Imperia Online (Win 8)

Difficult to get started but surprisingly fun once you're rolling.

Imperia Online doesn't really bring anything new to the table that you haven't seen in other city builders before. You have a tech tree, a military, resources to manage, citizens to please, etc. etc. In that way, Imperia Online is nothing special. The nice thing about Imperia Online is that, despite the fact that it doesn't offer anything new, everything it does offer, it does pretty well. The technologies and buildings are surprisingly deep for how simple they look, and watching your empire slowly grow is rewarding. Constant in-game achievements guide your progression through the game and give you helpful suggestions for what to target next to help your empire grow as efficiently as possible. There are several hundred of these (maybe even a thousand or more, but I got my last Xbox achievement from the game while I was somewhere in the 400s for completed achievements), and 30 of them double as actual Xbox achievements that award gamerscore.

What's frustrating about Imperia is that it gives you very very little in terms of direction or instruction. Your first few days of the game will be spent in constant frustration as you learn where you need to click to access which kinds of buildings, where to research your economic and military technologies, how to efficiently use boosts, and all the different areas you have to keep an eye on to ensure that your empire is growing at a good pace. There's very little chance that you just plain won't learn it at all, since the game offers you helpful pulsing arrows whenever you tell an achievement to show you where to go to complete it, as well as a fairly comprehensive online help guide that explains the purpose of nearly any term you come across, and when all else fails, there is a player community that will answer any other questions you have. Sooner or later, you'll be fluent in navigating between your provinces, redistributing your troops, raiding barbarian camps, and managing your resources. Until then, the game can be a bit clunky, but once you're there, it's actually pretty enjoyable.

Other than the clunky learning curve, the only real complaint with the game is their achievement system. As I mentioned, 30 of the in-game achievements (out of several hundred) double as Xbox achievements. In order to claim these achievements, you must claim them in-game. The problem with this is that the game will only give you access to 5 achievements in a given category at a time. So, while you may meet the requirements for a certain achievement, you will not actually be awarded with that achievement until you have completed enough achievements in that category for the Xbox achievement to populate into the list. Generally this isn't a problem, but one particular category is loaded quite heavily with tasks that require you to come back on consecutive days, so if you don't enjoy the game, you may be stuck slogging through it for several days after completing the actual requirements until you can clear out enough tasks for the achievement to become available.

Overall, this is a fun game, and for being free, it's quite deep. Check it out of city/civilization building games are your jam!
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