Last week I introduced you to my newest device, the Samsung Chromebook. Yes, that's the official way to refer to the newest $249.00 Chromebook, according to my contact at Google. I have pined after one for a while, but the price point finally became too tempting and I nabbed one at my local Best Buy. Why? Why didn't I just spit out a few more bucks and get a "real" laptop or netbook, one that runs Windows 7 or 8? Well, it runs silently and almost without heat. It's essentially a keyboard attached to an 11-inch tablet that runs Flash. The Chromium OS is very secure, and it auto-updates every six weeks.
But you're here to read about games. This week I am going to talk about the MMORTS genre and why it works so well on the Chromebook. I'll list 10 of my favorites -- a drop in the bucket for all the MMORTS games out there, but these are easily some of the best and run well on the Chromebook. Stay tuned for future columns, where we'll look at even more Chromebook-friendly MMOs and pseudo-MMOs as well.
The MMORTS is one of my favorite genres because it's easy to get into, offers many ways to play, and is more persistent than many standard, non-browser MMOs. Some of the better titles will not only offer the standard city-building but also allow players to experiment with character building, intense social interaction, real-time combat, and varied cash-shops. A good MMORTS will offer something for everyone. The best reason to play an MMORTS is that most titles will run on even basic tech. The genre's representational gameplay works perfectly normally. I've tested all of the following games on my Samsung, so any other Chromebook or even basic notebook or netbook should be good to go as well.
What makes for a good MMORTS in my eyes? Without going into another list before this list, I'll just sum up to say that if an MMORTS presents me with more than one way to play, and if it lets me explore other options besides combat, I'm happy. The following games on my list have a lot of layers to them. I dig that.
I've just started exploring Castlot, but so far it's pretty intriguing. A lot of the Eastern MMORTS games pack in so many buttons, tutorials, quests and mechanics that it's often easy to become overwhelmed. Castlot toes the line but keeps it fun.
I've written about Illyriad, an HTML5-based MMORTS for a long time, and I still find ways to enjoy it. It's simple-looking at first but there is a lot of danger in the land of Elgea. It's a free-for-all PvP environment, and you might log in to find your castle and all of its citizens destroyed. It's a lot like EVE Online. If EVE Online were a fantasy MMO. In a browser. Got it?
This Flash-based game can be a bit confusing sometimes, but the community is pretty fast with the answers. You can control several heroes and massive armies, travel and trade in realistic time, work with your fellow countrypeople to take over entire sections of the massive map, or act as a spy. I prefer the easy route and spend my time building my town and experimenting with trade. If I am attacked, I ask my neighbors for help, and they often provide it. There's so much to do in Ministry of War that it's ridiculous.
The Settlers Online is more of a pseudo-MMORTS. Players build up towns and take over an island slowly by conquering NPCs. There is trade with other players, and you can visit the towns of your friends, but don't let the limitations of this game fool you. Maintaining a balance between power and economy is a pure blast. And the artwork and animations are fantastic.
I was not impressed with Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliances at first, but after I discovered the tower defense-like combat and the fact that a player's city can be relocated to get him out of trouble, I was impressed. The game offers instant builds and casual or hardcore play thanks to a circular design that forces the more active players into the middle of the map.
Lord of Ultima gets so a lot points for graphics, but it's also a fun MMORTS. The music is top-notch and the tutorial is great, but once the quests kick in, it can feel overwhelming. That's a good thing... the world of an MMORTS is supposed to feel massive and scary. There are also dungeons to conquer and areas to explore.
This flagship title from Kabam was my first real exposure to the Leviathan-on-a-chain design. Players not only grow a city from the ground up but control and raise a massive dragon that will accompany armies into battle. It's not easy, and the cash shop definitely favors those who spend some money, but I don't mind that. There's absolute power in money, and I don't mind that feeling invading my games. Even then, Dragons of Atlantis offers a lot of layers and probably some of my favorite art in the genre.
Innogames is a great one-stop destination for games; it has several entries my lists this month. Tribal Wars is very primitive-looking, but don't let that fool you. There's some real old-school strategy involved, and the gritty graphics help make it feel more realistic.
I am only a newbie in this space-themed MMORTS, but I already like the fact that instead of a castle of base, you spend your time building up a massive mother ship, exploring different areas of the galaxy and fighting foes. It's all wrapped up pretty impressively as well. I wonder how complex Light of Nova becomes?
There's something strange about Grepolis. Everything occurs on individual islands, and so the sea and travel always seems to be involved. Things go slowly, but I love that. I'm not overwhelmed by combat, and having neighbors on the same island can be exciting.
Next week I will be looking at the Chromebook again (all month!) but will be introducing you to 10 "standard" browser-based MMOs. I'll be busily testing them all week, so if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.
Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.