Empires & Allies is CityVille meets Risk

In the same way that FrontierVille was a clear evolution of the FarmVille formula, Zynga’s first foray into strategy gaming builds off of another immensly popular game: CityVille. Set to release tomorrow, Empires & Allies is described by executive producer Amer Ajami as “CityVille meets Risk,” and features elements of city building, strategy, and even player vs player combat. We managed to get a brief first look at the game in advance of its release and, really, we simply can’t wait to finally get our hands on the game.

The game begins with your beautiful island nation under attack by an evil force controlled by a mysterious person known only as The Raven. Your island is little more than rubble when you begin, and so a large part of the game involves building up your empire once again from scratch. And this works much like in CityVille. You can build houses, community buildings, and bases, and some allow you to produce goods and other items.

A barracks, for example, will let you build new combat units, like planes, aircraft carriers, or zeppelins, while other buildings will produce precious resources, which are divided into four categories: farm, wood, oil, and metal. To make things a bit more interesting, you can’t actually produce all of the goods you need on your own gameboard, so you’ll need to visit and trade with friends to get specific resources.

Unlike most Zynga-developed games, Empires & Allies has what Ajami describes as a pretty involved story and is “essentially a single player campaign.” You’ll make your way through a series of islands, defeating The Raven’s henchmen until you come up against the leader himself. But while the game does currently have an end point, Ajami says that what will be available at launch can best be described as the first chapter; the team at Zynga LA is already at work fleshing out the next part of the narrative. There appears to be a fairly large cast of characters, including Scarlet, who serves as your right-hand woman throughout the game.

The biggest change in Empires & Allies compared to CityVille is, of course, the combat. Before entering into battle you’ll have to choose your units, before you start exchanging blows with the enemy. The combat is completely turn-based, so you’ll be able to make decisions at your own pace. It appears to be pretty intuitive: mousing over an enemy, for example, will provide information about your chances of successfully damaging them. You’ll keep taking turns with your foe until one of you loses all of their units. The battles waged in Empires & Allies span land, sea, and air.

And the combat actually extends to how you interact with your friends, as well. Much like in other Zynga games you can visit your friends’ boards to help out their island nation in different ways, but you also have the option to attack them. Depending on where you attack you’ll earn different rewards, like money or items, and you’ll also gain infamy points. If you decide to help friends instead of attacking them, you’ll earn honor points.

Military strategy games are popping up everywhere on Facebook, from Global Warfare to Army Attack. So it’s really no surprise that Zynga is getting in on the action as well. Just as it’s not very surprising just how great Empires & Allies looks so far. From the detailed story and turn-based combat to the resource management and city building, it’s a game that features a lot of what players already know, and adds in a whole lot new.

Empires & Allies will be launching tomorrow, June 1, in the biggest worldwide launch in Zynga’s history: it’s going to be available in 12 different languages including English, French, Italian, German, Spanish,Portuguese, Indonesian, Turkish, Malay, Traditional Chinese, Korean, and Norwegian.