Ikariam isn’t the type of game that we usually cover here at Thunderbolt. Not only because you probably aren’t sure how to pronounce the title, but because it’s a free, browser-based game. It’s not too often that a browser game attracts my attention, and with how crowded the videogame market is these days, it’s easy for games like this to slip past my radar. However, Ikariam offers much of the compelling gameplay found in games like Civilization and Age of Empires, so it’s in your best interest as a strategy fan to pay attention.
Developed by Gameforge, Ikariam is a city-building game that plays out in an ancient Mediterranean island chain. Sporting colorful, vibrant graphics, Ikariam thrusts you into a persistent online world that’s always running, whether you’re playing or not. After you sign up, you’re given control of an island of your own. The island has two resources on it that you can control to build your empire. But here’s the catch: there are five total resources that you need to build a truly impressive island nation, so you’ll need to deal with your other players in order to succeed. Dealing with other players can entail simply trading resources with a few neighbors and building a friendly economic alliance or it can mean building up a powerful military and taking those resources for good.
Taking the military route can get you what you want in the short-term, but thanks to a clever alliance system, you may end up provoking the might of a much larger collection of players who will utterly destroy you. Diplomacy is of the utmost importance, especially since you leave your empire to the Gods when you log-off. You aren’t the center of the universe. The game doesn’t shut down for you. You’ll need to ally yourself with other players to make sure your empire exists when you get back, or else you’ll have to hope that your defenses are strong enough.
The buildings and structures in Ikariam look to very similar to Civilization and Age of Empires. You’ll build barracks, town centers, and trading posts. Each offers upgrades that you can pay for, which are managed through a research center. Since everything keeps going once you’ve logged off, it won’t be a surprise to find you’ve researched some new technology (like improved military units) when you log back in, which makes coming back to the game even more exciting.
The persistent world and diplomacy aspects of Ikariam’s gameplay really attract me to the game. These are things that have long been missed in other strategy games, and to be able to finally experience them (for free even!) is exciting. Check back to Thunderbolt in the coming weeks to read a full review of this game, or just head over to the official website to check out the game for yourself.