Combining strategy and farming games, Space Empire takes social gaming where no Facebook game has gone be
True to its name, Space Empires: Battle for Supremacy has some lofty ambitions. A spirited Facebook port of a 17-year-old cult PC franchise seasoned with a dash of Farmville, a hint of StarCraft, and a thick topping of Imperion, Space Empires was developed by Nvinium Games in the hopes of bridging “the gap between the traditional gamer and the social gamer.” According to some, galactic dominance may be an easier goal, but Nvinium has made an impressive effort here that shouldn’t be missed.
Much like the inhabitants of a certain familiar rock located three orbits from the nearest star, you start the game as one of three races land-bound to a comfortable plot without the means to wander to the Great Beyond. To get your fleet off the ground, you must first use the scattered empty plots to build your planet’s infrastructure, which mainly consists of buildings for resources, defense, and research. These all take considerable time to build and develop due to construction times and limits. Strategy fans will find plenty of familiar territory here, including the need for structural and research upgrades before advancing to shipbuilding and constructing other buildings. In a unique twist aimed at a wider audience, however, Nvinium has tossed in Farmville-style crops on the colony farm, which must be harvested before they wither in order to gain sigils, the game’s main form of currency.
While this first phase is realistic enough (after all, our grandest feats of space travel have only involved a couple of jaunts to our moon), new players entertaining epic visions of galactic warfare may balk at the time-consuming nature of the process. Indeed, if you’re playing casually, launching your first interplanetary ship into space may take several days, if not weeks. Almost nothing takes less than 10 minutes to accomplish, whether it’s harvesting gas or mining for metal, and more significant activities such as researching new hulls for your spacecraft will take several hours. The tutorial alone can take the better part of a day to complete.
As any environmentalist will attest, all of this relentless exploitation of your home planet comes at a cost. Charged with a growing fleet of fighters and insufficient resources on your planet to continue building them, you’ll finally find yourself building a colony vessel and heading out to the stars to find some new planets to exploit. Fortunately, there’s plenty of room, and Space Empires currently supports two large galaxies with 100 solar systems containing 15 different planets each, all given loving treatment with beautiful galactic maps displaying all the worlds available for the taking.
If you’re the peaceable sort, you can simply find an uninhabited planet and settle down. If you’re bursting with energy from all that time spent getting into space, you can attack a planet that another player has claimed and fight them for it. Most of the time battles like these will take place while the other player’s offline, but Space Empires does offer the chance to instantly fight with a random online player in a fleet versus fleet battle that requires some basic strategy. Once you’ve conquered or settled a planet, you can begin updating its infrastructure with colonies to increase your resources and strengthen your fleet. For more ambitious players, one of the primarily goals of the game is to use these tactics to amass a gigantic empire of a planets throughout the galaxy.
Luckily, in Nvinium’s vision of space, you’re never alone. Unlike games that require many participating friends for success, Space Empires allows you to join helpful alliances with players not on your friends list, although your own friends can be recruited as one of four commanders, allowing you to trade gifts and come to each other’s aid. Best of all, alliances and commanders both can considerably speed up the time needed to build structures. Moreover, there’s a constantly streaming chatroom in game that can be filtered to include everyone currently playing or simply members of your alliance, greatly heightening the interactive experience of the game. Lastly, the game provides four separate leaderboards for achievements in military strength, empire dominance, racial superiority (yes, they call it that, hmmm), or resource management (for the folks who like to virtually farm).
For all of its relative complexity, Space Empires: Battle for Supremacy is surprisingly user-friendly. There’s something here for everyone to enjoy, although it’s worthwhile to wonder if such complexity might repel the very casual base Nvinium seeks to attract. Furthermore, a number of exasperating bugs still exist and the load times can occasionally lag (which are, admittedly, reflections of its current beta phase), but the dedicated and enthusiastic development team swiftly corrects these errors and they shouldn’t pose a problem for much longer. Substantial improvements to the game can be seen almost every day, and if Nvinium continues to learn and improve from player suggestions, their already solid foundation might raise the game above the competition. Considering the game’s rapidly increasing player base, it’s a battle for supremacy that Nvinium might come close to winning.