It has been a long while (October 2008) since I did one of these, and as luck would have it I just happened to have played another PBBG for 30 days, so a review follows.
The gang over at the Ofasoft boards found this game, Evony, and we decided to go play it. Honestly, as evidenced by my Travian review, it is best to approach these RTS-like browser games with a crowd of friends because ultimately a guild or alliance is going to be the only way to survive the PvP. People without a group behind them will be farmed for points and resources. As with many browser based games, its got an RMT element, and while Evony’s items for purchase can give you a serious advantage, I have found that not enough people are buying them to make it really matter.
So, to start, you create an account, name your lord and name your first city (don’t pick something you love, you’ll be changing it in a minute). Like any RTS type games, you build building for resources and to facilitate your army, and there are optimum build orders to get to certain elements of the game. But, for the first 7 days you will be safe from PvP (you can’t be attacked, nor can you attack other players), so you have time to learn the game. Learning the game is where Evony, in my opinion, shines. Other games I have played forced you to go digging around wikis or forums or elsewhere to learn about the game, but Evony has implemented a Quest system giving you tons of little objectives, all with rewards. The best way to learn the game is to do the quests. If you do, your town won’t be a war machine, but it will be perfectly functional. Just heed the game’s warnings and don’t take your town hall to level 5 or you’ll end your seven day protection.
As I raced through the quests, I built myself a second town and was well on my way to solid before my 7 days were up. I worried as I hit the end of that week, but as I was in an alliance with around 40 people in it, actively playing and constantly out of resources (because I was constantly building), it seems there were enough reasons not to attack that no one did. Also, you’ll learn that attacking valleys and NPCs is more profitable at lower levels.
The key to the game is range attacks, which is pretty much true for all games and for real life too. And while archers are a ranged attack, ballistas are better, but they do take a while to get to. One thing the Evony forums are good for is posts about theorycrafting. That’s when people observe game behavior and try to work backwards to get the formula the programming is using for things. Battles work like something out of European wars with lines of attackers approaching each other on the field. The fastest runners get out front and are the first to get mowed down. The game works on a closest range/greatest threat method, where if you have archers and cavalry fighting swordsmen, the swordsmen will fight your cavalry while your archers kill them at range. If you didn’t have the cavalry, your archers would get “free” attacks on the swordsmen until they “met”, and then the swordsmen would fight the archers at close range. Fights also use a “1 group attacks 1 target” method, so in the previous example, the swordsmen would fight the cavalry until there were no more cavalry. If they had swordsman and warriors, both of them would attack the cavalry, ganging up on them, while your cavalry would only attack which ever group they encountered first (the swordsmen). Ultimately it causes weird battles where you can take 1,000 ballista, 1 cavalry, 1 swordsman, and 1 warrior, and defeat a much larger army of a single non-ranged unit type because there will be at least three rounds of combat before the enemy can attack your ballista since they need to engage each army “type” on the field and defeat them. So if 1 ballista can kill 10 warriors a round, this attack configuration could defeat 30,000 warriors while only losing 1 cavalry, 1 swordsman and 1 warrior. These kinds of mathematical and logical decisions result in very odd attack configurations, and approaching the game like a real war will only cost you troops.
The way battles work is why fighting NPCs is more profitable than PCs. A hero with the appropriate number of ballista can defeat all the defences of an NPC city while taking no losses. Send transports with them and you can gain much more resources than you can build in the same time. NPCs basically become resource ATMs.
Once you get out of your 7 day period, and assuming you are part of an alliance, you then enter into the world of negotiations. Eventually, fighting NPCs grows old and you want to take on some other players. Attacking the wrong player in the wrong alliance can result in a war that could turn out badly for your entire alliance. At the beginning of week 4, another alliance declared war on my alliance and attacked one of our member’s cities. No warning, no discussion, just attack. We sent off a note to find out why, but they didn’t reply. So, we checked with our friendly alliances and then unleashed hell on the offending alliance. We didn’t just return fire on the offending player, but his whole alliance. We ended up taking a half dozen cities from their players and putting a serious hurt on their entire alliance. Of course, this was followed by lots of whining and more negotiations as it turned out the leader of the alliance that declared war on us was a secondary account for the leader of another alliance, who was an ally of an ally, and so on… the fallout was funny as alliances turned on him and supported us, but the real lesson is that it could easily go the other way if we didn’t vet our targets properly.
The best feature of all, however, is that no one can take your “last” city. If you have 5 towns and fall under heavy PvP siege, they can take 4 and they can farm your last, but they can’t take it, and you never lose your technology research. And if you’ve saved up some city teleporters, you can always flee. You can also hit the “Restart” button and start from scratch, keeping the same lord name and nothing else.
All in all, Evony is fairly well built and balanced, more so than other free RTS-like games I’ve tried online. Its fun, and with planning of your buildings, you can actually schedule days away from the game where you are researching new technologies and building high level buildings and won’t need to check in.
I’ve played Evony for 30 days, and I’m going to keep playing. With 100 player limits on alliance sizes, it doesn’t appear to suffer from the alliance domination problems that other games do, and will keep it interesting for far longer.