A quick review and some suggestions

Field of Glory: Empires is a grand strategy game in which you will have to move in an intricate and living tapestry of nations and tribes, each one with their distinctive culture.
Set in Europe and in the Mediterranean Area during the Classical Age, experience what truly means to manage an Empire.

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Scobie
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A quick review and some suggestions

Post by Scobie » Tue Jul 14, 2020 1:10 pm

Where I'm coming from: I've been playing historical grand strategy games for ten years. I started out with the Total War series, then upon discovering Europa Universalis 3 I graduated to being a full-fledged Paradox obsessive. Three or four years ago I fell out of love with Paradox for a whole host of reasons I won't go into here, and since then I've searching with increasing desperation for a replacement. The sort of game I'm looking for would satisfy a few essential requirements: (1) It covers an interesting period of history (2) It's a fun game without excessive micro (3) It tells interesting historical stories about the rise and fall of states, ideologies and cultures (4) It's not exclusively military-focused. I've tried a range of grand strategy and 4X titles looking for that special combo, with no joy until now.

What I did: I played ~100 turns as Egypt because the game marked it as easy, before realising it started out too big to be a good beginner nation. Then I scored my first victory as Rome, winning on turn 426. Now I'm 100 turns into playing as the Picts/Caledonii.

What I liked:
- The building/trade system. The fundamentals are quite simple, but thanks to the dizzying range of buildings and the need/bonus mechanics, there's a whole lot of depth here. You could make an entire game out of just the building. The randomised building selection gives it the delightful frisson of gambling - it's always exciting to see what's going to come up next once you've finished a building, and it means you need to think about your strategy every time you make a choice. Obviously the sheer number of regions I ended up with while building my empire as Rome meant I eventually had to turn most of it over to the AI, but I kept a couple of my core provinces under my control just because it was fun to keep doing it.
- The battles. I don't have FOG2 btw. Honestly the tactical battles are usually my least favourite part of these kinds of games, because having to put the strategic part of the game on hold to shuffle units around on a tactical map or similar tends to piledrive the pacing. But these battles go by fast and don't require direct input from me, making that much less of an issue. The battle system itself has a lot of facets but is quite transparent and sensical once you wrap your head around it, and again manages to squeeze a lot of depth out of a small set of fundamentals.
- The progression and decline system. This puts a curb on map-painting in an organic and believable way. Because the link between decadence and decline is so indirect, it's never immediately obvious that you've hit the limit of acceptable expansion, making those strategic decisions a lot more interesting. Because your progress depends on what on other nations are doing by way of the ranking table, you can never quite feel comfortable resting on your laurels. Because so many of the things that generate decadence are also tied to legacy, you're constantly incentivised to try and walk that thin line. Because even regions that are already fully integrated into your empire still cause decadence, you can never feel quite secure in your gains. This system is what really makes the game stand out.
- The fluidity of the simulation. This is a game of constant change, with empires expanding, collapsing and expanding again, smaller nations being consumed and then reappearing. The progress and decline system is intimately tied into this, preventing the game from devolving into a few giant invincible blobs grinding endlessly away at each other. This is exemplified by the fate of the Antigonids during my Rome campaign. The Antigonids dominated most of the map from Greece eastwards and were the most powerful empire in the game by a considerable margin. I spent a lot of my game scrambling for territory to try and prepare myself for the inevitable apocalyptic war. Then in one turn the entire Antigonid empire abruptly collapsed, all their lands instantly taken by rebels. Within a few turns they'd disappeared, and Greece and Anatolia were a patchwork of smaller states. After getting over my shock and quickly googling to make sure this was the game working as intended, I was really impressed by this. I think it probably handed me an easy win, but it also made for a great story and completely rearranged the eastern half of the map, making the ensuing campaign much different than I'd expected.

What I didn't like:
- The game runs increasingly slowly as it goes on. I have a decent computer but by the endgame everything was taking a while to process. I'm not a programmer, I'm not going to claim this could have been done better. Seems like there's a lot going on under the hood here, so perhaps this is inevitable. It's a shame nonetheless.
- Not being able to automate individual regions, as opposed to provinces. This leads to a lot of extra micro. It also means the little bits around the edges of your empire require individual management, while the important core provinces can be left to their own devices. I ended up doing my best to avoid taking regions that I couldn't quickly form into provinces because of this.
- Army management. When you've got a couple of dozen armies/fleets spread out over your empire, keeping track of and maintaining them all turns into a huge amount of work. Replacing casualties after wars is a particular problem if you're trying to make sure they're all well put together. It's hard to assess at a glance what needs fixing, and building units then marching them where they need to be to reinforce an army is a multi-stage process that takes at least a couple of turns without adding much to gameplay. When it came time to do this I'd usually find an excuse to take a break and go and do something else for a bit.
- Your copy is alright but needs proofreading. It has the air of being written by someone who is fluent in English but doesn't speak it as a first language, I have no idea if that's true or not. It's not a huge problem but it does result in the occasional hit to immersion.
- The UI is overall pretty good but definitely requires some avoidable clicks to do things or gather information. These build up over a few hundred turns.

