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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Review: History Egypt: Engineering an Empire (iPad)

In a recent interview for the Digitally Downloaded magazine (read it here), Matrix Games marketing and press relations manager, Sean Drummy, said it was a goal for Matrix Games and Slitherine to bring games to the iPad this year. A port of History Egypt: Engineering an Empire is the first fruit of this strategy.

For a budget title (that is also available on the iPhone and is one of our favourite games on PlayStation Minis), History Engineering an Empire rocks. Playing as something of a mix between Civilization and Heroes of Might and Magic, in this game you'll take control of an ancient race through a range of scenarios, building up cities and armies, and then engaging with the enemy in turn-based grid combat.

Games always look better on the iPad

There's a good range of units available - from infantry to cavalry and archers, and these are unlocked by upgrading city buildings, of which there is a good range of those too. There are too many buildings to fit every one in every town, so some advance planning is required (a good strategy is to have cities on the boarder with other nations churning out military units, while those 'safe' cities deep within your empire to focus on income to become the breadbasket for your forces).

To destroy enemies, you'll build armies of up to six units to face off over a hexagonal grid. Each unit has unique strengths and weaknesses to contend with, so building an effective army will require a mix of types.

It's all quite standard, and it's true that Engineering an Empire doesn't break a great deal of new ground. What it does do remarkably well is tune down the more complex elements of these simulation-style games into an easy to play, put down, and come back to formula. It worked on the Minis service, and the iPhone, and it works here.

Battles give you an extra chance to get strategic


The visual update to get the game on the iPad is impressive. Though not quite as attractive as Civilization Revolution, History Engineering an Empire now features detailed maps and buildings. Battle scenes haven't been updated quite as much, which is a bit disappointing, but you'll also spend relatively little time in those. For the most part, this is a good looking iPad game.

The number of scenarios available are a little on the thin side, but there are multiple difficulty levels and races to play to make up for that. The balance is also slightly off - while scenarios can be a real struggle in the early stages, at some point the tone of the game will take a dramatic (and near instant) shift, where there will be too much money to spend, and from there it'll be a cakewalk.

There's also a couple of bugs in this early release, with some crashes and occasionally the "buy" command won't be recognised when you're trying to build something. They're bugs we expect will be remedied in the near future though.

There's not a great deal of depth to the city building, but it's done well nonetheless


It's good to see Matrix and Slitherine on board with the iPad, and this is a good first effort. That said, given the pedigree of Matrix, we're hoping for a real wargame next time. Perhaps a port of the excellent Combat Command? Or even that dream team partnership with GMT Games?




Review: History Egypt: Engineering an Empire (iPad)
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