"Buying Your Way to Victory"
There's nothing inherently wrong with Mini Empires Plus. Midverse has created a solidly constructed turn-based strategy game with an appealing visual design. It could've been an excellent title, if the developer had shown restraint. But the game takes the pay-for-content model way too far, and requires large expenses in order to play competitively. Mini Empires Plus serves as a textbook example of how the "freemium" pay model can go horribly, horribly wrong.
Mini Empires Plus starts out promisingly enough. The opening cinematic shows three little kids appropriately named Land, Sea, and Air, who have inherited a desolate and war-torn world. They decide to go their separate ways to conquer a new world, apparently having learned nothing from their parents' mistakes. The result is a turn-based strategy game that looks like Age of Empires if it took on the cartoony, light-hearted visuals of Advance Wars. Players have to harvest resources, build cities, improve technologies, and test said technologies out against enemy nations.
In theory, Mini Empires Plus could've been a good turn-based strategy game. It's not a particularly novel take on the genre (beyond the disturbingly cutesy visuals, anyway), but it would've done the job for anyone wanting a solid strategy game for the iPhone. However, like too many contemporary games, Mini Empires Plus takes on a "freemium" model, where players have to pay for further content. Worse yet, the game encourages players to spend as much money as possible, allowing them to power up any and all aspects of their civilization with gratuitous spending of their App Store credit.
If you don't spend money on Mini Empires Plus, you'll have a much weaker experience. It will take literal hours for you to develop any buildings or technologies, unless you pay for "gems" to speed up productions. The resources you harvest will be drastically reduced, and certain exclusive units will remain out of your reach. And if you play the game with other players as the designer intended, the strategy aspect of this strategy game becomes moot. The game is designed to let players pay large amounts of money (up to $99.99 USD in a single transaction!) to easily upgrade their armies, and the design isn't complex enough to allow a savvy player to outmaneuver a greater empire's pure force.
The extent to which Mini Empires Plus tries to gouge money from its players is outright insulting. Perhaps this game is a subtle satire of the military-industrial complex, demonstrating how battles between nations are determined by wealth and wealth alone. If that was the intention, Midverse has played a brilliant practical joke upon their audience, a level of digital trolling that Hideo Kojima could only dream of pulling off. However, that doesn't change the fact that it's a good game ruined by the pathetically desperate attempts to grab the player's cash.
GameDynamo's Score for Mini Empires Plus (Mobile)
Neil Kapit is a freelance writer, cartoonist, and "La Li Lu Le Lo" agent based in Los Angeles. His work can be seen on www.therubynation.com.
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