Total Domination Review
6 Overall Score
Gameplay : 5/10
Decent graphics and sound, lots of features, PVP content and trade
Confusing and unclear mechanics, tedious initial gameplay/quests
This week we took out a little time to do an extended test run of Total Domination from Plarium, a free to play browser-based Empire building MMO set in a distant future where Earth is but a desert wasteland where players must fight against the deadly AI enemies to survive and prosper.
We played the game for a couple of hours to get an overall feel of what this strategy MMO felt like, starting out we have to say that we were impressed with the general graphics and sound, the NPC giving us our missions being fully voiced and, in comparison to many other MMO’s, the voice acting wasn’t all that bad. All that said we did put them on mute after a while as they did get a bit annoying.
The general premise of the game is a base defence game, by unlocking technologies and acquiring resources players are able to build up their own base of operations constructing numerous buildings within their territory and training up a powerful futuristic army to both defend their land and destroy their enemies. Whilst players must be conscious of the AI threats so too must they give caution to other players, starting out we had the safety of our new player protection meaning players could not tackle us until our accounts were three days old or until we hit level 30; this protection would fall if we opted to attack a player who did not have protection themselves.
The game guided us for the majority of our playing experience, constantly giving us missions/quests to construct particular buildings, train certain troops and attack specific AI territories all to gain XP, resources and premium Crystals. No sooner would we complete one quest than another one or two would pop up and after a while (well into an hour of playing) we realised it was actually quite hard to deviate from this guidance as we were pretty much relying on the quest resource rewards to continue moving forward and so by not doing them in the order they wanted us to complete them would become quite a struggle.
Whilst the game itself doesn’t require a rocket scientist to work out what you are supposed to do the game actually doesn’t always do that great job of informing you of the details and for us it seemed like either sheer luck or trying numerous things that got us where we needed to go. In particular one of the annoying aspects was that our main build button was in the menu to the right of the screen, clicking this we had the choice of all different types of buildings we could construct and place. However, for some things we had to click on an actual building to bring up its own personal build menu as opposed to having its consolidated with the main construction menu, which felt counterintuitive and was made worse by the fact that at a simple glance none of the dozen buildings that we placed seem to have labels so we had to click through each building to find out the one we were after.
Pushing through the quests essentially levelled up every player exactly the same, choosing the exact same construction order for your buildings, choosing exactly the same techs from the research tree, being rewarded exactly the same amount of troops. Everything felt completely linear including the research tree to unlock new technologies which, whilst having different branches, pretty much forced us down one route as we didn’t have the required resources to head in the direction we wanted to and relied more on quests and their rewards telling us which technology to research.
We managed to accumulate quite a decent sized military force, through purchasing units and acquiring them as rewards, but primarily through a quest chain attacking alien settlements that increased in difficulty (apparently, it was hard to tell) acquiring more troops as recovered prisoners. After hours of essentially doing the same thing, repeating the same quest over and over to simply construct a different building or research the next technology or build the next troops we had unlocked as we levelled up, we were starting to get an itchy trigger finger.
Heading to the region map we could check out the neighbouring player settlements, our own settlement seemed to be on the edge of the settled territories meaning we weren’t surrounded by players, but had them all to one side of us. One player who was six levels above us had appeared to have lost/removed their new player protection (as they weren’t over level 30) and so we figured… why not? Clicking their outpost we sent everything we had at them, defending troops and all, and after about 10 minutes our troops finally reached the destination and obliterated the enemy… we think. It was quite hard to tell whether we’d actually destroyed and taken control of the new territory; we couldn’t build on it though we could send reinforcements, however we could also send the player resources and technology… again, at least so it seemed. Nothing was particularly clear with what we have accomplished.
Apart from the confusing mechanics our biggest gripe was with the Crystals premium currency, which you do appear to get every so often with quests, equally as often quests are asking you to purchase buildings that require you to spend them. Even a single section of wall costs 25 crystals to place, and your base probably requires around 80 sections of wall to fully cover the perimeter. Annoying quests asking us to sign up to the forums and adding friends to the game (with some features simply requiring players to have friends) it was just a bit of an eye roll to see how quickly the Premium Currency was being pushed on us.
All in all whilst the game isn’t terrible and there is definitely the opportunity for decent endgame base defence gameplay it just took far too long for us to get anywhere near that level of competitiveness and so the majority of our play test revolve around mission grinding and building up our base as per the games spec, which isn’t really all that fun.