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Rise and Shiny recap: 1100 AD


1100 AD is a new browser-based MMORTS that is published by Aeria Games. It's new to me, at least, even though I find a lot of the design and ideas behind the title to be pretty familiar. The truth is that the MMORTS genre is about as repetitive and ordinary as the standard MMO model. Players will come across the same concepts as they have seen in a score of other titles. It's sort of the quandry of the massively multiplayer player: You have to play a lot of games to find that one true gem.

Where does 1100 AD fall in the grand line of copycat MMORTS games? Well, it's hard to say within a week, especially since I have not experienced much of what the game might have to offer like massive wars, alliances or world-changing events. But I can comment on what I found so far in this short week of playing.

Click past the cut and I'll tell you!

1100 AD screenshot
Everything starts off normally in 1100 AD. I found my city sitting there, waiting to be built into a metropolis. Of course the newbie tutorials started popping up, sort of, and I followed their instructions to the letter. The problem is that many of the letters formed words that made no sense when read in sentence form. The quests or guides weren't completely horrible translations -- they were worse than that. There's something much more confusing about tutorials that are almost translated into English. I'd almost rather have a bunch of Japanese or Chinese writing across my screen than a paragraph that starts off OK but then ends with just a smidge of nonsense. I can follow instructions, but when they read like poorly worded career advice, I tend to just give up.

Luckily, the tutorials were understandable enough that I could accomplish several quests and move on with my city. The tutorials also had a "skip" button that simply move on to the next one, but I felt odd skipping some of them. After all, weren't those skills probably needed to accomplish other goals further down the line? If not, then why in the heck is the game attempting to confuse me by explaining those skills like a five-year-old explains how his favorite food is made?

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Even after much of my confusion, I found the seemingly HTML-based gameplay to be sort of cool. I love any game that appears to be constructed out of the basic stuff of the web. That means that the game will probably run on any device, or at least it will not require a high-powered machine. The older I get, the further away from those expensive gaming machines I want to go. 1100 AD is the sort of ugly design that I normally love. The thing feels rough and hand-drawn -- or coded, I should say -- and that means I can almost see the hands of the designers on the product. I like that... as long as it is fun to play.

"It works simply, but the quests are sometimes too hard to understand or mixed up just enough to make playing not fun."

1100 AD is just not that fun to play. As I have noted several times before, impressing me with your MMORTS is probably pretty hard to do. After all, I practically play one new one per week and maintain at least two of them in my list of favorite games. So I try to look at games like 1100 AD with the eyes of someone who has never played an MMORTS, or even as someone who might be playing an online multiplayer game for the very first time. Yes, those people do exist, and I know many of them personally.

That's where 1100 AD falls apart. It has standard MMORTS depth. It works simply, but the quests are sometimes too hard to understand or mixed up just enough to make playing not fun. The title is sort of hidden in Aeria's lineup, as well. Sure, I absolutely adore Aeria as a publisher, and I think that it tends to make great decisions about which games it will publish, but tossing games like 1100 AD onto the list spreads the lineup a bit too thin. 1100 AD needs more love, cleaner design and another pass in the localization department.

The game also features the standard (yet wonderful) hero mechanic that allows players to build up, outfit and level a hero unit. As I note in the video, an MMORTS is more like a standard MMO that goes to 11. The MMORTS not only features massive army battles, city-building, and open PvP but throws customization into the mix with heroes and special units. It's as though you are playing a classic avatar-based MMO, but one that is zoomed out to an eagle's-eye view.

1100 AD screenshot
But a new player or even someone who is new to MMOs in general would probably pass on 1100 AD. Of course, it is very possible that someone might find the game and have it become her favorite title. Right now, in games like Illyriad or Ministry of War, there are players who have never touched gaming before but are having the time of their lives in a hardcore, free-for-all PvP title. It does happen. I'm just not sure how well 1100 AD will stand up to titles that feature more original designs and a smoother experience.

I'll give the game some more time, but after this I am taking a break from the MMORTS genre. It's one of those genres that seems to have no players or that never gets much attention from major gaming sites, but when you log in to one and see the numbers of players who are heavily invested in the game, you know some fundamental type of fun is being touched on. Despite the fact that the MMORTS genre is the most underestimated genre in MMO gaming today, I grow tired of the same bland design like in 1100 AD. Yes, there are some gems out there, but I would rather look for gems in another genre for a bit. A week, at least. OK, three days tops.

Next week I will be diving head first into the snarky world of Kingdom of Loathing. I dislike snark, and seeing someone smirk tends to make my fist clench up, but it's high time I check out the indie title. I will be livestreaming my very first steps in the game, so keep an eye on our livestream schedule!

Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

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