Circle Empires Review
Reviewed on PC
It’s rare for a strategy game to bring a new style of gameplay - there are many Command and Conquer or XCOM clones and the 4X market has plenty of amazing but similar titles. Indie games are great at circumventing this problem, and Circle Empires’ best selling point is that it feels like a totally novel game unclouded by similarities to, or distance from, famous competitors.
In Circle Empires you must conquer a grid full of spherical islands, using the resources on the islands and troops and buildings constructed with these resources to conquer more and more islands and complete one of three objectives. It’s a simple premise, but it’s executed well enough to interesting for the first few games.
The novel circle layout is Circle Empires’ unique selling point - the neighbouring circles are defending by enemies of varying levels, present different resources, and have ranging strategic importance, so choosing which circle to conquer and where to expand the empire to next is always a conundrum. There isn’t as much tactical combat however - each troop has a strength rating, so beating enemies is just a matter of spawning enough of the best troops you can get, until your number is higher than the enemies, and you can swarm them. The lack of nuanced directions between indicating a point to walk to, or enemy to attack, shows that this is intentional.
The mechanics all work perfectly as well - spawning workers and buildings, mobilising mass amounts of troops, and upgrading and improving soldiers, is all flawlessly smooth. Compared to the recent indie re-release 8-Bit Hordes, Circle Empires’ strategy elements are perfect.
However the biggest map available is 7x7 circles, so games can be over pretty quickly, and there’s no kind of escalation or change between levels once you’ve unlocked all the optional leaders. The game touts itself as these leaders representing different factions, but in reality that just provides a slightly modified troop loadout between games - not enough to be noticeably different. As a result each level is surprisingly similar, and it’s easy to quickly become bored of the game.
The reason this review is being published significantly after the game’s release date is that for the first five months of release, this reviewer’s game had a bug preventing it from working. While not all players were affected by the bug, the Steam community discussion boards suggests enough people were affected with it for it to be a major problem, and while the developers were open in their communication with regards to fixing the bug, it still undeniably affects this reviewer’s reception of the game.
Circle Empires has the makings of a fun strategy game, and it’s technically perfectly functional. Each level is far too similar, however, to make playing the game an attractive proposition. After a few matches the novelty wears away, leaving only a dreadful - and, frankly, unnecessary - drag.