As always, we'll pit each game against the other based on three criteria. First, we'll get right to the good part and see how each game handles combat or, you know, blowin' stuff up. Next up is a look at resource management within each game, two things no strategy game can be without. Finally, we'll compare how E&A and CivWorld's approached social interaction and player vs player combat (PvP), the lynch pin of Facebook strategy gaming. Ready ... Fight!
And boy, does CivWorld take it seriously. In this strategy game, combat is a collective effort, tasking players within a given Civ (Firaxis's shorthand term for civilizations in the game) to join forces and each contribute units to any given battle with another Civ. Combat is handled in a card system in which each military unit--divided into Melee, Calvary, Ranged and Naval classes--is represented by a card with both Attack and Defense statistics. And with these cards, players can choose a Heroic attack at the cost of defense, Fortify at the cost of offense or simply choose the balance Normal approach.
It makes for a terribly deep combat system complete with considerations for weather and other factors. Though combat is not as flashy or explosive as one would hope for all of the stipulations attached. Especially considering that PvP battles, because they require many players to contribute, only occur every few hours or so. And not just any player can initiate a Civ on Civ battle--only those who rise to the rank of Prince over time can do that. Though, the Barbarians--the NPC (non-player character) villains of the game--give players a crack at smaller-scale battles in between the larger PvP struggles.
Resource management is nearly CivWorld's strongest suit, and most faithful to the traditional games. There are five resources in CivWorld: Production, Science, Culture, Food and Gold. Players create houses within their nation that are home to Workers, jack-of-all-trades folk who can be switched to gather any of these five resources at any time. However, the resources you gather contribute to your greater Civ, not just your own nation (though, Production helps you create new buildings and military units). That said, it's best to focus on just one or two resources to help your Civ reach its goals to win a given era even faster. To spice things up, there are three admittedly entertaining mini games that can grant you resource bonuses.
This is the meat and potatoes of CivWorld, and it's quite admirable how Firaxis has handled social interaction. Frankly, social interaction is so ingrained into the CivWorld experience that you literally will not win a single game of Civ without coordination with your friends. Everything you do in CivWorld is for the benefit of the whole, something few social games have accomplished, and it's all made possible through live chat. However, PvP combat is limited to the large struggles between Civs that take place rather infrequently. But again, for what it's worth, more developers should look to CivWorld for how to make social interaction compelling.
Both Empires & Allies and CivWorld offer the depth and strategy that the genre calls for, though in varying degrees. CivWorld certainly brings more to the table in terms of both. But it's far too easy to get bogged down in features and stipulations when sometimes all you want to do is get to the combat, which isn't terribly exciting already. E&A is most definitely lighter (arguably too light) on strategy, interaction and depth, but focuses on where it counts: getting to its explosive PvP combat quickly. And for that, we'll have to declare Empires & Allies the winner of this Faceoff, though it was terribly close. But enough about what we think: It's time for you to decide the victor.
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