My Empire brings grand strategy to Facebook in the most headache-free form imaginable.
My Empire is half city-building social game (think Social City) and half Sid Meier’s Civilization. It’s the lighter half of Civ, with no real competitive elements and no emphasis on combat. It’s the part of Civ that’s about watching timers tick away, your fictional civilization’s population growing and your territories slowly expanding.
My Empire develops the idea of growing a civilization with a whimsical Greco-Roman theme rendered in the lavish 2D visuals that you can typically expect from Playfish. It’s perfect as a Facebook game about relaxation, letting you play for as little or long as you like.
Where Civ and other PC games like it can be dauntingly complicated, My Empire really couldn’t be easier to play. The game starts with a very brief tutorial that introduces the basic idea of the game, fulfilling particular goals and increasing your fame. You’ll want to increase your city’s population over time, but it’s easier to keep your citizens happy when you’ve got fewer of them.
The longer you play, the larger your city gets and the more elaborate your building options become. You even get to build up Wonders, which demand a lot of time and contributions from other players but offer huge amounts of fame to the player that can finish constructing them.
My Empire is very early in its lifespan as a social game, but it runs smoothly despite being a game full of complicated animations and near-constant onscreen activity. The only way to earn money outside of completing goals, for example, involves collecting taxes. The tax collector who gets the most money out of your citizens early on (relative to time) finishes his rounds in five minutes, after which you have five more minutes to gather the money or lose it completely. The game never lags or leaks memory on the browsers tested (Chrome and Firefox) no matter how many hours you sink into collecting taxes every five minutes.
My Empire is not without a few niggling problems. It’s a bit irritating that any of the tax collectors with a longer-than-five-minute collection cycle both cost more to hire and earn money or you at incredibly less efficient rates. The game sometimes goes levels at a time without giving you a new goal to pursue. Then when you do find out what to do next, it may require building a time-consuming wonder. In general, the game still feels sparse and there are a few bits of interface which suggest that not all of its intended features are implemented yet. This will surely change over time.
It’s worth getting on at the ground floor with My Empire. There are few Facebook games that sparkle the way this one does, drawing you in with gameplay that isn’t hampered by energy limits or constantly timer management. Most of the game’s current issues are ones that Playfish can hopefully address as it maintains the game in future months. For now, it’s a shallow but entertaining city-building game that stands out in a sea of clones.