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1100 AD Review



1100 A.D.    



Genre: Strategy MMO

Browser based MMORTS

1100 AD
"Beyond that initial slump there might be an absolutely fantastic game but that would be up to you to find out..."" reviewed by Mat Growcott, Written on
Rating: 4 stars


1100AD is a free to play strategy game set in, three guesses allowed, the twelfth century, during the time of the crusades. I’ll avoid the history lesson, as tempted as I am, because the history side of 1100AD isn’t the be all and end all of the game. Instead, the focus is definitely on the strategy element of the game.


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And just playing it the little that I have I can see that there is plenty to enjoy if you’re a fan of the genre. You get to build your own castle up from scratch, decide where things are placed and where best to defend. If you don’t have much time to spend playing MMO games, 1100AD doesn’t take a lot of concentration and things like resources will grow while you’re away from the computer, meaning that that 15 minutes you spend on it each day will be action packed and fun.

Good Graphics

Graphically, 1100AD is good, but not spectacular. Unlike Call of Gods which has a feel of stylized detail, 1100AD focuses instead on depth of play rather than beautiful graphics. They put me in mind of the early Civilisation games, on a much smaller map. The graphics are a means to an end though and they do little but put a visual on your kingdom.

And what a kingdom it is, land ripe to be built upon and improved. The beginning of the game reeks of potential, especially if you’ve spent any time looking at screen shots and reading descriptions. Soon you’ll be killing your enemies and celebrating with your allies, but to begin with you must get through the very simple tutorial that has you picking a coat of arms and beginning your journey to conquest. And if you enjoy the game, that journey could be very, very long.

Click on images to enlarge

When you’re feeling confident enough to venture out of your town and fight an enemy, you’ll find yourself in the Valley. From the Valley you can see other players and interact with them in a really quite marvellous way. As well as some of the obvious stuff – offering an alliance, declaring war – you can ask a nearby warlord to accept you into his or her service (or demand they join your service, if you’re big and scary enough).

This allows you to almost expend your influence without using an iota of force, a feature that doesn’t crop up very often (and it’s obvious why, you could chuck balancing out of the window). Unfortunately, like much of 1100AD, this is done in the slowest way possible. As much as I appreciate that this is a game that people love and as much as I try to look at it objectively, I just can’t bring myself to enjoy it.
I know that people who love the game will just dismiss my complaints as somebody not getting the game, and perhaps they’re right. But in all the time I’ve played 1100AD, its problems just greatly outweigh any enjoyment I could get from the deep strategic gameplay and the good ideas behind the MM part of the game. But the pace of the game never really picks up and you spend much of the game checking your watch.

Incredibly slow

Something like Call of Gods - which offers a similar, less in-depth experience – cuts out the monotony of waiting for things to happen by adding MMORPG style quests which you can complete while resources are being mined. The early part of the 1100AD, however, is incredibly slow, throwing you into the deep end without any context to your actions or any sort of story to enjoy. This would be less annoying if not for the fact that 1100AD could be set in any year, any world; from what I’ve seen the setting or the year is rarely mentioned and if it weren’t for the title you’d never know when it was set. It’s a small problem but still annoying if your interest in the game is based upon the time period.

Click on images to enlarge

You are told to name your newly started town (Mat’s Town will be one for the ages) and then put through several missions, some which can take anything up to five minutes of nothing to complete. An early mission has you building a couple of farms and then upgrading your mines. The building queue only allows a few items to be prepared for construction and you’re left waiting for completion with nothing to do but sit and wait. Any game that pushes the player out so early in the game definitely has pacing issues and it is something that 1100AD struggles from throughout.

But more than that, the developers sometimes presume you’re more knowledgeable then you actually are. There are tasks in the tutorial that require you to have levelled up a building to a certain level, or to have buildings that you’ve not been told to build, and this requires – yup, you guessed it – a great deal more waiting.

This would be made just a little easier to bear if there were music to enjoy or something like that, but there are nothing but menus and the map of your town which, at this point in the game, is little more than a couple of buildings and a few patches of grass. You’re left feeling like you want to find something else to do, not exactly an indicator of a classic MMO in its opening stages.


Click on images to enlarge


The other thing that becomes apparent rather quickly is how shaky the game’s engine itself can be. There have been a lot of times when it will just stop accepting my clicks. The quest will tell me to press on a certain building and it won’t work; after a minute of increasingly frenzied testing you realise that neither will any other building and you’re forced to refresh the browser in order to continue play. This happens so often that it becomes par for the course.

But more than that, the entire UI feels clunky and slow. It can take a few seconds to load up a page of information even when the game is working at full capacity and, because of a general lack of clarification on some of the menus, exploring can be rather frustrating. Perhaps years of websites optimized for high speed internet has thrown me, maybe I’m just spoilt; playing 1100AD feels like playing an MMO over dial-up and, if you don’t have the patience for that, you want to avoid it like the plague.

The Half Life of Strategy Games, with its faults...

And all of this is all the more frustrating because I know that underneath the game’s faults lies a deep experience that many people would swear on, a game that does for the online strategy game what Half Life did for the FPS. If only the developers had created their game to be the same quality as their idea.
1100AD isn’t a game that you sit and play all day, not unless you’re doing other things. For casual players who’re looking for a deep game without the need to spend hours levelling up, 1100AD will probably be enough to hold your attention – the long waits aren’t going to bother you if you’re not playing during the waits. But for somebody playing constantly, as I have for review purposes, the small annoyances become too much, the hours of waiting for building jobs to complete soon add up and you find you’re doing other things instead of play.


Fun to play with friends

It wasn’t a surprise to me to find that the game is available on Facebook because, in small portions, it’s actually an excellent game and playing with people you actually know could be quite good fun (especially if you end up as the lord and they your lowly servants). The game’s biggest problem, it’s pacing, is such a huge turn off though that playing the game seems like a chore. Beyond that initial slump there might be an absolutely fantastic game but that would be up to you to find out...


Mat Growcott
© 2011


Anonymous Fri, 2012-04-06 13:56
Anonymous's picture

Hi, Mat: Any word on if the pacing gets better? I've been at this for a week and I'm just now training an army. (This is my first game ever, so I really suck at this!)

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