This week I was lucky enough to come across a pretty cool browser-based MMORTS that offers no combat whatsoever. That's right -- this game is all about trading, conquering your neighbors with prices, and building a reputation that is better than everybody else's. Remanum is brought to us by the makers of the famous Travian set of games. Slowly, but surely, the developers are trying out different styles of gameplay that all offer an art style that is obviously their own. I was thrilled to see them again try out something different with Remanum.
So how boring is a game that offers nothing but trade wars? Well, that all depends on how much you care for scratching your chin, sitting back, and plotting. It's a game of patience and working with others. I never pretend that most MMORTS titles are supposed to move at the same pace as Vindictus or Guild Wars; games just have different styles. Remanum is a great game to enjoy any place and any time, from a few minutes to a few hours a day.
I had a few issues with the game, so let's cover those as well.
I want to first talk about how wonderful I think the game looks. As I have recently discussed, my taste in game art has changed quite a bit over the years. Over this last year, especially within the last six months or so, my tastes have been morphed by the gaming lifestyle I lead. I tend to be the guy to talk about those odd, indie, browser or mobile games that no one else talks about. I'm the guy who will taste anything in the Massively offices. One day we found a chunk of something in the office fridge, and I took a bite of it. It turns out it was an indie MMO from seven years ago.
My tastes tend to lean toward simple art, more stylistic and less realistic, and much more impressionistic. Is that even the correct term? I mean art that is literally painted or drawn to give you an impression of something, not detailed to the point that it causes overheating. I like style, dammit, and many MMOs just don't have it. Remanum does. Whether or not you enjoy the gameplay, you have to admit that the devs seem to have something in mind when it comes to the artwork. Everything flows together and looks like it was cut from the same cloth. It's wonderful, and I am more impressed by it than I was while I was playing the TERA beta.
Watch live video from massivelytv on TwitchTV This doesn't mean that the developers have perfected how the game works in your browser. It's cut in HTML, as far as I know, so there is this sluggishness and roughness that is often replaced by smoothness and flowing art in Flash. The UI and buttons just don't feel snappy or responsive. Nothing lags down to the point of stopping, not at all, but it feels bogged down. I found similar issues with Jagex's 8Realms. Also, I judge a lot based on how a game works on my basic laptop. It has 1366x768 resolution, which is pretty standard for many laptops now, but many browser-based MMOs offer a full-screen mode that fits perfectly to the screen. Remanum makes me scroll to see the whole screen. I hate that. There are plenty of reasons that social games like CastleVille are so incredibly popular: Go to Facebook and look at it in fullscreen. It is a fluid, flowing, and actually very pretty experience. The music is amazing, period. It's enthralling, really, although its gameplay is not very complex and can become repetitive.
Other than the fact that it doesn't fill my browser (and if I am missing some way to do that, I apologize in advance), I like how the buildings look and how the characters and cities feel. Travian Games is doing something right by taking time and putting out unique games that look unique.
"Now, I am the first guy to make fun of EVE Online by calling it "Spreadsheets in Space," but Remanum has taken the task of looking up numbers and keeping track of stock and made it easy to read by replacing many tables and figures with basic icons and visual cues."
Essentially I was put down into my own estate, but that estate was a smaller part of a greater city. I had no idea until I found the city-wide chat. Hundreds of other players and I formed this city and are financially competing with other cities. Now, I am the first guy to make fun of EVE Online by calling it "Spreadsheets in Space," but Remanum has taken the task of looking up numbers and keeping track of stock and made it easy to read by replacing many tables and figures with basic icons and visual cues. As your city levels, its appearance changes too. If you have a basic resource that is overflowing, you see an icon. You know immediately that there is an issue. I never found myself checking in on my city by staring at a series of numbers. I could just tell when something was up.
The pace of the game is casual at best. Sure, it might become a much more intense game when the timer runs out and we are all trying to busily grow our cities to be the best out there, but as I played over the last week, I moved at a snail's pace. Remember, though, that the game is meant to move slowly. It's not an action game, but it's not just a boring MUD or spreadsheet either. It's paced for those of us who are balancing several, and I mean several, games at once. I like that tempo.
During my play, I donated goods to my city, traded goods with other cities, and bought olives to make olive oil. Honestly I wish Travian Games would abandon the ancient times theme. How fun would it be to see an alien landscape or unusual races in the studio's next title? I'm sure the team has no plans to do that, but I can dream.
Remanum is another one of those obviously Travian Games games. Games like it continue to build my faith in the browser as a gaming platform. Remember my prediction that within five years, most MMO content will be coming through our browser? To be honest, I think that day might very well be here sooner than that, especially with the millions of customers for kid's browser games and games like Travian and the many, many, many others that are making bank right now. Mark my words.
I enjoyed Remanum. But it's slow, has a few issues on a mobile browser (which sort of defeats the point of making a browser game), and employs a too-common theme (I would love to see a sci-fi version!). Beyond those minor issues, I did not miss the combat one single bit. Honestly, I'm tired of non-stop combat. I have been swinging digital swords for the last 13 years... I think it's time I am allowed to explore some non-combat options. Remanum provides depth without too much complication and keeps what would otherwise be a very boring premise fun.
Next week I am going to be looking at a very indie game called Zandagort. Who knows whether it will pass a few key tests I have for it, but the developers actually reached out and asked for coverage, much more than most indie MMO developers do. See you in game!
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!