagine many people forking out for. This means you spend a lot of time letting the game play itself, rather than you playing the game. However the basis is there for a decent game, which could well capture the casual crowd.

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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