When we first about Empire & Allies, Zynga's newest Facebook game since CityVille, we were admittedly expecting a "hardcore" strategy Facebook game knock-off. (Come on, the company's track record doesn't fail our expectations.) So, consider us pleasantly surprised by what the company intends with Empires & Allies, slated for a June 1 release in 12 languages, a first for any social game. Thanks to a demo event with executive producer Amer Ajami, the new game looks "hardcore," it may even feel as such. But Zynga has cleverly made it so anyone--even your mother--should be able to jump in and start blowing up their (friends and) enemies.
Admittedly, all three classes do the same thing. However, each unit within each class is more effective at defeating another specific unit. For instance, at least one Infantry unit will be able to take out Bi-planes while those same Bi-planes from the Air class are deadly to at least one Infantry unit. This system creates a deep level of Rock, Paper, Scissors that fans of the StarCraft or Risk games might be familiar with. However, when you're attacking a friend or foe's base, the type of units that they will retaliate with (controlled by AI, of course) depend on the exact area of the opponent's map you attacked, so prepare your units wisely before going into battle.
Once in combat, blows are exchanged in a turn-based fashion, allowing the attacker and defender each their chance to turn the tides of battle. All of this seemingly fun, strategic combat takes place in either a sprawling, story-driven single player campaign or online with your Facebook friends. However, attacking your friends will raise your Infamy level, represented by a black heart. Though, you can help friends a la' CityVille to increase your Honor, represented by the familiar red heart. Reaching certain milestones in Honor or Infamy will unlock combat skills--Infamy leads to offensive skills while Honor leads to defensive skills.
All in all, the game is downright charming. The struggle between the Dark Alliance and the Allies has been laid out in such a way that it looks like the story will provide a major hook. Not to mention the cutesy military leaders look like something out of 1940s-era propaganda materials. Say what you will about Zynga in the innovation department, but the company knows how to make recognizable characters on par with the Peggle Masters in PopCap's Peggle.
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