We've begun to see a large amount of games released in the kingdom-building genre on both mobile platforms and Facebook, with every game likely trying to capture the same success of Zynga's CastleVille on Facebook or ngmoco's WeRule on smartphones. Continuing in that trend is Anansi's Arcane Shores on iPhone, a game that combines generic castle and city-building with an in-depth elemental discovery system.
The overall goal in Arcane Shores is to restore the Tome (which was destroyed in an accident), a book that was once full of magical spells and formulas, with you being forced to create elements both complex and simple using different combinations of four basic elements: Wind, Water, Fire and Earth. The creation of elements almost becomes a bit of a puzzle, as you'll need to use trial and error (along with some common sense) to synthesize up to four elements at once into something new. For instance, mixing fire and water creates steam, while earth and wind creates fine dust from the wine causing the rock to erode. As you work to create one of everything, you'll fill pages of the Tome and will be rewarded for your efforts with larger prizes, like whole bundles of coins or energy points.
You'll use these coins and energy to complete other basic tasks in Arcane Shores, like actually building these functional, sometimes magical buildings in your kingdom in the first place. Depending on the structure, a building might be able to produce units of the four basic elements (a mine can be set to mine water or earth, for instance), while another can be used to synthesize materials in bulk. Most of these actions take time to complete, offering up the standard "set it and wait" mechanic we've come to expect from free-to-play games.
There's also a quest system in place that guides you through the game's tutorial and keeps your progress forever moving forward, but these quests will unfortunately remain active in your game even after you've completed them, forcing you to tap on the small quest icon each time you think you might have finished a quest, just to get your rewards (since they're not awarded automatically).
In terms of social features, Arcane Shores offers an interesting location-based friend system, allowing the game to analyze your device's location and offer up a list of neighbors in your city or neighborhood, but if you happen to be the only one in your geographical area that's actually playing the game, you can also resort to adding completely random strangers from parts unknown. It should also be noted that while you can initially play the game anonymously as a guest (your game would only be saved on your device, and not on the cloud, as it were), you'll eventually be forced to sign up using your personal information in order to progress in the quest line.
All told, Arcane Shore's entertainment comes much more from the elemental combinations and Tome-restoration than from its city-building aspects, as that entire side of the game is full of now cliched elements that we've seen before time and time again. Still, the game is free to play and has some colorful, detailed graphics, so it might be worth a try.
Click here to download Arcane Shores on iTunes -->
Have you tried Arcane Shores on iOS, or are you already a fan of a game just like it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!