Free web-based version of a slow multiplayer version of Age of Kings that lures you in with cleavage and then sells you in-game items.  It’s in late beta so it’s about as completed as any other game on the market.

Note:  This game was found via careful research and recommendation, i.e. I saw boobs on the ad banner.  This intro review was written after a vast amount of research, i.e. I started playing about half an hour ago and confirmed that there are in fact no boobs in sight.  Unless you count the chat client.

This article will be updated as I play, possibly over days based on how long it’s taking to upgrade my town hall.

I’ve played dozens of persistent state multiplayer games, and this is one of them.  Civony is a web-based city/empire builder in Flash with a multiplayer component and the usual elements of building a town, attracting peasants, building up local industry, and presumably attacking your neighbors while they’re offline and can’t do anything about it.  However, I had to find out about the most important aspect of the game first.

from the New Player FAQ:

How do I get my queen?
There is no queen in this game, the ad you saw is for marketing purposes and seems to be highly effective by the number of times this question has come up.

Damnit.  But then there’s this:

Who wants to (insert sexually explicit request here)?
Come on, grow up already. Leave this crap on the playground, not in our game.

Quite a disapointing response based on the marketing campaign.  It really would not be too difficult to insert some pixel-based softcore into the game.  That appears to be a major component of commercial MMORPG’s, after all.

In any case, it doesn’t seem to matter too much to the playerbase.  This is the first thing I see once I log in:

I would have chatted the answer, but apparently chatting costs game currency, or something.  Being the miser that I am, and knowing how much I generally dislike other players anyway, I wasn’t about to spend anything on blowing the lid off the hot ad queen scam.  By the way, there were plenty of "A/S/L?" requests in the chatbox, but I wasn’t fast enough to capture them all.  The chat box defaults to 4 lines (although it is expandable, covering your play screen) and scrolls too fast to capture things that happened a while ago due to the combination of questions about the location of the hot queen, intimate chat requests, and unfavorable comparisons to World of Warcraft, suggesting that a lot of the little ghost towns I see on the world map were probably founded during a server downtime.

There’s lots of exciting opportunities to look for hot chat while playing Civony, since you’re limited to one building project at a time (at least when you’re newb) and some of these projects take a really long time.  This is probably an advantage for people who like browser games while working, since you can just tab back occasionally to see what’s going on while alternately playing Solitaire, pretending to do actual work, and scope out the chatbox for similarly lonely white collar workers pretending to be women.

I did a double take here.  As long as Lezpoo doesn’t show up I think I’m okay.

Graphically it looks like a lot was directly lifted from Age of Kings.  If you check the castle in the rightmost cleavage ad on top, it looks really familiar.  Some of the trees, the cobble road tiles, the builder animations, and the wooden palisade that initially marks off the boundaries of your dinky hamlet seem almost identical to similar isometric objects in AoK.  In all fairness, they may have lifted the graphics as a starting point, as the town hall doesn’t look copied, but it may cause problems for them if they don’t replace the tilesets soon.

Unfortunately, some objects are all too familiar to anyone who’s played browser-based games.

This is another advantage of slow builds in a browser game; you just get kicked off a lot, but at least your upgrade will keep going for a while.

The revenue model for Civony seems to be the selling of in game items for cash on top of the free client and basic game rather than ads. 

Players will be given a $50 Bonus Package 7 days after the 1st charge over $30. (Patch notes)

I can understand that; as long as you don’t absolutely have to shell out in order to enjoy the game, and the expected outlay is below or around a normal subscription, maybe it makes sense, although the fact that I lost connection 3 times in one hour isn’t all that promising for a game that wants me to invest.  They may also be slightly optimistic about what people will be willing to fork over:

1. Newbies Package and Package for Lords
  Newly registered players will receive Newbies Package (worth 50 USD) and Package for Lords (worth 100 USD) after they firstly entered the game.

$150?  Srsly?  If you look at it another way, you’re $150 ahead as soon as you log in.  In all seriousness I’m not a big fan of selling ingame items for money by the company or the players, as it breaks the immersion and rewards players who are stupid dedicated enough to keep dumping cash into a game for an ephemeral advantage over people who are, you know, actually good at it.  (Note that this does not apply to poker.  I am all in favor of rebuying endlessly to make up for lack of edge there.)

I managed to get back in now, so I’ll keep putting up buildings and the like (at least there’s a fairly good starter quest system that does a pretty good job of outlining your goals).  Eventually I may even be able to leave town.  Maybe then I’ll be able to go after some fabled quest items, and finally get to the heart of the game…


4/15/09 – Still no boobs.

The game is actually sort of addicting, and isn’t crashing quite as much today.  If you have any sort of experience with any sort of city/civ builder game and can successfully ignore chat, it’s pretty straightforward as far as technology research, resource harvesting, etc., and actually kind of fun if you’re into builder games.  Unfortunately there are no spawns to camp, something that seems somewhat disheartening to WoW players.

I’ll still have to reserve judgment until after my newbler protection wears off and I get steamrolled by people who have been playing longer (and spending more money) than me.

On the subject of the revenue model, it’s a bit cheesy.  Even the privelige of speaking in World Chat (General Chat) uses up an item… an item that you can replace by buying in game money, at a 10:1 conversion rate.  Come on.  It’s bad enough buying in-game items for cash, even if that is your only money outlay for a game that you might enjoy, but to do it in a game that is subject to periodic server wipes is somewhat unconscionable.

5 Responses to “Civony Nano-Review (Updated)”
  1. This is the best game review I’ve read in a very long time. Awesome.

  2. Actually, the town hall (along with much else) is directly ripped from Age of Kings.

  3. My bad. Pretty much everything is a direct copy except for support and stability.

  4. Jeff Gu says:

    Wow… an honest, insightful review of a game that… well… is a piece of donkey dung. Still, good review. I would never play a game that insisted on buying game currency just so I could type into a little box that… WTF??? I gotta buy “comment gold” before I can finish my comment??? Damnit! Alright, just this once… but there better be boobs.

  5. I’ve not played yet. I saw the ad with the boobs and was about to invest some time & start playing. Thanks to this excellent review I now know there are no boobs and don’t need to waste time finding that out. Keep up the good work.

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