Here’s what I hate about many casual games you may find lurking unsuspiciously on the internet:
They are designed to extend the time you spend playing them through forcing you to replay levels that you have already beaten.
You have to replay these levels – which are no more interesting the second time around – because you are not equipped to beat the later levels and you need to garner more experience or gold or upgrades or units or what have you in order to tackle said later levels.
In the Massively Multiplayer world, this sort of behavior is called farming. As you might expect, it is about as engrossing. Often people will farm for loot (weapons & armor) while doing other things, such as talking on the phone, chatting online, reading a book, doing their nails, doing their taxes, you get the picture.
Because of this, I get quickly annoyed with games like Epic War even though this annoyance hasn’t kept me from spending hours over the past few days playing and trying to complete the four games of the series.
The Epic War series is a side-scrolling, real-time strategy game – at least that’s what the reviewer at JayIsGames called it. It’s not really all that strategic, though it is certainly side-scrolling. The game is part of a venerable (relatively) cliché in casual games that involves you having your base on the left-hand side of the screen and launching waves of troops from that base to destroy the enemy base on the right-hand side of the screen.
And, okay, there’s some strategy involved, but it’s so, generally, simplistic that it is the strategy version of button-mashing in a fighting game. For those of you who don’t play video games, imagine a crossword puzzle that only has three-letter words. For those of you who don’t read, imagine a variant of rock, paper, scissors where all you have are rocks and slightly larger rocks.
The original Epic War used The Lord of the Rings for inspiration, placing the player in the role of the armies of good (though eventually you have angels on your side, which I’m pretty sure never happened in the books) (then again, the final battle wasn’t fought against a mountain high tower of flesh that spit fire, either) with hobbits, elves, and dwarves against the goblins, orcs, and trolls of the armies of evil.
To roll it back a bit: I played Epic War 4 first, then got frustrated with what I saw (and still see) as a forced farming mechanic and, noticing there were earlier games in the series, which you think I should have picked up on via the number, I decided to play them first. See, I’m convinced that, for these games to be considered “good”, there has to be a way to beat them without resorting to farming for experience or gold.
With Epic War, this is possible.
With Epic War 2, it might be possible. I grew so annoyed at the gameplay that I gave up on the game. In most of these games (Epic War and otherwise), if you upgrade your troops or hero or city, that upgrade stays with you. In the second game of this series, you have to buy the upgrade outside of the mission, then upgrade inside the mission as well, making each mission a slog in itself, going through the same motions.
With Epic War 3, this is possible. The game is the easiest of the three and plays out almost exactly like a game of Risk.
With Epic War 4, this is impossible. There is no way that I can see to avoid farming for gold, with which you buy upgrades, with which you demolish your enemies.
And it’s not as though farming is difficult. Once you’ve beaten a mission, there’s no reason you can’t beat it again easily and in less time than you did before. It’s just a matter of time.
And time is what a casual game – a bad one, at any rate – wants to suck from you, because time is what you’re looking to get sucked up. Why else play a casual game rather than a non-casual game? Or a “real” game, if you want to be mean.
And, apparently, I do.
Here’s a picture that I’ll ask you to imagine is a screenshot of Epic War 4. It’s better than it deserves.