Travian: Kingdoms Review
This week we checked out Travian: Kingdoms, the free to play new updated browser game and upgraded version of the original Travian where players are responsible for building up their own village, managing resources, training troops and going up against other players in PVP focused combat. The original was hugely successful and so we were eager to check out the new game and see what kind of updates had been put in place and seeing if it had kept with the spirit of the original.
The core mechanics are very much the same, typical to many MMOs that fall within this genre; earn resources, construct buildings, field an army, attack X territory to gain land and/or resources, then typically along the way you have quests to do stuff that you were essentially going to be doing anyway, but getting extra rewards for it. Travian: Kingdoms is no different, it offers the same kind of gameplay we’ve seen from a lot of empire building MMOs, though as one of the more successful ones out there we’ll admit that Travian played its part in defining the genre, it does however offer quite a few interesting upgraded features.
There are two big decisions early on that we had to make and that was, first and foremost, what faction we were going to play as; with the three original historical factions still available we had to choose between the defensively focused Gauls, the offensively focused Teutons or the generally superior but costly Romans (usually used by more experienced players). We erred on the side of caution and went with the Gauls, a safe bet we felt, though with the benefit of new player protection it wasn’t going to be an issue for the duration of our review who we picked. Gauls are pegged as being the easy to play as, presumably geared more towards players who are less experienced with resource management and aren’t as savvy about sending out attacks and instead concentrating on staying well defended.
Second to this is whether we wanted to be a Governor or a King, a completely new feature to the game, where as a Governor you start your village on the land that another player who has chosen to be a King controls. As a Governor we were able to attack Robber Hideouts, NPC locations that only we could see that would spawn NPC attackers but were an quick source of resources and Stolen Goods, that we could sell to the King which would give both him and us rewards; that was our primary role, to help support the King who in turn was responsible primarily for building up an army and protecting his Kingdom. Kings are ideal for more active and experienced players, but even after a few hours of playing we’d already surpassed our King in terms of our village development, so presumably it’s a gamble where you end up. That said, it did seem like we could still attack the Kings starting village if we wanted to, albeit he was under new player protection as well…. for now.
The game gets off to a decent enough start, there are quirky features that we enjoyed such as the generally updated graphical style, still reminiscent to the original but slightly better polished in terms of both the character styles and the village/map graphics. It looks very slick, combined with the intuitive GUI everything is on display and easy to work out, and given the number of features this is quite the accomplishment as there is a surprising amount to do. Early quests task us with constructing the first key buildings, training up our initial troops, and building wall fortifications; aside from the different combat strategy employed a players choice of faction also determines the look/style of their available buildings, which is pretty neat.
Buildings can be constructed, which costs resources and time, they can be upgraded, which costs resources and time, and in general have some form of output production depending on the building type, such as a Barracks being able to train units… which costs resources and time. Early building placement takes around 30secs max to place a building, upgrading a little longer, but the more you try to upgrade the long it takes and the more resources it costs. Acquiring resources is essential, and it can be done in a few ways, primarily by tending to your villages lands. Each village has 6 croplands, 4 clay pits, 4 woodcutters and 4 iron mines and we were able to upgrade each of them individually depending upon what type of resource we needed the most and what our village was lacking.
Our first miss-step was getting a quest to take an Oasis tile, a super tile that you can get extra resources from (but requires you to be a top ranked player), and also expands your territory.
Without checking the defences, as this was an early quest, we sent in our entire army, which we later noticed was entirely outnumbered by the NPCs wilderness creatures that defended it; so it put us in a bit of a bad position for a while unable to continue our attacks on our neighbouring Robber Hideouts.
After a few buildings and resource production field upgrades we were extremely low on resources in general; training up your new troops takes quite a while and our army was lacking, and we quickly ran out of adventure coins to send our hero character out adventuring to bring back items (which he can usually equip to make him better in combat for when he accompanies your units in combat).
Essentially we ran out of things that we could do relatively early on and now all we could do was wait.. wait for resources to return, wait for new units to be built once we had said units. With a few quests asking us to upgrade all our resource production fields that would give us tons of resources all we could do was watch the quests sit unfinished, we didn’t have enough resources needed to actually increase the possibility of getting more resources.
With a little patience and some hands on micro-managing, back and forth to try and send out our Hero again, or get a few resources at a time from pillaging the now empty Robbers Hideouts, we slowly over the course of an afternoon managed to get over the hump. After some more upgrades, completing some quests and queuing more troops to be built we found ourselves with nothing to do again. Such is the way of the game, or so it seems. It’s hard to stay active without pumping real cash into the game to quickly end production queues or acquire extra resources, it forces a very casual game pace to play it completely F2P (taking into account we’d used our initial starting Gold to buy additional features and resource acquisition improvement, these too end after a week and so the game, for most, will suddenly get considerably harder as both their boosts run out and their new player shield undoubtedly drops making them vulnerable to other players.
The game does look good, there’s lots to do (far more than this review can actually cover) but it’s definitely a game of patience for players and only those who are quite committed to the game will ever really be able to compete and stick around. Whether this is a good or a bad thing we’re not sure, but it’s a pretty interesting game and gets more interesting as you start working with other players to build up a Kingdom, and Alliance or even your own Secret Society; a private group of aligned players with their own goals! Of the games in this genre out there we’d say it’s worth giving a shot if you have the time on your hands to click some buttons every now and then and are interested in working with (and against) other players.