Empire Building Games

Constructing an empire, one game at a time

An Empire Before Brunch

If you thought constructing a sandwich was inconvenient, or perhaps building a shed in your back garden was something of a chore, then you’ve probably never tried your hand at building a fully-fledged empire for your troubles. To be fair to anyone reading this, there really aren’t that many people alive today that can say they have built an empire single-handedly and from scratch, if any at all, but if you look at the gaming world, then you’ll find millions that would make a claim to the contrary. Players of games like Age of Empires, Rise of Nations, Empire Earth, and the Medieval: Total War series know exactly what it is like to build an empire, and thanks to these aforementioned games it can be done in the time between breakfast and lunch, perhaps even brunch if that’s how you live your life. The age of the aforementioned empire-games is waning a little however, but thankfully this decline coincides with the rise of the MMO empire-building game and different variants that can be free to play: here is our pick of the best such games you can possibly play.

For the Beginners: Goodgame Empire

Good Game Empire game

Perhaps one of the most accessible forays into empire building you can hope to play, Goodgame Empire from Goodgame Studios is all about giving the player the opportunity to take immediate hold of an already-established settlement with a simple castle and perimeter walls. While games like Forge of Empires require a true willingness to begin from scratch and plunge head-first into the time-consuming duty of constructing an empire out of basically nothing, Goodgame Empire in contrast opens its arms and welcomes the sceptics and the first-time adventurers hoping to take charge of a miniature empire; the production of resources and the maintenance of this empire are responsibilities that are handed to you gradually and in a manageable fashion.

The easily-accessible and readily-playable nature of Goodgame Empire is reflected immediately in its general design and appearance; brightly-coloured and (relatively) plainly-textured, from the outset the game looks a little less gritty and realistic than the more realistic Forge of Empires. You are given a  castle and a small kingdom at the outset of the game which you must take responsibility for by building new structures within it, managing its resources, and expanding towards the goal of becoming a bigger, better empire for all to marvel at. The whole thing works like a modern miniature society (minus a few hundred years or): you must construct buildings in which people are housed; taxes must be collected from the inhabitants of your kingdom; money must be spent on more buildings that facilitate the collection of resources such as the raw material s of wood and stone; defensive structures and military establishments must also be built using these resources so that you can defend your kingdom or choose to besiege another. It’s a pretty demanding role to balance these aspects, but this is the price of being the ruler of a fledgling empire.

The gameplay of Goodgame Empire is largely goal/objective based (many Facebook games come to mind here) as people come to your with small goals to reach and you are rewarded for reaching them and completing the objectives. There isn’t much to truly challenge experienced empire-game fans here: it’s more of a casual experience than a serious one with high stakes; that doesn’t mean it isn’t just as engaging as its competitors however. The seven-day safety period for new players is a reflection of this. After this period is over, other people playing online are free to attack you and besiege your kingdom, so it isn’t without its moments of action.

Play GoodGame Empire

Realism and High-Stakes Action: Forge of Empires

Forge of Empires game

If Goodgame Empire is the light-hearted fictional romp through the fun task of managing your own empire with moments of light comedic relief, then Forge of Empires is the serious epic based on a true story that gives you almost nothing and challenges you to turn this into a full-on empire. The game expects you to engage in turn-based battles along the way with a wonderfully detailed battle screen to move your troops around on in a tactical fashion, but this doesn’t mean that production and management of your resources as well as the handling of your population aren’t also absolutely necessary and a significant elements of the game. If you want the full experience of creating an empire in the Stone Age and seeing it through time to the High Middle Ages and beyond in an MMO-like fashion, then Forge of Empires should be the game you turn to.

Fore of Empires’ interface is much like that of any empire-building game: everything is controlled with the mouse through a series of menus that overlay your settlement. You begin in the Stone Age with the ability to build mainly textile-based huts and primitive structures. To get out of the Stone Age and move your settlement onwards through time you must perform research into various aspects of the research tree (researching the production/refining of different materials, agricultural methods, and eventually branches of thought like physics and scientific discovery). Research point can either be earned over time or purchased through micro-transactions but you cannot build a settlement without also erecting buildings in which to house your population and produce your resources.

The resource-management aspect of the game is perhaps the most engaging as it requires you to balance your population numbers with their happiness as well as make use of the limited space you have available for erecting houses for the population alongside production buildings. You’ll begin by housing people in basic tents and huts, with the only production being pots and pans and other basic materials; as you make more resources you can then afford to purchase more buildings, increase your population, and train more troops to both defend your empire and attack neighbouring ones in order to expand yours. If anyone ever said that Forge of Empires wasn’t the full empire-building package, they were either misinformed of flat-out lying: this is one of the best MMO-like empire-building games out there, and we have Innogames to thank for it.

Play Forge of Empires

Towering Fun Whilst Defending Your Kingdom - Kingdom Rush: Frontiers

Kingdom Rush Frontiers

We’re moving away from the online experience now and into the territory of tower defense, a genre that goes hand in hand with the concept of an empire because, well, it’s all about defending something that purportedly belongs to you. Kingdom Rush: Frontiers is Ironhide’s sequel to the original, and while both games are incredible, it is Frontiers that is the punchier experience with more content and features than ever before.

The game basically comes down to playing individual levels in which enemies make their way across the screen in waves with the express purpose of invading your kingdom and bringing down your empire. You must stop the enemies by building towers at set points along the enemies’ path. Archers, barracks, artillery, and magic towers can be built and upgraded using money gained from killing enemies; you can also train up and unlock hero characters with special powers and abilities as well. What stands out most about Kingdom Rush: Frontiers is the impeccable design which is almost cartoonish in nature, as well as the frequent sound effects which amuse as well as impress.

Play Kingdom Rush: Frontiers

More of the Same but Still a Great Game: Hands of War Tower Defense

Hands of War Tower Defense game

Don’t expect anything earth-shatteringly original from Axis Games’ Hands of War: Tower Defense – it is another fairly familiar take on a genre that has a fairly standard way of operating. What it does do is take a great RPG series and give it a tower-defense twist. Your aim is to reunite the land of Tempor using the Heartstone (a relic that imbues you with powers) by placing your champion on the screen and defending against attack using various forces such as other warriors, rangers, and mages. Each type of character has different abilities and effectiveness, but there is a mixture of different strategies that can be adopted.

The traditional tower-defense way of placing your towers on the side of the path still applies but the ability to position other characters on the path where they can move around is also a refreshing twist. Compared to Kingdom Rush, the design is fairly unimaginative and dull, but this is to be expected when being compared side-by-side to what is effectively the pinnacle of tower-defense gaming. While playing Hands of War: Tower Defense certainly deserves a some serious consideration, it isn’t going to shatter anyone’s world of you happen to pass up on the opportunity. 

Play Hands of War Tower Defense

Play Empire Building Games now online at Building Games.

Kingdom, Castle, Tower.