Stormfall: Age of War brings plenty of longevity to the crowded web-based PVP strategy game market, though a pay-to-win aspect of the game raises concerns.
Plarium’s Stormfall: Age of War tasks players with building both castle and army from the ground up in a free-to-play browser-based title, which presents a building and combat system which will feel familiar to anyone who has ever played a base building title before.
Set in the kingdom of Darkshine, Stormfall: Age of War takes place after the fall of the Stormfall Empire, with players assuming the role of a Lord carving out their own slice of land in the formerly united region. Raising a massive army, players can take arms against both the AI controlled enemies in the demonic Horde of Balur, and other human players on their quest for success and resources.
Players are introduced to Age of War via a voiced narrator, which is a rarity in browser-based empire builders. Players will be guided by the sarcastic and entertaining character of Lord Oberon, who explains the game’s fundamentals during a somewhat lengthy series of beginners quests, serving to explain the initially overwhelming interface of the game. His instructions are fairly funny, and the voice actor delivers his lines with just the right amount of sarcasm. Unfortunately, Lord Oberon mostly disappears once players rise through the beginning ranks, and the game returns to a text-based experience after the Lord finishes his initial instructions.
The game’s graphical design has a lot of similarites to Age of Empires, with detailed animations for both building and city-based units alike. It doesn’t take long for new structures to sprout up in the player’s castle (most of them have near-instant build times, which is another big plus for a freemium title), and players will soon discover each building has a unique purpose to the game: some produce a certain amount of resources per hour, while others unlock game mechanics like research scrolls and new unit types. As with any strategy game, balancing resources between building an army, improving the city, and investing in beneficial research upgrades will play a key part in a player’s success.
Plarium also allows gamers to raise resources by raiding other players throughout the realm. Each player is given ten raid points, which means they can raid other players up to ten times, with these points slowly regenerating as the day progresses. Alternatively, besieging enemies nets a player besieging points, which bring a chance of being rewarded in the game’s premium currency, which acts as a gateway to the more powerful units. It doesn’t take long to realize that having friends (or in this case, joining a league of players, which allows for allies to send reinforcements) is the only way to protect oneself from being stretched too thin. In our experience, enemy player castles were spawned all around us, though several of them became inactive prior to reaching the later rankings of the game.
Players build armies with various types of units (offensive, defensive, and spy) and varying classes (infantry, calvary, occult) which all have strengths and weakness against other unit types, akin to Pokemon. Unlike Age of Empires or other popular freemium games like Clash of Clans or Boom Beach, Age of War doesn’t actually show the combat that takes place between armies. Combat is reduced to a numerical analysis of unit score values and unit types, which means the strategic placement of structures in one’s castle doesn’t matter in the slightest. This is a little disappointing, as having some kind of visual added to combat would make Stormfall much more of an in interesting title, instead of a game with combat so predictive that gamers can use a calculator to determine results ahead of time.
There is little to mask that Stormfall: Age of War presents a pay-to-win experience. These days, freemium games have found a pattern for profits: most allow gamers to skip wait times for a fee, and offer unique units or buildings using a game’s premium currency. This can lead to some serious overspending on the gamer’s behalf, and some of the more passive developers work had to make sure the paid content doesn’t cast a large shadow over the game.
Plarium is not one of these developers, and players will find paid content offers coming at them each time they load the game, with offers to instantly gain unique and massively overpowered units for a fee. It becomes clear very quickly that if you are willing to pay for a squad of dragons you can dominate the non-purchasing neighbors, and the game’s open multiplayer battlefield becomes a much gloomier place with this in consideration.
Despite the drawbacks, Age of War still delivers a consistently entertaining experience as gamers level up, grow armies, and wage wars against both the computer-controlled hordes of Balur and rival human players. It’s a game with plenty of polish and an abundance of unlockables to grind, which makes it one of the better browser-based games to consider. The transparent pay-to-win aspect is a huge downside to the game, but those who can fully commit plenty of playing time to the lands Darkshine will still find an enjoyable title, if not a standout one.
Stormfall: Age of War is available as both a browser-based title and a Facebook application. Game Rant reviewed the game via web browser. You can play the game here.