I find it very difficult to explain how I feel about Tiger Knight: Empire War.
It's not that it's a bad game, exactly. If I were to TL:DR this review, I'd say Tiger Knight is better played with a much stronger metagame aspect in tow, encouraging people to form into organized groups and play together. By one's self, however, it feels better to not treat it like a grind and just play in shorter bursts.
Let's expound on why that just happens to be the case.
What is Tiger Knight?
Tiger Knight: Empire War (shortened to TK here on out) bills itself as an online war game. To be more precise, the game looks like a computer-based version of Dynasty Warriors but has strong elements of something like World of Tanks embedded into it.
When you first log in, you get to play as a nameless (Well, unless you count General92548 as a valid name) warrior in a tutorial. It goes by fairly quickly, providing a false sense of your power at the start to make you want to dip your toes into the warm waters of war, Dynasty Warriors style. It also gives you a good amount of starting currency (specifically Copper and Prestige) to prepare you for the journey ahead, with completed skirmishes also handing out experience points with which to open up new gameplay modes.
With the various types of currency, players can buy weapons and armor to outfit themselves. They can also upgrade the capabilities of the adjutants and soldiers they take into battle, making them more effective or placing them under a specific upgrade path, kind of like in World of Tanks.
You can then undergo further training or head to a multiplayer PVP game to earn experience and more currency to purchase even more upgrades.
Do note: The game has its own lobby and chat interface, which are basically sort of like a League of Legends-styled window where you can check your statistics and hobnob with other online players. Soldier and item upgrading occurs here, but you're punted off the window and into a full-screen battle when you queue and start a fight.
Mouse Movements for Skullduggery
In a bid to be immersive, TK augments the typical WASD and mouse controls with mouse gestures to simulate the direction of where your attack will veer off to.
For instance, if you're using a sword, scrolling sideways and then attacking with the mouse button will perform a sideward slash. Moving the mouse up then attacking, performs a thrust.
While it works in theory, in practice, lag can make transitioning into a smooth strike a unenviable battle against latency.
Due to a malfunctioning controller, I've yet to test controller setups against the responsiveness of the game, but the idea should be the same, only switching an analog stick for a mouse movement functionality. Do let me know if that's the case.
Researching Your Upgrades
There's a flat cost to researching and purchasing new gear for yourself and your troops. Prestige (the Stars on the upper left of the menu) or soldier experience is used to research gear and upgrade troops. Copper (The Circle with the hole inside) is used to buy gear and replenish fallen troops.
By spending your currencies on research, you can make your troops and yourself strong enough to stay on par with enemies corresponding to your character level.
There's another currency on the bar, but I've been unable to really get enough of it. Basically though, this other alternate currency (to the right of the stars and which looks like a fat scarecrow) lets you go on the market to buy special items, but without requiring either copper or prestige to purchase those special items.
The Cash Shop
Of course, the game also has a cash shop and a VIP subscription option you can purchase.
The game allows you to buy in-game currency – gold coins –, which you can then use to buy items outright or buy boosters that increase the amount of experience and currency you gain for a set period of time, such as a week or a month, or more.
Strangely, they have weird discount pricing for their in-game currency. Something like 1% or 2% off more coins by paying more, according to the pictures, though the math itself might be off.
I didn't really think to spend money yet on this, but the option is there if you want to better support the developer beyond bug testing.
The Problems Behind the Systems
There are a number of details that drive me nuts about TK though, even without mentioning the game's means of acquiring paying consumers. I'll go through them in order.
First, while the game may throw a ton of blood around for getting hit and hitting back, none of it is actually very impactful. Taking a hit doesn't actually feel very crunchy, as there's no subtlety to the damage indications. Cuts and blunt trauma should wear down a person differently or at least send blood spatter differently, but that's not the case.
Second, the actual attack system for melee is serviceable but it's hard to get fine control over your actions when there's lag. I didn’t dabble into archery as much as it seemed like a surefire way to get trounced by NPCs.
Third, beyond the first level or two of research, you quickly realize you need to do a lot of grinding to upgrade your character's armor and weapons, and that's not as fun when you realize that…
Lastly, the game makes up for missing players with bots. Most of the games I played did not have a full roster of evenly matched players.
Whether they were higher in level already and beyond my skill to matchmake with or it was a rough hour for fighting, it's one of the game's greatest points for future improvement. It's not as social as it could be, and that's a shame.
If I wanted to play Dynasty Warriors with weapon and armor upgrades all by myself, I'd go grab an Empires version of the latest in the series for the console or the PC.
That last thing about the bots, despite my harshness, isn't really a problem in any formal sense of the word, but the main reason I highlight it is because while the game has its rough edges, there's some genuine fun to be had if you had a group of friends who wanted to take the Empires by storm by practicing and strategizing together.
The fact that not as many people are playing all the time is a little disconcerting, but I still recommend you grab your closest buddies and become a fighting force.
Of course, if you could conscript your whole school or community into playing and forming relationship-breaking alliances and all sorts backstabbity intrigue outside the game's confines, then Tiger Knight might be a more ruthless and potentially satisfying game for the gamer craving a bit of bloodlust.
Till then, you may want to settle for camaraderie building exercises in the quest to trounce your fellow man. See you on the battlefield.