Grepolis Full Review
By MMOHut's Erhan Altay
Grepolis is the third browser based MMO release by the German studio InnoGames. Like their flagship title, Tribal Wars, Grepolis is a strategy game where players start with a single city and build it into a sprawling empire. The setting this time is not medieval Europe but the cradle of Western civilization, ancient Greece.
The Greek Alphabet
The first Grepolis server went live on January 10th, 2010 and was aptly named ‘Alpha.’ Being a Greece themed game, Grepolis could get away with the subsequent ‘Beta’ and “Gamma’ server names that followed. New players who create an account will have access to all available servers, so no server-specific accounts like in Gladiatus and other browser games. Like so many other sites, Greplois offers Facebook Connectivity. Those of you with Facebook accounts won’t have to go through the hassle of registered for a whole new service
Let Ulysses be Your Guide!
A server’s name isn’t the only thing that distinguishes it from the others. Players should pay careful attention tothe description of each one before making a selection. Some servers, such as Gamma, actually have a faster game speed. I highly recommend players select the fastest server since strategy games like this are always slow paced. Even with a fast server selected, expect slow gameplay that requires plenty of down time. After server selection, players are taken to their first city and green by Ulysses who acts as the game’s tutorial guide. He explains that the Senate building serves as the center of a city and that it is important to start generating resources by constructing a timber camp and quarry. This is done by selecting the Senate and clicking ‘build’ on the appropriate area of the building tree. Up to two build orders can be queued at a time, though only one will build at a time.
Grepolis is quick to explain the benefits of wealth. The tutorial guide mentions that gold, the premium currency, can be used to cut construction times in half. While this may seem abusive to those unfamiliar with the strategy genre, it’s actually quite reasonable. Most Asian strategy games like Evony, Lords Online, Empire Craft, War of Legends, and a host of other interchangeable MMOs allow instant-construct for those willing to open up their wallets. Besides wood and rock, silver coins make up the other primary resource in Grepolis. Wood is mainly used to construct buildings and ships, rock is used to upgrade city walls and temples, and silver coins are the in-game currency used for most everything. New player will have to upgrade their warehouse so it can hold more resources filling up. Finally, farms must be upgraded to produce more ‘free citizens’ which are required to construct buildings, and train soldiers.
After familiarizing themselves with the city overview, players move on to the next ‘layer’ which is the island overview. The world of Grepolis is not a single massive continent, but instead composed of hundreds of islands with each supporting around twenty players. Grepolis shares this feature, along with the whole Greek theme with another browser based strategy game that goes by the name Ikariam. But while that game had a more cartoon feel to it, Grepolis is much more ‘realistic.’ Player controlled cities are always located near the coast while computer controlled ‘farming villages’ are located inland. Players looking to expand their empire can found additional cities on smaller isles located near their starting area. What really sets Grepolis apart from most other games in the genre are the interaction between players and the AI controlled inland towns.
Farmers Pay Tribute
Players can send troops to these towns to raid them for resources. But they are not just static resource pinatas, their ‘mood’ must be monitored carefully. Raid too often and villagers may defend themselves. Additionally, the ‘strength’ of these villages can actually be increased by any player on the island. This dynamic forces players to cooperate. If one player goes about raiding AI villages without contributing to their strength, he or she may well incur the wraith of the other players on the island. This system forces neighbors to cooperate for their mutual self interest, even if they stay unaligned militarily. These computer controlled towns also serve as trading posts where players can exchange resources. The exchange rate is usually not in the player’s favor but the convenience factor can still make it worthwhile.
Clean and Simple
While Grepolis was launched in 2010, in many ways it feels like an older game. Compared to other recent browser releases, the animations and interface look dated. Grepolis makes up for this with a straight forward interface and gameplay. There are no quests to complete, no monsters to hunt, or heroes to equip and manage. There are a total of 22 buildings including the starting Senate structure and resource generators. Military units are broken into three major categorizes; land units, ships, and mythological units (maybe I lied about a lack of monsters to hunt.) Each category has seven or eight unit types for a total of 23. It will still take players a while to wrap their minds around everything, but the learning curve is definitely shorter than in a game like Heroes of Gaia which has much more to manage.
One feature that Grepolis does make a little more complicated (and interesting) is research. Research is conducted at the academy. As player upgrade the level of their academy, they will be rewarded with research points. Various new technologies become available at the academy as it is increased in level, each requiring different amounts of research points to purchase. The maximum number of research points a city can have is 172 (160 from the Academy, 12 from a Library), this means players can’t research everything in any given city. Decisions will have to be made. Player will have to specialize some cities towards war ship production while others can be geared towards land units. Additional specialization choices have to be made when selecting which God a city will worship at its temple. There are four patron Gods in Grepolis; Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, and Athena. Each has a number of ‘Divine Powers’ and allows the training of two of the eight mythological units. A player with multiple cities can assign a different God to each and have access to all powers and units, however.
Wars of the Ancients
Games like Grepolis are built around player interaction, particularly of the PvP kind. Newbies are given a 7 day grace period during which they are immune from attack. This time is best used to shore up city defenses and make allies with island mates. Eventually, players will have to create or found more powerful Alliances. Hours after starting, I received a letter from a neighbor extending a hand of friendship, so there is an active community.
War in Grepolis is not cheap, and many dedicated players will find it tempting to make use of the game’s premium features. The premium currency, gold, can be purchased in five different amounts. On the low end, $2.99 will purchase 120 gold while $80.99 will net 8000 gold coins. There are usually promotions which grant bonus gold, so keep an eye open for those. So what exactly can players do with this gold? Besides shave half the construction time off their buildings there are give premium NPCs that can be hired. Each costs 100 gold per 14 days and grants different bonuses. The Administrator gives additional queue slots and prepares overviews, the Merchant increases resource production by 30%, the high Priestess increases favor production by 50% and increases the strength of mythical units by 20%, the Commander increases land unit strength by 20%, and the Captain increases naval unit strength by 20%. These are not small advantages, and it will cost $80-120 a year just to keep them active around the clock. Fortunately, they are optional and the game can be enjoyed even on an active level without them. As unbalanced as they may seem, at least there is a limit to how large an advantage money can buy.
Final Verdict: Good
Grepolis is a strategy game with simple gameplay elements. It groups players onto small islands with access to shared resources, and provides the platform for player cooperation and conflict. The graphics and animations are sleek but weaker than those on offer by competitors. With no quests to complete or heroes to level up, Grepolis is a much more ‘pure’ strategy game. If that’s what you’re after, Grepolis makes a fine choice.
Pros: +Varied unit types including ships & mythological creatures. +Raid NPC villages. +Easy to learn, simple tutorial.
Cons: -Paying players receive huge advantages. -Slow paced gameplay. -Limited animations. -Less variation than other recent strategy games.