Ever since I was a kid I have always been a fan of the RTS genre. While I have always been more of a fan of building up a base and gathering resources than building an army and attacking, I have always liked the genre. I personally have always preferred more straightforward RTS games instead of games that go into great detail with the battle mechanics. Released about a year and a half ago Circle Empires is a game that would have been right up my alley as it seemed like a clever take on your traditional RTS. I never had the opportunity to try out the game though. That is until today when its sequel Circle Empires Rivals was released. Circle Empires Rivals basically takes the original game, tweaks it a little and adds much wanted multiplayer to the game. Circle Empires Rivals may look small and simple on the outside, but underneath hides a strategic and surprisingly satisfying RTS game that should really appeal to fans of the genre.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Luminous and Iceberg Interactive for the review copy of Circle Empires Rivals used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
For those of you who are not familiar with the original Circle Empires the premise in Circle Empires Rivals is pretty simple. The kingdom is separated into a number of different circular worlds that are connected to its neighboring circles by bridges. Each circle is its own entity which is controlled by one of the factions or random mobs of monsters. In the game you take control of one faction who has control of just one of the circular worlds. In this circle there will be some trees and some sources of food. You will create worker units which will gather the wood and food. As you progress through the game you will also begin to gather gold.
Gathering these three resources are important because they are needed in order to expand your control over the kingdom. You start with control over just one circle, but the ultimate objective is to control the entire kingdom or eliminate your opponents. To accomplish this you must use the resources you gather to expand your power. The first thing that you can use your resources for is to construct buildings. These buildings include buildings that help you gather and generate resources, towers that help defend the circles you already control, and upgrading your walls to provide more defense. Next you can use your resources to purchase upgrades that allow you to gather resources quicker, upgrade your units or provide other benefits to your kingdom. The final and the main reason you are gathering resources is to grow your army in order to take over neighboring circles.
As for the combat it is pretty much what you would expect out of a RTS. As you gather resources you will start to acquire an army. The game features a ton of different types of units including infantry, ranged, mounted, magic, healing, and other special creatures. Each type of unit has different costs as well as strengths and weaknesses. The combat is pretty simple as you just select your units and tell them where to go or what units to target. Then the units just attack any enemy units they encounter. You can use your units to defend your base along with your towers and walls. In addition you can also target a neighboring circle in order to capture it. You just need to kill all of the enemy units as well as any buildings on the circle. When this is done you will control the circle allowing you to build buildings and gather resources from it.
When you first see Circle Empires Rivals the game may seem like your typical RTS and in many ways it is. Outside of the circle mechanics Circle Empires Rivals is very similar to your typical RTS game. You gather resources to build up your army to attack and destroy your opponents. All of these mechanics are pretty much the same as any other RTS game. If you have ever played a RTS before you should have a good idea about whether you would enjoy Circle Empires Rivals. If you have never cared for RTS games I see no reason why Circle Empires Rivals would change your mind. For fans of the genre I think there is a lot to like about the game.
At first glance Circle Empires Rivals looks like a pretty simple RTS. That opinion is not unexpected as that was my first thought as well. The game does streamline some things from the genre. You only need a storehouse to gather wood and food, but you can build a building to slowly regenerate trees on each circle. I would say that the biggest area of streamlining comes from the fact that there is no specified build order to the game. Unlike most RTS games you don’t have to build buildings and purchase upgrades in a specific order. In fact you don’t need to build any buildings or purchase any upgrades in order to create any of the units. All you need to acquire any of the buildings, units or upgrades is the required resources for that building/unit/upgrade.
As a fan of base building at first this didn’t seem like a great idea as one of the things I liked most about the genre is building up a base. In a lot of ways eliminating these buildings doesn’t adversely affect the game. In fact in some ways it improves upon the genre. Instead of having a slow buildup as you acquire the resources needed to acquire more powerful buildings and units you can jump into purchasing them much quicker. Building a strong resource base is still important as you will need a lot of resources to build up your army. Being able to create a strong base of resources will allow you to quickly grow the size of your army while also opening up the more powerful units. In a lot of ways Circle Empires Rivals maintains most of the strategy from your typical RTS while also making each match move quicker. Your typical match in Circle Empires Rivals is quite a bit shorter than your typical RTS game.
Building up your army quickly is key to the game as the battles can become downright chaotic towards the end of a match. At first your army may be pretty small, but once you develop a strong foundation to gather resources you will be able to expand quickly. You can easily get to the point where you gather resources almost as quickly as you spend them. Your armies can become large enough that they will fill up an entire circle and flood into the next. When you unleash this army on another square the battle becomes complete chaos where you can barely see what is going on. People who like to micromanage fights might be a little disappointed, but I found it to be highly satisfying building an army that squashed anything that stood in its way. You could easily create an army featuring hundreds of different units and yet the game still runs smoothly. While I would have liked to be able to better see what was going on in some battles, the battles at the end of a match of Circle Empires Rivals can be epic.
For the most part I really enjoyed playing Circle Empires Rivals. The gameplay may not revolutionize the genre, but it is still really fun. I attribute this to a couple factors.
