Island Empire feels like a re-skinned Haypi Kingdom
Island Empire is a social city building game that essentially plays like a nautical version of Haypi Kingdom. You build things and collect resources as you attempt to build up a prosperous port town, and you can both join forces with other players and attack them depending on your mood. Aside from the theme, there’s little to differentiate Island Empire from all of the other menu-driven city building sims on the iPhone. Which isn’t to say that it’s bad, it’s just lacking much in the way of original ideas.
You start the game with a virtually empty plot of land. Though there isn’t much to it, it does have one big advantage: it’s right by the sea. On this ideal location you’ll be building everything from a town hall to a lumber mill as you attempt to turn the land into a bustling port town. Unlike most city building games, you don’t have the freedom to really customize your town. Instead, there are a number of pre-determined empty lots where you can place various buildings. You can’t move them around and there is no element of decoration at all.
Building things, as always, takes time, and the bigger the upgrade the longer it takes. Each building has a specific duty, such as producing a resource, like wood at the lumber mill. There’s also a barracks where you can train soldiers and spies and a port where you can ship goods in between cities. Yes, in Island Empire you’ll eventually be managing multiple cities.
The usual social features are in tact. You can join a league of like-minded players to help one another out, and you can also send troops to either attack or spy on neighboring towns. There’s a chat system in place to help you find players to team up with or to simply chat about the game and you can also message other players in-game. It’s all pretty standard stuff, though it would have been nice if there was an easier way to find specific people in the game. Some sort of search function would’ve been much appreciated.
Even though much of what you’ll be doing in the game is essentially menu-driven, Island Empire gussies itself up with some decent looking art used to represent the towns and islands. It’s all a bit static, though; you won’t see villagers milling about, doing their work. It’s just a flat image of a bunch of buildings or islands. There also isn’t any sound whatsoever in Island Empire. No music, no sound effects, nothing.
Unless the nautical theme really strikes your fancy, there’s little reason to play Island Empire over similar games. Really, it feels a lot like Haypi Kingdom with a new skin. That means it’s still surprisingly addictive and layered with depth, but it also means that it feels almost entirely unoriginal.