Videogames used to require imagination. Because of the limited computing power of the machines of yore, games needed a little push from the old brain waves to come to life. Nowadays, with modern technology, most games do all the work for us. Halo, for instance, or Castle of Magic, with their graphical excellence, provide us full, imaginative worlds. Aevum Obscurum, on the other hand, is an incredible gaming experience, but presentation-wise it harkens back to the days when gamers had to fill in the blanks.
Originally an online PC game, Aevum Obscurum (translation: “Age of Darkness”), is more similar to a board game like Risk than to your average strategy videogame. In fact, just like with a board game, the only visual you’ll see during a play session is a map of Europe and the northern swath of Africa. But that doesn’t stop this game from being every bit as engaging as a well-made graphical powerhouse.
Starting a match, you’ll find yourself in control of a single country with a small army and a modest treasury of gold. The gameplay is turn-based, so you’ll have all the time you need to plot (what else?) absolute domination. To do this, you’ll spend money and action points to recruit soldiers, conquer unoccupied territories, invade your neighbors’ lands, and murder as many kings as possible. The more land you absorb into your kingdom, the more money and action points you have to expand your empire.
Today, we take the boot. Tomorrow, the football!
The gameplay feels as honed and balanced as a time-tested game like chess. It’s also dangerously fun to play. We obsessively poured many hours into various scenarios of conquest, and plan to devote many more.
But now for the downside. This game is screaming for a backdrop of cinematic music, which would go a long way toward creating a more immersive experience. When playing matches against 32 other nations (the maximum number), you’ll be left waiting out extremely long load times between turns, while the AI determines enemy moves.
We also would have liked to be able to zoom out to see the whole map at once. As it is now, you have to scroll all over the place to see what the other empires are up to. And later in the game, when you’re able to make upwards of fifteen moves per turn, we would have liked the ability to review the moves we’d already made and cancel them prior to selecting “end turn.”
Also, for a port of an online game based mostly on the multiplayer experience, the fact that there’s no multiplayer mode for this version seems crazy. The developer promises multiplayer and new maps in a future update. We can’t wait.
While nothing about the presentation of Aevum Obscurum jumps out and screams “play me!”, the gameplay feels incredibly polished and, most importantly, fun. While it pains us not to give this game our highest recommendation, it has a few too many drawbacks to be considered a must have. But there’s enough here that whether you’re a fan of the genre or not, you should definitely check out the Lite version.