Overall: I like this game an awful lot. In fact, I think this might be the game I've spent the last few years looking for, and I wish I'd bought it sooner. The last week or two I've found it very difficult to do anything but play this game and I anticipate playing for hundreds of hours more yet. It's not perfect but all that really needs changing about it is polish and balance, the core is rock solid.

A couple of suggestions because I want this game to be the best it can be:
- Allow me to automate individual regions as well as provinces. This would halve the micro at a stroke.
- Take some steps to smooth out army management. For example, being able to set a template, and then automatically build or replenish to that template on request. Being able to press a button to recruit a unit direct to an army rather than have to build it in the province and then march it over. Perhaps showing what units this army used to have that it lost. Not automatically merging newly recruited units with armies or fleets already stationed in the province would help a lot.

Thanks for the game, keep up the good work, and apologies if any of the criticisms I've raised have already been addressed. This is a big game and I'm still learning about it 100 hours in. :D

Fieswurst
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Re: A quick review and some suggestions

Post by Fieswurst » Tue Jul 14, 2020 2:35 pm

Very good review and good suggestions +1 :idea:

Swuul
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Re: A quick review and some suggestions

Post by Swuul » Tue Jul 14, 2020 7:27 pm

Nice suggestions. A couple notes, if I may.

1) If the regions were automated instead of provinces, it would mean even longer turn-processing times, and it would mean the inidividual regions would be far less efficient than provinces. In essence, it would direct players to micromanage everything (because who want the turn processing to take even longer and then provide absolutely sub-par results as resources are wasted?), and fun of playing would take a serious hit.

2) Recruiting directly to armies would lead to the removal of a couple dozen buildings in the game. One of the strategic choices currently are where you stack all the buildings which boost the created units. If units were recruited directly to armies, those buildings would lose their value, and there would be no need to plan for where you intend to have your recruiting centers. In essence, it would remove quite a big part of the military planning in the game.
There are three kinds of people, those who can count and those who can't.

Scobie
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Re: A quick review and some suggestions

Post by Scobie » Tue Jul 14, 2020 8:02 pm

To clarify:

1) I meant giving the player the option to automate individual regions only when they're not grouped into provinces, not that everything should be automated on the regional level.

2) When I say "recruit direct to armies", I mean that game automatically finds the nearest recruitment centre, builds the units there, and directs them to seek out the army they're attached to. Sorry, don't think I made that clear. This might not result in maximally efficient armies, and it wouldn't be a good idea when there's enemy armies around, but by the end of my Rome game I wasn't really worrying about either of those. It'd just be nice to see as an option.

I can appreciate both of these might slightly increase processing times, but I'll take that over always having to do it manually.

n0b0dy007
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Re: A quick review and some suggestions

Post by n0b0dy007 » Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:31 pm

Scobie wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 1:10 pm
I ended up doing my best to avoid taking regions that I couldn't quickly form into provinces because of this.
Seems to be the optimal strategy, especially given the decadence calculations. Also, there is the new "Liberate Region" Regional Decision.

Personally, I think the province capital regions need more emphasis / building specialization, with other regions relegated to resource production focus.
Otherwise, the identical builds in all regions get rather monotonous - especially in late game.
Also, desert/steppe/mountain/swamp/forest regions are way too productive relative to historical, during this time period.

Scobie
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Re: A quick review and some suggestions

Post by Scobie » Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:15 pm

True, but even in situations where it might be worth the extra decadence I avoid doing it because it's annoying, which is hardly ideal.

Pocus
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Re: A quick review and some suggestions

Post by Pocus » Fri Jul 17, 2020 2:58 pm

Very nicely laid review, thanks. I agree on the shortcomings. Players mostly asked for a better AI for the provincial management though, only I see how it could be useful to automate also regions themselves.
AGEOD Team - Makers of Empires, ACW2, WON, EAW, PON, AJE, RUS, ROP, WIA.

