Empires in Ruins by Hammer&Ravens is described by the developers as “a bastard child of 4X and Tower defense”, although I’d add a healthy dose of city-management and narrative adventure to the list, spiced with crass humor unique flavor of barely suppressed violence. This is our Empires in Ruins preview.
You are Hans Heimer, a grumpy hard-ass sheriff alcoholic sergeant with a bad temper who has seen it all and is frankly too old for politicking yet forced to take a part in it. Sent to a little corrupted middle-of-nowhere scrap of land, the sergeant is supposed to deal with the corrupted and inept local government, greedy army officers, rebellions and more.
The game consists of two parts – a branching narrative adventure that develops the story and the actual tower defense battlefield where you are either kicking ass or getting your ass kicked.
While on the world map, you get to develop your little empire, build relations with other regions (or completely fail them, which will probably happen more often than not), increase the production of resources and assign loyal men to govern your regions. In addition, remember, the only thing standing between you and betrayal is a timely execution!
When you play Battlefield for the first time, it might look as any other tower defense game at a first glance but as you delve deeper into the strategic gameplay, you will see that it is anything but. The depth of gameplay reveals itself over time as you get access to more buildings, upgrades, research, etc. but even in the first mission, the span of it is seen clearly.
Before each round of enemy starts, you get a little breathing time to set up your defenses and repair damaged buildings. The construction works are done in real-time so you might want to hurry before the enemy makes another attack!
You can manage your buildings during the enemy waves, too, but it comes with a greater risk both when you are acting and when you are choosing to wait: your workers might be killed on their way to your buildings and even if they make it to their destination safely, the towers do not attack while the repair works are underway, leaving you with one less defense as the enemy waves are rolling in.
On the other hand, a single sapper unit can take as much as about 80% of your tower’s HP points – so can you really wait until a safer moment? Repairing a building is far cheaper than erecting a new one, let alone if you have already spent a fortune to add upgrades to this particular tower!
Later in the game, you get to combine special abilities of various buildings for some explosive effects, say, drench enemies in oil from one tower and shoot fire arrows from another.
The game also includes the research tree allowing you to unlock over 70 new technologies, empower your troops, weapons, and economies. Provided your hated engineer chief, Gottfried Megler, with the tools to evolve your ragtag army against all odds.
However, you are not the only person getting upgrades. Your enemies will get more cunning and nasty as the game progresses. In addition to defending ground, you will need to build defenses for air, water, amphibian and secret enemy paths if your Empire is to be standing another day.
In addition to the aforementioned sappers that can bring your buildings down in a blink of an eye, other enemy units can open new unexpected paths, sabotage your towers, blow your production and get through your defenses in surprising ways.
Empires in Ruins is currently in Steam Early Access with the developers planning for a 12 months period before the game hits the full release. The game already has all of its “core” features but the Early Access period can help developers to push the levels of polish and balance up.
“After almost 5 years in development and several Alpha builds, Empires in Ruins is now entering a crucial final stretch. The very core of EiR is in place; the gameplay has been finalized, the campaign is ready, and the battle maps are planned out and laboriously tested. Nevertheless, we are left with polishing, prototyping and testing optional features, fine tuning, and introducing a few quality-of-life features and aesthetic improvements.”
Empires in Ruins is a curious mix of Tower Defense and 4X that actually made it work. Each “map” is different from another, both in the variety of enemies and the way they choose to approach attacking your base – and you need to adjust accordingly. And this is only talking about one half of the game! The narrative adventure part will keep you on your toes with cunning politicking and “friends” waiting to backstab you a moment your grip on the Marches falters.
- A unique mix of TD & 4X
- Crass humor
- Pretty hardcore
- Multiple gameplay modes
- The protagonist is a bit generic
- Gets a bit repetitive