"Strategy Fit for a King"
As processors and display technology advance, mobile gaming has become less of a niche market for gamers looking to kill time and more of a platform with its own marquee titles. The mobile market has become saturated with devices packing more than enough digital horsepower to support games that are just as good as anything in the handheld arena. Developers have taken note, making this a great time to be a mobile gamer. And in any burgeoning market, you'll inevitably find stiff competition. So it goes with Goodgame Studios' Shadow Kings: The Dark Ages, the latest entrant into the crowded mobile RTS MMO field.
The title itself might cause a little confusion -- if you’re wondering what sets Shadow Kings: The Dark Ages apart from the original Shadow Kings, the answer is simple. Dark Ages is the PC version of the popular mobile app. But other than the name, the game is exactly the same as its phone-based counterpart.
At first glance, Shadow Kings: The Dark Ages follows the same basic premise as Clash of Clans, currently one of the top dogs for mobile strategists. However, there are enough differences for Dark Ages to step out from under the long shadow of developer Supercell's juggernaut, and stand on its own.
Unlike Clash of Clans, the strategy in Dark Ages is almost exclusively limited to planning and development. Combat is an automated affair that happens in the background, so gamers looking for a chance to deploy troops and spells, and watch the combat unfold, will be disappointed with the lack of direct feedback. On the other hand, the level of depth offered outside of combat is far greater here, with a variety of troops, armaments, and other tactical options that Clash of Clans simply lacks.
In terms of domestic strategy, Dark Ages is far and away more advanced. Rather than simply a resource farm to support your army, here managing resources and keeping the citizenry happy is a full-time job. Juggling production and choosing what to build figures highly into the gameplay, although the strict level requirements sometimes make the path feel a little scripted.
Additionally, the fact that Shadow Kings: The Dark Ages supports playing on your desktop via browser is something sorely lacking in most mobile games. The browser version doesn't support keyboard controls, which is disappointing but hardly a deal breaker. In fact, the experience is so close to identical to the phone version you have to wonder why more developers aren't doing the same thing. Unfortunately, although you can play Dark Ages across multiple platforms, you can't use the same account on both systems.
Like most mobile games, Goodgames is following the freemium model. But their implementation comes with some mighty big strings attached. Players that forego spending their hard-earned cash will quickly find themselves waiting constantly to make another move, because you only have the ability to build one item at a time. At the early stages, this limitation rarely impacts gameplay, but as you level up, the wait times become close to interminable.
If you're patient or are just looking for a new strategy fix, Shadow Kings: The Dark Ages doesn't disappoint. The game has already racked up legions of players, which only adds to the challenge.
GameDynamo's Score for Shadow Kings: Dark Ages (PC)
A freelance writer, gaming fanatic, and technology enthusiast, Len lives in Long Beach, California with his dog.
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