Scobie
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Re: A quick review and some suggestions

Post by Scobie » Fri Jul 17, 2020 8:29 pm

Perhaps this will come with more experience, but I haven't had any issues with the provincial AI so far. Besides, "better AI" is the sort of thing that's easy to think to ask for but hard to implement, so I didn't think that would be much help as a suggestion. :D

MarkShot
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Re: A quick review and some suggestions

Post by MarkShot » Sat Jul 18, 2020 6:06 am

Of course, a game stands or falls on its own merits.

I do own EU4 (yes, all of it). But if you compare the resources invested in 2 products. Empires is so much more. But I am sure, right now as I write PDS' CFO is shaking his or her head that I missed the point of EU4 ... the game is all about ROI (return on investment); theirs not mine.

But this is not actually irrelevant to gamers. Since Empires which is a very engaging strategy game is ownable at 1/10 the cost of EU4. Meaning most gamers don't have to choose between paying their mortgage or purchasing Empires. So, I say "well done" Slitherine and Monsieur Malacher for producing a gem at a price the gaming public can actually afford.

PS: FOG2 is a superb game in its own right; even if you did not get the bundle.

ess1
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Re: A quick review and some suggestions

Post by ess1 » Sat Jul 18, 2020 9:26 am

Hear Hear!
From one who is in an MP and going through the dreaded "whack a rebel"- ad Infinitum nonsense. Until I get fed up and become "Idle :oops: ".

Pocus
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Re: A quick review and some suggestions

Post by Pocus » Mon Jul 20, 2020 8:00 am

MarkShot wrote:
Sat Jul 18, 2020 6:06 am
Of course, a game stands or falls on its own merits.

I do own EU4 (yes, all of it). But if you compare the resources invested in 2 products. Empires is so much more. But I am sure, right now as I write PDS' CFO is shaking his or her head that I missed the point of EU4 ... the game is all about ROI (return on investment); theirs not mine. (..)
You mean you own the 12 expansions and 8 content packs? Congrats, never achieved that :roll:
AGEOD Team - Makers of Empires, ACW2, WON, EAW, PON, AJE, RUS, ROP, WIA.

MarkShot
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Re: A quick review and some suggestions

Post by MarkShot » Mon Jul 20, 2020 8:28 am

Pocus wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 8:00 am
MarkShot wrote:
Sat Jul 18, 2020 6:06 am
Of course, a game stands or falls on its own merits.

I do own EU4 (yes, all of it). But if you compare the resources invested in 2 products. Empires is so much more. But I am sure, right now as I write PDS' CFO is shaking his or her head that I missed the point of EU4 ... the game is all about ROI (return on investment); theirs not mine. (..)
You mean you own the 12 expansions and 8 content packs? Congrats, never achieved that :roll:
There are so many pieces, I don't know how much I have; just that Steam says I own all. I have played one game before the last major DLC. Vive La France! But I have not played again.

I am no fool. I do know that PDS has milked the customer base. You and I both write code. So, when we look at things, we have a good sense of how much work (real coding) went into it. I will give you two examples of typical PDS business strategy at work:

(1) In order, for PDS' AI to play the game they need modules that send navies to colonize or send navies to patrol the sea. THEY MUST HAVE THIS. Now, they sell you DLC with advanced features that allow to order fleets to colonize or patrol. The diaries make it sound like they wrote it all for you (and charged a good pile of cash you are). But as programmers, we know they already had it coded, and just put a UI on an AI module. Cha Ching --- MONEY!!!

(2) They code for you an Army templator and a separate Navy templator. Truly, the diaries make these two separate efforts, except whoever cloned the code for navies forgot to change the window title strings; so you know that this was cut and paste coding.

I am not saying EU4 or HOI4 are bad games. Just that they have milked them incredibly. (but no one forces people to buy) However, as a software engineer I do resent the dishonesty of the developer diaries that create much work out of what you and I know is easy.

This is why I explicitly wanted to point out in this thread not simply Empires' quality, but the ethical customer relations.

So, I bought it all because I am old, retired, and hiding from the virus. What else am going to do besides play Empires? :) {doing that now, in fact}

Pocus, feel free not to comment as it might not be in good taste to criticize another developer. But I have no such qualms unless I have broken the forum rules in so doing. (I have been here since 2010 when I moved with the Panther Games Team. I don't even know what rules, I am bound by anymore.)

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