By: Jasmine Henry | Mar 7th 2012
Described as a game that lets you 'guide your empire through the ages in your attempt to conquer the world.' you wouldn't be scolded for suggesting that MoW is very much like Civilization, a game which will set you back a good $60, whereas the former is free-to-play and doesn't require any of that tedious installing malarkey which of course, makes Ministry of War infinitely better.
My biggest qualm with browser games in the past has been how complex and mind-boggling they are to get involved with, but thankfully, Ministry of War leaves all of that nonsense to its competitors, letting casual and dedicated browser game players get playing quickly. '
After choosing the ominously named 'Gladius' server (other servers include the brilliantly titled 'Destiny Kingdom Destroyer' and 'Survivors Qirimirage Victoria') and completing the tiny sign up form, I was taken to a pre-game screen allowing me to pick one of four civilizations ' Persia, Egypt, Rome and China' the first three represented by long haired ethnic beauties (read : buxom babes) seemingly intent on aiding you in your leadership duties, with the latter civilization headed by an immaculately groomed male warrior seemingly intent on becoming a professional model.
My alluring party of choice was Egypt, which provided me with bonuses of increased metal production, increased research speed and gifted me the Anubis Chariot Guard and siege units ' you can click on all 4 civs to check out their individual benefits before you make a definite choice.
From there I was whizzed off to a screen allowing me to pick my character's name, gender and headshot - a surprising amount of customization for a game that allows me to play from the comfort of my own Chrome (Google Chrome, the browser, that is). Of course there's the obligatory history lesson outlining the civilization you've just chosen to deliver to greatness, but it's nothing so limiting that you have to scale through several pages of codex to understand.
Continuing to take hold of your attention with all of its might, a skippable cutscene (though you shan't want to miss it) enables you to become totally immersed in the world-conquering task at hand ' it's not a vital part of the game, but it's a lovely addition to what you know will already be a very immersive, user-oriented game.
Jumping in the game, I'm greeted by King Ramses II, informing me that he's gifting me a plot of land due to my 'surprising' performance on the battlefield and that I needn't worry as he'll be assigning a military advisor to my service. The fact that I have a backstory is a nice touch, most console titles can't even muster a bit of fluff to bolster the dialogue, let alone an actual message that gives me both a heads up and massages my ego. I'd also like to dwell on the fact that Aeria really know how to soothe their users' concerns, as a first time player of Ministry of War, an advisor is exactly the kind of helping hand that I need to guide me along this winding road to world domination.
Embarking on the newly doled out task of building useful structures to aid my people, Mr. Advisor (no, really, his name is just Military Advisor) praises me again, I am the 'Hero of Egypt' (!) I like Military Advisor, he can stay. This first, should-be-tedious bit of the game is actually quite immersive, the well drawn graphics are not too flashy but are pretty enough to distract from the daunting buttons and shiny bits that make up the HUD, very confusing, though for most players, the tutorial should ease you in gently, provided that the skills you've let to learn don't frighten you off.
Once you've played through the relatively pleasant, and wonderfully short tutorial (assuming we're ignoring the interface, yeah) you'll get to what stands as my favourite part of the game and what Aeria do best ' more making you feel good. Not in a 'creepy shower you with gifts and love in an obvious plot to get you to love us' way, either, the game is genuinely a good time once you get your head into it. When you watch your hero march into battle (or roll into battle on a swag-giving war chariot, in my case) you feel a sense of pride playing Ministry of War, you become emotionally invested in winning, more than any other game, browser or console that I've played, you actually want to win as opposed to the understanding that you can go on in life knowing that 'hey, at least I can respawn next time'.
Winning the battles, while the game gives you a thumbs up and effectively tells you to go for it, still feel incredibly meaty and not at all dumbed down, seeing the beautifully rendered enemies charge at you with such gusto that you'd mistake it for even the best handheld fighter is a mind-blowing experience. This is partly down to the fact that the skills of heroes in your charge is your doing, you get to assign troops to their side and level them up to greatness, showing that for the umpteenth time that Aeria have our best interests in heart ' they want the game to be fun without packing so much it that it becomes stifling ' which is what we want too.
Up until now, I haven't spoken about the obvious resource gathering gubbins that a civilization leading game contains and it's not at all because it's 'the boring bit', it's simply because it does it as well as every other game in its genre ' notice how I didn't say competitors, Ministry of War is in a league of its own. This bit of the game feels familiar like a warm hug from someone wearing an ugly, yet incredibly comfortable snuggie and if you're used to this sort of mechanic, it will make you feel at home. Even if you find this portion of universe-leading games to be frustrating, dare I say, repetitive , I can almost guarantee that you won't think that of Ministry of War. The difference between MoW and every other game that does this is that you feel immersed and triumphant in knowing that are hundreds of thousands of fictional pixel people under your control and that it's your job to protect and guide them by levelling up the areas in their lives and providing them with precious resources.
Between the battles, the building and vast array of quests and collecting, Ministry of War is a positively addictive take on the RTS genre. It's both fun and free to play and should only be avoided if you like having time on your hands because this is a game that's set to use all of it.