When we first caught wind of Brian Reynolds working on a new free-to-play mobile game, and under the freshly resurrected banner of Big Huge Games no less, we were understandably excited. After all, Big Huge Games was the studio responsible for Rise of Nations, and before its founding in 2000, Reynolds was the lead designer on a little game called Civilization II.
And while the name typically associated with the Civ franchise is making a new mobile game of his own, Reynolds is bringing a secret weapon to his offering: experience with Zynga. Scoff all you want, but as our reviews archive will tell you, Gamezebo is no stranger to Zynga’s catalog – and the Reynolds-helmed FrontierVille is one of the best games the studio has produced to date.
In short, he knows a thing or two about free-to-play.
So what happens when you put all of these elements into a blender? You get DomiNations – a game that’s a little bit Civilization, a little bit free-to-play, and a whole lot Clash of Clans.
At this point you might be saying to yourself “Ugh, no! Not another Clash-of-Clans-alike!”, and that sentiment wouldn’t be entirely misplaced. That said, DomiNations (which we’ve been playing thanks to its early launch in Canada) brings enough to the table that it might just be the best Clash-of-Clans-alike yet.
For one thing, the game addresses a lot of the frustrations players have with the Clash of Clans formula. Instead of disappearing, troops that survive your latest raid return to your barracks, ready to be used again. Instead of periods of lull while you’re waiting for your troops to replenish or your buildings to complete, you’ll be able to pass the time by hunting in an attempt to raise cash and food supplies.
But the biggest difference is the layer of Civilization-style gameplay that’s placed on top.
Rather than simply building for the sake of building, players will progress through the ages of civilization, opening up new buildings and choices as a result. At one point you’ll be asked to choose a nation, each with its own bonus and special military unit. And every so often – just like Civilization – you’ll have the chance to build a bonus-bestowing wonder. You’ll build temples to receive blessings, caravans to earn money while you’re away, roads that see better profits with the more buildings you connect – the whole nine yards.
You’ll even be able to recruit barbarians into your army from time to time.
But ultimately, these are all surface-level elements. This isn’t a Civ game with base defense moments, but a base defense game with Civ moments. It comes together to form a richer, more satisfying base-building experience than we’ve seen to date, but if you’re not sold on the genre yet, DomiNations probably won’t do much to change that.
We listed DomiNations as one of the games we were most excited to play in 2015, and after our first few days with it, I feel confident in saying that it was a solid pick to make. If you have a Canadian iTunes account, you’re only a click away from finding out if it’s for you too. And if you’re an Android gamer, don’t worry – you can find it in Canada on Google Play.
If you’re not a Canadian (or good at pretending to be one), keep your eyes peeled for DomiNations worldwide release when it happens later this year.