Ministry of War is a traditional RTS brought to the MMO platform by Snail Games. If you’ve ever played games such as Civilization, the original Command and Conquer or even the current Halo Wars will be familiar with the genre. You build a city with various different buildings, depending on the time period and setting, perhaps city walls, defenses, troop barracks, arts and science research centers, market places, civilian housing and the like. You create farms to grow food, mines, quarries and other structures to harvest resources, and perhaps also build entertainment or religious complexes to keep your people happy. Then you recruit war leaders and armies and start taking over the world. This is the world of Ministry of War.
Set in a fictional historical time when the Egyptian, Persian, Chinese and Roman nations existed, players will select a nation to play. The character creation screen lets you know what bonuses each nation has or you could simply select the race you like better by the graphics and go for it. The game is browser based, and surprisingly good looking for a browser-based game. Isometric view and sprites rule the day, but Snail Games has put a great amount of effort in making the game look good. With building details, puffs of clouds and flocks of birds moving across the lands, you can see merchants and armies criss-crossing the land as you move around, the assets loading as you move your screen. Scaffolding is set up as you build or upgrade your buildings and defenses and you can watch your battles play out, taking manual control of the battle or allow the AI to play them out for you.
Building & Defense
Each nation has a different bonus.
- Egypt – 20% Metal Production / Siege Attack Bonus (when attacking player cities)
- Persia – 20% Stone Production / Individual Unit Attack Bonus
- China – 20% Food Production / Greater Defense Ability
- Rome – 20% wood production / Individual Unit Defense Bonus
I’m a defensive player and enjoy trading, building my defenses and armies, and as such, chose China which has to 20% bonus to Food Production and hence the ability to support more troops. Having strong leaders (known as Heroes in Ministry of War) and troops, strategic placement of walls and towers will help your defense, as well as remembering to always garrison your troops before you log off. It will also help to have allies – i.e. belong to a guild, with members nearby.
“Another way our players can defend themselves is through communication and teamwork,” said Scott Miller, CEO of Snail Games USA, “All it takes is one player from China to notice 30 Persian Heroes marching across the map in order to mobilize and protect their nation.”
Growth & Progress
Players will evolve through five different ages, starting off with Wild and Savage, then moving through Dark, Feudal and finally Castle and Empire. At each stage, you have access to different buildings, troops and skills that you can train and acquire. From basic footmen to cannon, to nation specific troops, from the basic barracks and tavern to a military academy and castle.
There are three types of NPCs you need to recruit from the tavern which refreshes every hour and they come in five different levels. White, Green, Blue, Purple and Orange. The higher level ones progress faster than the lower level ones but are rarer. Depending on how fast you want to grow, you can either wait for the higher levels to cycle through before your commission them and save a little gold, or replace your lower level ones with higher level ones as they came up in your tavern.
The Heroes are required to lead troops and harvest collection points, Missionaries are required for missions (temporary) and temples (permanent structures) to spread your city influence and Merchants required for trading and really… scouting out the lay of the land. Where the mobs are and where other player cities are, as you can locate them on the map and check on their progress as they move along the trade routes.
Heroes progress by battling mobs and participating in legions (up to three heroes and their troops) to take out lairs which have boss-mobs, equipment set drops and drops of Hero skill and tactics scrolls.
Collections and Trading serve two purposes; the first is to gain gold and wealth. The second is to obtain items that can be used as tributes when worshiping to add extra civilization value to your city which in turn helps you advance to the next age faster.
Traders advance by trading and sending your merchants beyond your own civilization’s cities not only nets more experience and hence skill points, but items from one civilization sells better than in the same. I quickly found that silver from Kabul bought for 6K gold sold for 9K in Taishun. If only it were not that heavy!
Collection points exist in the world and can only be harvested by you if you have influence over it. To gain influence, you have to build religious sites and man them with missionaries. You can also “missionize” an area temporarily instead by sending a priest to pray there, thereby extending your city influence for a time.
Missionaries are also used to decrease a neighbor’s influence by defaming their religious sites. Have a rival guild set up shop next to that collection node you were after? Defame their temples!
PvP & World Conquering
The fun part of the game of course, is PvP which can be accessed at any level. The lower three eras, Wild, Dark and Feudal can only attack others in their same era, but Castle and Empire can attack each other. If you are online, you will be notified if someone investigates you. Mousing over a city provides you the name, guild and the age it is in, investigating provides you the number of troops garrisoned and how phat the warehouse is. Each successful plunder only nets you 10% of the losing city’s resources, but you can send as many heroes in as you wish, in succession in ten minute intervals, giving the plundered player and his guild time to mount a defense by intercepting your armies or quickly putting more troops in garrison.
“War is constant in our world, and although your city can be attacked while you are off-line, we made sure to put multiple systems in the game that help protect our small percentage of players who like to eat and sleep.” Said Scott with his tongue in his cheek, “Perhaps the easiest way will be through static defenses that will defend automatically. You can build walls, guard towers, and gates to protect your city in any arrangement you want, then garrison up to six of your heroes and their troops in your castle while you are away who will automatically defend against attackers.”
Your guild is also notified if you are attacked and they can intercept the attacking army. Although resources and gold are committed once you start training troops or building, your resources do build up very quickly if your structures are at max level, so players would want to let their guild know when they are on vacation to have them help keep an eye on your city.
It can be fun loading up your hero with troops and bring a few grain carts along to wreak destruction along your path as you wander through the landscape, plundering the fat, weak pigeons – the less than active players – who may or may not notice you’ve plundered them, just know that their guild will probably plunder you in return. Although some guilds do have lists of inactive members for farming use. Resources build up pretty quickly, and a player who’s been plundered of 10% of his resources may not even notice if he logs in two days later to find his granaries full and doesn’t check his game messages. Yes, it is fun to see the flames dancing over the city you just plundered.
Attacking another civilization can be even more fun as you can destroy their walls, their buildings and take over their castles. These are still the single PvP scenarios. The coordinated Guild vs Guild and RvR games are larger and can be much longer.
The all out nation vs nation campaigns are of a massive scale and requires coordination, and this is how it works. First you build campsites in neutral territories. When you set up a campsite, you can build barracks, a town center and a few other specific buildings in it.
“A campsite is essential and necessary for RvR, because a campsite is much closer to neighboring countries. From here you can train units and attack the campsites of other countries,” said Scott, “All enemy campsites must be taken down before you can attack its mainland, so it definitely requires teamwork and cooperation.”
After all the campsites of a country are destroyed, you can invade the country’s mainland and attack their main city, which is "Taking Over Cities" which adds to your own nation’s territories. Of course the cities can be taken back. With home town advantage and a coordination, this balance of power can certainly go back and forth.
These types of games are addictive for me, and around my other MMOs, perfect for a Saturday around chores or even on a work day. I log in, leave a token force in my garrison enough to deter, commit my resources to building and training, dispatch merchants, rally heroes at lairs and dispatch others to do some yard trash and log off. Since it’s a browser game, I can pop in during a coffee break to send the merchants on their way, start research, etc. etc.
The artwork is impressive for a browser game and I’ve still yet to plumb the depths of the content as I’ve only played closed beta with some features still not released. Yes, I’m a bad girl for plundering my neighbors but this is a war game. Make yourself less desirable to being attacked and suck it up when you lose. Plant virtual sunflowers, clean restaurant toilets or leave a city burning in my wake during lunch hour? Guess.