Developer: Midverse Studios, LLC
Price: free Download on the App Store
The iOS platform feels absolutely built around the foundation that has been social gaming. For the short but exciting years since Apple opened its doors to developers in their iconic app store, thousands upon thousands of games have been built to cater the user toward the social gaming experience — to aptly "have fun and make friends." This fact is no different with Midverse Studio's Mini Empires, another app to join the fray of "social strategy" games that involve attacking enemies, racking up armies, and being the biggest banana on the block.
For years, text-based MMOs, as they're technically referred to, have been popular in the hands of millions of players everywhere. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, they were big hit as frankly technology was not quite powerful enough to support 3D gaming, beautiful graphics and intensive gameplay. While these games are still around, they really began to kick off when labels like Zynga came along and rebranded them for the modern world, tossing in high quality graphics, interactive minigames, and an overall more immersive experience. Mini Empires falls under this demographic like a glove thanks to its foundation as a social MMO.
A "social MMO" is essentially a formulaic game where players can join, choose between several races (each with their own perks), attack other real players in turn-based combat, and grow to become formidable opponents. The big craze lately has come as many games, Mini Empires inlcuded, try to cash in on the item-mall opportunity, offering bonus money and resources (gems, in this case) to help speed your way to the top. While any player can get these resources, Mini Empires makes it easier by allowing players to simply buy them. While there are safeties in place to ensure a player cannot simply buy his way to first place (such as overall time limits on gameplay) the fact remains that this is a powerful source of income for Midverse and a foundation to how their game operates, as many do these days.
Mini Empires Gameplay
But, onto gameplay. Mini Empires throws you into the fray as one of three types of armies: Land, Navy, or Air. Each has its own perks and once you choose it you just jump right into the fray as your own little empire, starting the technological Stone Age. As you progress in the game you will collect experience and resources to help you advance your empire to greatness, and get plenty of gametime along the way. The game offers no real in-depth tutorial. Instead, it uses a bunch of arrows in the beginning to instruct you on a few basic aspects of the game and, once you get the hang of it, you're released into the wild of the Mini Empires universe.
The game feeds off of a "social" experience by allowing you to attack neighbors that have similar levels and stats as you - which are indeed actual players. Even while you're not in the game playing, others can come along and attack you - where the AI will take its place in deciding which units attack and in what manner. Combat is a rather interesting turn-based endeavor, and the graphics are a nice treat - adding emphasis to the developer's goal to give graphical depth to a genre of games often fatally attracted to walls of text. When you win (or lose) you can also leave a note to the player, expressing your thoughts with your favorite words along the way. This social aspect is very shallow in many respects, but a token to how most of these social MMOs operate.
The game, most importantly, is enjoyable. You can easily waste hours pulling your army together, finishing quests, or just enjoying the beautifully crafted and 100% iOS friendly graphics. What's great about social MMOs is that you can simply jump on for a few minutes, plan your next move, and go about your day — it's often hard to get hardcore gaming on a mobile platform, and this game does justice with a balance between simple social gameplay and a few fun strategic moments. Just remember that social MMOs like these are also a chore - even if you don't want to log in you'll need to or else face the wrath of other players eating up your territory to pieces.
The bottom line here is that Mini Empires is a great free way to waste some time, as long as you like these sort of games and are willing to invest the time. I would go as far to say Mini Empires does justice where others has failed thanks to its enjoyable and fun looking turn-based combat. You can grab it for free on the Appstore with any iOS device running 4.0 or later.