I’m not the worlds biggest RTS fan, not by a long shot. I’ve always been the type to load into a custom campaign, play for a few hours, get bored of gathering and maintaining resources and saying “fuck it, it’s cheat time”. Then everything devolves into a clusterfuck of typing in codes until I generate a massive army and decimate the entire map. Circle Empires doesn’t allow me to do that. Is that a reason for me to dislike the game? I guess you’re gonna have to read on and find out.
Circle Empires is an RTS with a slight difference. Everything’s based around circles. Pretty simple, considering the name, right? But this means that you don’t have to worry about troop transports or anything of that ilk, as all the circles are connected. All circles are inhabited by something or someone, meaning you always have a target to move to. This is actually great for a player like myself, as I usually hunt down a few unsuspecting foes, before milling around and wasting hours.
You play the role of an omnipotent deity, essentially. While most games in the RTS genre have you issuing orders to units, Circle Empires has you dropping your units from the sky. It makes for a refreshing turn of events to not have to wait for units to be built (or trained), as you can simply drop units to turn the tide of a battle.
While it may come across as a slight against Circle Empires, it’s main goal, or at least to me, is to take most of the complexity of your Starcraft’s and the like and remove it. What’s left is a streamlined experience, that may actually be a little too simple. There’s also a tiny pool of units which means you’ll almost always just be using the same few units to just steamroll over anything by the sheer amount of units.
There are multiple leaders you can choose from before you hop into a game. Naturally, they all have slight variations on how they play. Some start with extra resources, others gain towers or walls when you capture a circle and of course, one starts with limited resources in an attempt to handicap the player, much like playing Deprived in Dark Souls. These little variations are a great way to get players to continue to come back to Circle Empires, especially as many leaders aren’t unlocked until you do specific tasks, such as beat a stage on X difficulty, win on a large map, so players will have something to constantly strive for to scratch that unlockable itch.
Circle Empires also features a small loot system. Occasionally when you take over a circle or are lucky enough to have it generate randomly, there’ll be a little crate. If you attack that create then you can potentially get a random drop that apparently can be literally anything. Sometimes you’ll get a unit, sometimes you’ll get a plant, sometimes you’ll get a resource block. It’s a weird mechanic that the enemy units never seem to take advantage of.
There are also multiple game modes present in Circle Empires, Monster Hunt, Full Conquest and Imperial Conflict. While the modes do have different objectives, they ultimately culminate in the same thing, taking over every circle through sheer numbers. While I wasn’t expecting to be able to knock out a few cultural victories like you can in the Civilization series, it’s a shame that the three game modes are practically the same thing, though Monster Hunt does task you with fighting a moderately strong monster to win.
While it’s painful for me to admit, there’s a treasury mechanic in Circle Empires that I am clueless about. After every battle you complete, you gain little bits of gold. I believe there’s one character you can unlock by hitting a certain threshold of gold, but there’s no actual indication of how much you have. Instead, it just displays a Scrooge McDuck style vault, that unfortunately, you cannot swim around in.
Graphically, Circle Empires is the very definition of simple. The character models lack definition, but they’re clear on the battlefield. Resources are clearly defined, meaning you can quickly glance over the circles to work out where you quickly need to dump some workers.
The issues with Circle Empires is clear from launching it. The lack of features is abundantly clear. The most glaring omission is the lack of multiplayer. Circle Empires would be a great little multiplayer game. It’s simple to pick up and games can be finished super quickly, so any multiplayer would’ve been great. A few more varied modes would’ve also been interesting, but Circle Empires is a small indie game after all, so it’s hard to expect a huge deal from it.
Overall, Circle Empires is an interesting little RTS. The simple graphics aren’t much of a detraction, but the lack of features is a killer. Not being able to smash your friends online is a real shame and seems like a massively missed opportunity. The only victory condition is to crush your opponents, which sometimes feels like a waste. Give me building victories too!