If you do this writing about games stuff long enough, you tend to go into media events with low to no expectations. Not because you’re jaded, mind you. It’s more because going in blind works better at getting one’s surprise meter better tuned when something actually does blow one’s mind. That said, I knew as soon as I heard the names Big Huge Games and Tim Train, I knew I had to prepare to be surprised and thrilled at what they were going to show. DomiNations (published by Nexon) is the name of the company’s new game and it’s a free to play mobile game that just so happens to be a real-time strategy game with a light world history theme. Sure, there are plenty of mobile RTS titles out there from Clash of Clans to Game of War and so forth and so on with fantasy themes. DomiNations adds some familiar bits of PC classics Train and Brian Reynolds have worked on such as Civilization II and Rise of Nations while making sure to be entertaining enough that anyone can hop in and play within a few seconds.
Yes, the PC-only types are probably stomping their feet hard and banging out angry responses on their mechanical keyboards that this game NEEDED to be PC-only and not “casual” or “cute” looking. They’re entitled to that opinion (or just simply entitled depending on what they’re ranting about. On the other hand, with a dev team made up of industry vets who want to focus on mobile games, DomiNations is coming along at the right time and will hopefully fill a niche where fun to play games featuring more historical elements get a few million people playing them and perhaps more interested in real world history. As he showed off the trailer and a longer gameplay video, Train noted that the game’s two year dev cycle, constant testing and tweaking made the team confident that the final product would be extremely well received. Seven nations to choose from, Wonders of the World unique to each nation, siege weapons, and more all await gamers looking for a fantastic new fix.
DomiNations will be split into multiple parts with the launch content focusing on the Stone Age up to the Enlightenment era and Napoleonic Wars. Don’t expect to blow through that first chunk of content on a rainy weekend, though. You’ll more than likely be spending a great deal of time building up your first tribe of cave people by hunting rabbits, deer and other wildlife for materials, building and learning to defend your first small to large cities and other gameplay basics important for survival as things get more complex. From what I was able to see, everything clicks right from the start and I’d bet plenty of skeptics will want to give this game a shot just to see if it’s something they’d want to play on a regular basis. The game’s growing community has certainly let themselves be heard and yes, some of their input has helped shape the game.
One thing is certain: the game will definitely get some into it deep thanks to the fantastic art and well animated characters. As your cities and armies grow, you’ll see a grand scope to things that’s highly appealing without being too cartoon-like or cloying. Sure, it’s no Total War if you’re looking for “realistic” visuals. But it’s hard to deny the pull of great art assets doing their thing as you do your thing. In addition to a robust solo campaign, expect a deep and fun multiplayer game you can take on a friend (or future not quite “enemy”) in. The coolest thing is you don’t need to wait long to play DomiNations at all. It’s official street date is April 1, 2015 (no foolin’!) for iOS and Android. For the moment, PC gamers who want this in their libraries are out of luck, but Train noted that if enough interest is there, it could happen in the future.
As soon as I sat down and absolutely at the end of my brief meeting with Train, I got the sense that Big Huge Games will have a major mobile hit on their hands that deserves a long life cycle. All the game needs is the right push to the top of the very crowded app stores it’ll appear on along with enough word of mouth from those who play it and see the big picture for it to take flight and become a huge success for a team that deserves acclaim for all the work that’s gone into this instant classic.