Soldiers Inc Review
6 Overall Score
Gameplay : 4/10
Good graphics, plenty of features, PvP focused content
Repetitive gameplay, Premium Currency requirements for a lot of core content
This week we played Plarium’s Soldiers Inc, a free to play browser-based strategy MMO that focuses on resource gathering, base building and player versus player content. As we have recently played Total Domination, one of the companies’ other games, we were interested to see how it would differ in comparison as they are both essentially a base building strategy MMO’s. All in all we played for about two hours, gaining access and experiencing most of the games “early” content so we’ll hold our opinions on endgame/later gameplay for those that have more experience with it. So what did we find?
Logging into the game everything starts off pretty well, the graphics for a free to play browser MMO look pretty sound, pixel-based units and buildings whilst not having the top end spec graphics are still more than suitable for the type of game and the GUI is generally pretty clutter free and easy to navigate. The sounds and music are fine, nothing to write home about, and the NPC quest giver/tutorial guide “Mr Black” is fully voiced and generally not too badly done, though he does seem to constantly crack jokes and listening to him takes longer than it does reading what he is trying to say so we typically had him on mute.
Gameplay pretty much revolves around acquiring resources, constructing buildings and units, unlocking technology (or in this case “Contracts”) to gain access to new buildings and units, then completing quests attacking the AI enemy faction or raids against other players bases. For around the first hour of gameplay we were guided by Mr Black on what to build, in which order and which Contracts to go for as the general gameplay mechanics were being explained. The problem we have is that it transgresses over from being a tutorial period into being an ongoing “quest“, pretty much telling you what to do and in what order and rewarding you for it with resources or premium Diamond currency. Now whilst you can deviate from Mr Black’s guidance you don’t really benefit because in many cases to require the resources that he will give you from completing his quests to actually progress the game anyway, so the first hour of gameplay is extremely linear if you actually want to get anywhere. A constant circle of taking a quest to construct a building, unlocking Contracts to gain access to a new building, completing quests to then constructs it; it’s all gets really boring and it doesn’t surprise is why after an hour of playing where we were at around level 12 that we were surrounded by bases that had started at the same time as us and were still only level 2 or 3 who had presumably abandoned the game already.
What does work out well is the positioning of new players, seemingly starting from a central point the area where new player bases are added to the map is always on the outer perimeter, making the oldest players at the centre of the map and all the new players on the outskirts with each other. What this means is that you are rarely around anybody who vastly out levels you, pretty much everyone in the surroundings territories had green bubbles over them indicating that they were under level 30 and no older than three days, at which point the bubble pops and they are attackable (though players can forego this protection at any time by attacking someone who doesn’t have a bubble). That said this does become a bit of an issue when you want to start raiding, as we did, as you find that everybody nearby is protected and so to get any PVP early on you have to send your troops miles away to make an attack which can take quite a while.
The one-hour mark is probably where everything started to slow down, the quests that we had were taking longer to complete, training units was taking 10 minutes per unit (as at least for the newer ones such as aerial drones) or this time to at least get enough offensive units to be able to do anything with. Buildings can only be constructed one at a time unless you purchase (premium currency) extra engineers, this also includes upgrading so players can’t construct a new building and upgrade another at the same time without multiple engineers. Any forces we had were trekking out at quite some distance so that was taking a lot of time as well and honestly even after only an hour’s gameplay we didn’t feel like we could be actively involved in the game; whereof for long term strategy MMO’s but an hour’s worth of boring gameplay followed by having nothing to do wasn’t great.
Building up offensive forces was relatively easy, you could max out your troop training and leave it for an hour then come back to it with a decent force of troops to send raiding, as well as building up troops by completing the PVE Search and Destroy tasks fighting AI bases. However, building up your defensive forces wasn’t quite so easy, particularly your defensive buildings which all required Diamonds premium currency; and these weren’t even buildings from the cash shop, these were the standard/only non-troop defences available and they were pretty expensive. The bigger issue is that offensive units have literally zero use in defending and so if somebody does attack your offensive units don’t even get involved; so raid to your hearts content but unless you’re willing to purchase Diamonds you can equally have it all taken from you just as easy as your defence is greatly inferior in comparison to your offence.
Advancing up the technology tree/Contracts requires collecting “Referrals”, players earn random referrals each day that go towards unlocking a specific Contract, requiring multiple referrals before it can be acquired. Players are able to trade their referrals with each other again encouraging the cooperation with other players, however the rate at which you earn referrals each day as a free to play player will greatly put you behind the advancement curve un comparison to those who simply purchase referrals using Diamonds in order to progress the Contracts, again greatly limiting gameplay for those players that don’t want to pay anything.
Realistically all the content is pretty much the same, whether attacking the AI or another player, you pick your target and choose which forces you want to send in the raid and then the result is determined by your forces versus the available defending forces. The game goes heavily promote the Combine feature (player Guilds) and encourages players to create alliances and add friends to their friends list so that they can trade resources, troops, Contracts and help boost each other, but given that there is no regional servers the chances of you being surrounded by players that speak the same language as you are extremely slim unless you speak English, which might raise your chances slightly.
In comparison to Total Domination the game is essential exactly the same, only reskinned with a different theme, different text, and different graphics. It’s not exactly a bad thing; it allows players to choose a theme that they prefer, either modern day corporate armies with Soldiers Inc., futuristic battles with aliens in Total Domination, or fantasy themed base building in Stormfall (their other title).
Overall the gameplay is a little tedious and a little mindless, there’s effort that has been put into the game no doubt, and in many ways it is a feature packed with the amount of things that you can do, but would linear progression, Premium Currency pay walls (that we have no idea how they will balance at later game) and repetitive gameplay it just wasn’t our type of strategy and didn’t really add anything new or interesting to the genre.