Snail Games, publishers of Heroes of Gaia, are adding the final touches to a new and ambitious free MMO. Ministry of War (also known as Terra Militaris) is a browser-based real time strategy game and one that is aiming for the top places in its genre. Its call to fame is based on the fantastic graphics – incredibly detailed for a browser game – but also on the very addictive gameplay and smooth learning curve.
You start by choosing your civilization among four: Rome, China, Egypt, and Persia, each with its own advantages. The goal of the game is to prosper and defeat the remaining civilizations, featuring something very rare in this kind of MMO: an endgame. The winner will be part of a chapter in the Ministry of War story, and the realm will reset. The remaining features aren’t exactly original, but most importantly, they’re well designed and help turn the game into an extremely enjoyable diversion.
There are five Eras in Ministry of War (Wild, Dark, Feudal, Castle and Empire) and the player goes through them by fulfilling the tasks that their counselors give them in the Great Hall. The game starts really easy, with the missions flowing very well and the player able to complete some of them even before they were requested – even better, just get the reward and leave. The building construction time (and upgrades) starts short, although there is a strict limit on how many you can work on at the same time. Being a micro-transaction based game, one can buy items to accelerate the construction time, and they will be very useful very soon, with some buildings taking several hours to be built. Other uses of these special items include accurate arrival of our hero and troops to their destination, and with the huge game world, you can see their advantage.
The Ministry of War map is divided into three sections: City, Suburbs and World, smoothly transitioning between each one. Even when we have several heroes and they are spread out between sections, one simple click leads us instantaneously to them. The sections have specific functions that we must master to prosper. The City is the place to build, upgrade and recruit soldiers, merchants, missionaries and general population. In the Suburbs we get to fight some wild animals and, more importantly, develop the installations to gather the vital resources: food (farm), wood (lumber mill), stone (quarry) and Metal (mine). The gold is produced in the Town Centers, the quantity depending on the level.
The World map in Ministry of War is something absolutely amazing. Not only it is really huge, it’s also very detailed and offers a lot of options, from fighting villains and enemies, to conquering lairs and trading with other civilizations. It truly is a game of epic proportions and an incredible time sink. The downside is that the navigation here needs brief but frequent loadings.
When push comes to shove, meaning when the battles begin, we can choose one of two options: either control the fighting as in any RTS game, or opt for the automatic resolution. The former is interesting for the first few times, and really useful in case of a difficult battle. The latter is more adequate for those fights where we’re sure we have the advantage and can’t be bothered to enter the battlefield. The automatic mode only lacks an option to see how the battle is going without having to enter the map. There are a lot of other features to explore in Ministry of War, such as the Guild vs. Guild battles, with four simultaneously players.
There is no denying it, Ministry of War is a really gorgeous browser game. The environments are beautifully drawn and even better colored, with great details that vary according to the Era. The buildings even change as a result of the upgrades. The animations are somewhat sparse but smooth, adding to the convincing atmosphere. There is also a slight zoom function that can help the player to see more of the map, but it could be more powerful. There is, however, a problem with the button descriptions, with a lot of them cut short. The player eventually learns all the functions but it could be improved.
Ministry of War manages to live up to the hype, with its apparently complex yet simple interface, smooth start, lots of features and fantastic visuals. There is always a lot to do and different paths to take, but make sure you have a lot of time in your hands since it can get enormously addictive and even more demanding. You won’t regret the time you spent evolving your civilization and going to war, since this is one of the best strategy browser games available.
by Vítor Braz