At its core, AD2460 is a fulfillment of a fantasy that I have had ever since I saw Star Wars; the ability to build a powerful galactic empire capable of wiping your foes from existence. And while I've waited years for an MMORPG to be able to provide that experience in a way that remains more accessible than most other attempts, I'm not sure I'm exactly sold on the method that AD2460 uses to go about fulfilling this fantasy.
AD2460 is a browser-based MMORPG with a nominal subscription fee where you play the invisible hand that will guide a burgeoning society from their homeworld to an interstellar powerhouse. If you've ever played any base building game on the Apple app store, chances are you'll be very familiar with how AD2460 plays. While there are some interesting decisions to be made along the way, most of your time will be spent planning how to expand your base, managing resources, and eyeing the countdown timers that stand between you and that new frigate you've been fawning over.
Where AD2460 takes an interesting turn is the fact that, unlike plenty of these types of strategy games, you share a universe with every other player. Though you start off in your humble corner of the galaxy, protected by how insignificant you are, eventually you will grow large enough that other players will want to take a shot at you. Like a true sandbox, AD2460 is about building your own story rather than following a predetermined path. You're free to join player alliances and focus your efforts against a common enemy, or you can strike out on your own and see how you fare.
Consequence is a big part of AD2460, and sending your fleets into battle is not something that should be done lightly. One poor tactical decision can see weeks worth of effort evaporate in the volley of fire from an enemy fleet as your own ships crash and burn. Even your outposts and homeworld aren't safe from attack, as an enemy can hijack your transports, take over your outposts, and raid your homeworld of its precious resources. Fortunately, this aspect of AD2460 remains locked off for new players until they reach a certain level, so you'll have plenty of time to catch your breath and prepare.
While all of this sounds really interesting, sadly the act of playing isn't nearly as engaging. Almost all of your time in AD2460 will be spent navigating menus and building new facilities and ships. While some projects can be finished in a matter of minutes, others will take days to complete. This is where AD2460 really shows its mobile app roots, as there simply just isn't enough to do to warrant playing more than 15 minutes at a time. If you're hoping for an experience that can draw you in for hours upon hours, AD2460 isn't capable of providing that.
Don't get me wrong though, that's not a bad thing by any means. In fact, given how prone people are to whining that they never have enough time to invest in MMORPGs anymore, I find the experience rather refreshing. Even after my lukewarm introduction to the world, I am constantly checking in to see the progress of a project, or playing a several minutes every few hours to fiddle with production queues and manage my resources.
That said, it is apparent that AD2460 isn't a game for those who demand immediate satisfaction. Building an empire that can hold its own will take weeks—if not months—of time, and even if you do, there's no guarantee that a stronger player won't come along and wipe you out. Fortunately, an alliance system allows you to team up with other players and unite your forces for a common cause. This is where AD2460 becomes much more strategic, as players will need to decide how to best grow their alliance and what targets to attack and when. You'll also gain access to alliance forces that can be used to protect your own systems if things get dire.
Getting to that point will take patience, though. Unfortunately, the tutorial in AD2460 is fairly lackluster. It'll walk you through some basic motions of expanding your empire, but I constantly felt at a loss for the context of why these procedures mattered. The menu system is laid out in such a way that information frequently bombards you, and finding more specific details can be troublesome unless you're willing to dig into the forums for answers. Even once the tutorial was over, I still felt like I had no clue as to what I should be doing. Should I start building a fleet right away? Should I work on expanding my base? These questions didn't have answers, and I found that frustrating.
I have to question why the game is being developed on the PC when it so obviously feels right at home on a mobile device. While AD2460 boasts the fact that it doesn't use external browser plugins, allowing it to be played on mobile devices without any issue, I found the experience severely lacking. Navigating web pages on a phone can already be a suboptimal experience, and AD2460 exacerbates that problem. It might suffice if you need to set a new project to build while you're out at the store, but extended play sessions on mobile devices is an awful experience.
The other area that I imagine will become a point of contention is the fact that AD2460, despite playing entirely like the freemium apps that we're used to, actually charges a very small subscription fee to play. For reference, a month's worth of credits (the currency you spend every 24 hours to continue playing) will run you about 4 pounds. It's a small enough fee, and the logic behind it is sound; without the corruption of a cash shop, players can't buy power. It keeps everyone on a level playing field, which is absolutely a good thing considering the consequences inherent in risking your ships in combat.
I think, if anything, the screenshots for AD2460 will say more about this game than I ever could. Some of you will undoubtedly look at them, realize that this is basically a game where you just navigate menus and watch countdown timers and balk at the idea of spending your time in this way. But for those of you who aren't as worried about what form your games take, AD2460 promises some deep strategy and the possibility of truly becoming a force to be reckoned with among the other players. The community is small—tiny even—but with a game where your peers on system over could be next week's rivals, I'm inclined to believe that this more intimate community could work to the game's benefit.
AD2460 is an interesting concept that suffers from dull execution. Part of the allure of being a space emperor is the notion of grandeur that surrounds it, but AD2460 feels rather mundane. That said, I'm also willing to admit that I've only really scratched the surface of the investment this game could reward, and those who have been playing for months might have a different outlook entirely. If you want some grand strategy with some potential stakes, but also don't have the time to commit to hours and hours of building that empire, AD2460 will serve you well. But for me, already I can feel its initial grip beginning to slip, and my mind beginning to wander to other games.
- GAMEPLAY: 7 – Building your empire and making choices that could very well result in the destruction of all of your efforts creates a sort of tension that I wish more games had. However, AD2460 is largely just clicking things on the menu and then waiting for them to finish which will turn off those who yearn for a more visual representation of their experience.
- VISUALS: 6 – Menus collapse and expand stylishly, but the overall theme and visual presentation feels basic and lacks personality. On mobile devices, I found performance suffers, which severely detracts from the experience.
- POLISH: 7 – Music only plays in certain menus, and sound effects seemed haphazard and cheap. Spelling and grammatical errors were common in the texts. The gameplay experience is smooth however, and I never encountered any bugs or glitches.
- LONGEVITY: 7 – Building an empire will take you nothing short of weeks to months of patience, something that I suspect many will not be willing to commit. There is some serious potential for interesting encounters, but I worry that the user interface removes players from the immediacy of that experience.
- VALUE: 8 – While some may disagree, I found the choice to charge a subscription fee versus relying on microtransactions contributed to an experience that felt much more fair than other games of this time. Without constantly being asked to cough up more money, waiting for structures to build didn't feel nearly as painful. The subscription fee is cheap, but for many the mundane experience still won't warrant the cost.