First the game’s controls work pretty well for the most part. There are the occasional instances where you may have trouble selecting units or units for some reason don’t attack. This is worst when your army is really large as it is hard to place new units or buildings onto the circle without accidentally selecting a unit instead. Most of the time the controls work really well though. It is easy to place buildings and units as you don’t have to go through a bunch of different menus. The game also doesn’t force you to micromanage every little aspect of the game. Once you have built up a circle’s resource gathering you can mostly leave it as it is as it continues to gather you resources. If you want to micromanage the combat you can, but you can just as easily tell your units to attack and let them handle it themselves.
Next while it might not be for everyone I liked the game’s art style. In some ways the graphics are more basic than many RTS games as they are 2D and aren’t as detailed. I actually think the style works really well for the game though. It gives the game a sort of charm that works well. All of the units have their own unique style and with the number of different units this means that each stands out. On a practical side it makes sense as well. With how large your armies can become it was a good decision for the game not to include too detailed of individual units. This allows the game to run smoothly even when two massive armies are attacking one another.
The game’s difficulty seems to be about right as well. The game features quite a few different difficulty levels from really easy to really hard. Depending on your skill level with RTS games you are likely to find one that works well giving you the right amount of challenge. The easy levels can be pretty easy for people that aren’t too familiar with the genre. Meanwhile the hardest difficulties can be quite difficult. The ramp up of difficulty also is quite good allowing you to upgrade the difficulty of the enemies as you get better at the game.
Finally the game actually features quite a bit of variety. When setting up a match you can choose from a bunch of different options. You can choose the size of the map, the difficulty of the enemies, the type of game mode, and many other options to craft the match into the game experience you want to make it. The game has a total of six different game modes with each mode having quite a few different sub-modes. The basic gameplay doesn’t change between the different modes as you are still trying to build an army to defeat your enemies. The objectives of each mode are different though which adds some variety to the game. In addition the game includes a bunch of different units to use and fight. There are also over 25 different leaders which gives players different strengths and access to different units. There is a lot of variety in the game to create the game experience that you want.
Despite the amount of variety in Circle Empires Rivals the biggest issue with the game in my opinion is that it can feel kind of “samey” after a while. What I mean by this is that each match in the game will basically come down to you doing the same things. There are six different modes in the game, but they will all mostly play out in the same way. You build up your first circle to get enough resources to build a small army. You will use that small army to capture a couple of the neighboring circles. You will then develop those circles to get even more resources which you will use to expand your army. Rinse and repeat until you have won the match. There are some slight variations to this, but almost every match will play out in pretty much the same way.
In spite of this I still really enjoyed Circle Empires Rivals. Despite mostly doing the same things in every match the game is still really enjoyable. The gameplay is surprisingly addicting where it is hard to put the game down. I think this is partially due to the fact that the matches are quite short. This allows you to quickly get a game in or allow you to quickly play several matches back to back. Regularly after finishing a match I would want to jump right into another match. This will likely determine how much time you will get out of the game as the game doesn’t really have a campaign. Outside of trying to get all of the achievements there is no set goal in the game other than just playing a bunch of matches. If you don’t mind just playing a bunch of matches you can probably get a lot of time out of the game.
So I have gotten this far and have yet to talk about the differences between Circle Empires Rivals and the original Circle Empires. This is partially because I have never played the original Circle Empires so I am not sure of all of the differences between the two games. The other main reason is that the two games seem to be pretty similar. The main difference between the two games is that Circle Empires Rivals adds multiplayer to the game. This seems like a really good addition to the game. It is pretty easy to setup and join another person’s game. The multiplayer mostly seems to feature PVP and co-op with various leaderboards. I personally have never been a huge fan of PVP, but I really enjoyed the co-op as it was fun working together with another player to defeat the computer. If you have a friend to play with I would highly recommend the co-op mode. Otherwise Circle Empires Rivals seems to add some new units and leaders to the original game along with a few other small tweaks. People who already own Circle Empires mostly have to decide whether the multiplayer is worth it to purchase the new game.
When I first saw Circle Empires Rivals I was curious. As a fan of RTS games I was intrigued to see what the game would do with the genre as it seemed like a more streamlined experience. In a lot of ways Circle Empires Rivals is like your typical RTS game as the main gameplay is mostly the same. Other than the addition of the circles that you have to capture, the main difference is that Circle Empires Rivals streamlined the RTS experience making it move quite a bit quicker. This leads to considerably shorter matches which are fun and quick. The game features quite a few different options and modes which offer variety even though the game has that occasional “sameness” feel to it. Despite this the game is still really fun as the gameplay is quite addictive.
If you have never really cared for RTS games or prefer highly strategic games from the genre I don’t think Circle Empires Rivals will be for you. If you like RTS games though and want a quicker more streamlined experience you should really enjoy Circle Empires Rivals and should consider picking it up. Fans of the original Circle Empires should also enjoy Circle Empires Rivals and should consider picking it up if they are interested in online multiplayer.