I've tried my fair share of Evony clones over the last few years. I find the concept of a 'kingdom management' sim compelling. Building up a tiny hovel into a sprawling metropolis capable of spewing forth massive armies to crush my enemies and expand my territory is an attractive prospect to the Man Who Would Be King in me. Most of them have left me wanting something more. With those past, disappointing experiences in mind, I downloaded CastleCraft. It is a free game ... So what do I have to lose?
After a week of playing it, I am very glad I took a chance on this game. Now, before I get into the nitty gritty of this review, a little explanation is probably in order. For those who have no idea what an Evony clone is, Evony is an (in)famous kingdom management simulation. It has some similarities to We Rule and the like in that you build buildings, but CastleCraft and its relatives are more about building buildings and researching technologies so that you can invade other territories and expand your kingdom.
You start with a small, unimportant city. Your immediate goal is to build gold mines, logging camps, and farms to produce the gold, wood, and food you will need to build more advanced buildings.
Buildings and upgrading them can take minutes or hours. Generally, the more advanced the project you are working on, the more time it will take to complete.
Each building, like this black smithy, can be upgraded. Some, this building also being a prime example, also have technologies and units you can research in them.
The end goal is to grow strong enough to invade the forests and mountains near you (which increase the rate of your city's resource production, and to build second, third, fourth cities and beyond.
CastleCraft is a game still in its infancy. One player, as of this writing, has more than one city on my server. I am hopefully getting near a point where I can establish a second city of my own!
One thing I will say for CastleCraft is that it is certainly beautiful.
Your city, particularly up-close, is gorgeous. The sun glistens off of ponds and lakes, birds soar over your castle's parapets, and your townspeople go about their lives through a regular day/night cycle.
CastleCraft is fairly easy to learn. Frequent and copious quests point you in the direction you need to go.
It is also not particularly time-consuming. If you are low on resources or have a number of projects being built, you can log out and come back when there is more to be done and more resources to do it with. I find myself logging in first thing every morning, to queue up long projects for while I am at work, for instance.
The actual reward of the game is not something I am qualified to speak on yet, not having expanded beyond my first city, but so far, the game has been extremely enjoyable to play.
Most significantly of all, the developers are taking the feedback of their players to heart. So much so, that the game's sparse menu includes a feedback button, which opens up a pre-formatted email to fire off to the developers on any suggestions you may have. I used this feature a few days ago, and had an email back within 24 hours. The developers promised to include my suggestion in their next patch!
For me, CastleCraft is a game right up my alley. It can be played for minutes a day, timed to my own convenience. It boasts beautiful graphics, plenty to do, and a team of pro-active developers who genuinely care about the gaming community they are creating. Though free for now, the game, it is rumored, will eventually require. monthly subscription. There are, however, no signs of it at the moment, and I hope the conscientious developers listen to their players and shy away from introducing such a scheme.
For now, however, while it is free, I recommend this one highly!