There are many articles on this site concerning Evony, but not a single one that gives a balanced picture of what this game and what it takes to be a serious player of the game.
The concept of Evony should seem familiar to anyone who has played games like Civilisation and Age of Empires. You get a small village which you have to turn into a large city, then build an army and conquer the world. (In fact, some parts should seem very familiar, as they have been copied directly from these games, but here is not the place to mention that.)
All new towns start with a town hall and a lot of empty plots on which to build. Initially, only basic buildings such as cottages and barracks can be built, but as your city develops more advanced buildings can be constructed, such as walls for your city and an academy to conduct research in various fields to grant bonuses to your city. Buildings begin at level 1, but can be upgraded to enhance the properties of that building, such as holding more population or training more and higher level troops. As the building level increases, so does the time needed to build it. This can range from a few seconds to over 200 hours at the top end. All buildings that take under 5minutes to construct (without any bonuses) can be finished instantly using an unlimited free speed-up.
Outside your town, but still within the city limits you can construct buildings to gather resources. There are four main commodities in Evony: food, stone, lumber and iron. Each has its own uses, from building and upgrading your city to training an army and each requires a different type of building to collect. Spaces to build these are limited so players must choose which resource they need most, but more spaces become available as your city grows.
Evony runs in real-time, so even if you are offline, your buildings continue to be built and resources continue to be collected.
All new players are granted a 7 day beginner’s protection period, during which they can build freely without fear of attack. The flipside is that they cannot attack anyone else either. There is also a quest system in place to guide new players through the basics and reward them with extra resources and items. After the 7 day period expires, or the city reaches a sufficient level this ends and players are vulnerable to attack 24 hours a day. A common tactic is to only attack players that are offline so they cannot respond or alter the defences.
Once the foundations of your city are laid down, the next step is to build an army. There are twelve different units that you can train, ranging from lowly workers and warriors to mighty siege engines such as ballistae and catapults. In addition once you have build walls to defend your city you can also build extra fortifications on them to protect you from attack. Others have more specialised uses, like transporters for moving resources between cities and scouts that provide intelligence on opponent’s cities. Heroes are an essential part of all armies and serve as the commanders of troops sent out. Unlike regular troops, they are not created but must be recruited. As they fight more and more they earn experience and can be levelled up and specialised in one of three disciplines: attack, politics or intelligence.
Being successful in combat can result in your being awarded medals. These medals are then used to advance a player rank and title. All players start off at civilian rank but can advance to become generals. Advancing title is more important as each title upgrade allows the player to control and additional city, up to a maximum of 10. Players can either start a new city on a captured piece of land or can capture a city belonging to another player if they can lower the loyalty to 0.
Aside from combat, diplomacy plays a large role in the game as well. Once an embassy is constructed players can enter into alliances. Players in the same alliance can transport resources to each other, reinforce a city with defensive troops and have a special private chat channel. Alliances can then become friendly or hostile to other alliances, working together to take down common enemies.
The Evony world map is actually fairly large, consisting of multiple states and each server accommodating thousands of players. Other than player cities, the map is filled with valleys that can be conquered to provide resource bonuses, and npc cities that can be attacked.
As with all ‘free’ online games in this mould, the developers need some way to make money. Here, this is done by a collection of items that can be purchased to enhance your profile. Some of them provide 25% resource bonuses, or speed-ups that let you construct buildings without the wait. A small number of these items are given to all new players, or earned through completing the quests but the best items are saved for the big spenders. One of the best selling items is the Michelangelo’s Script, without which buildings cannot be upgraded to the highest level and this gives a huge advantage. Evony also gives a player a free amulet everyday, which is used in a wheel of fortune game which offers items, resources or game coins to the winners.
On the surface this game is perfectly competent, if time-consuming game but this provides only half of the picture. Underneath the surface is a whole host of issues that ruin the game experience for many players.
The primary one is the combat system, which is a real disappointment. You have no actual control of anything, other than the number of troops you send. Once your army has finally marched to its target you receive a report of what has happened and any survivors return automatically with the spoils of war. This would be fine if the core mechanics of the system were not broken. At the start of a battle, all troops blindly charge at each other and do not stop until one side is wiped out. Archers, who could quite happily sit out of range of the enemy and kill them from a distance throw themselves onto their swords and fight like melee troops. Despite there being twelve types of troops, only three or four have any real use, the others only acting as meatshields or as glorified resource carriers. The same can be said of the fortifications, with one being so powerful that building any of the others is a waste of space and resources.
The resource system is hideously unbalanced, with lumber and food needed in large quantities but stone is practically useless once you finish building stuff and focus on wars.
Although the game advertises itself on being free, as anyone who has seen the latest ridiculous lawsuits will testify, free speech is not welcome on Evony. To chat in the world channel, players need to purchase speakers. Every time you say something, it costs one speaker, so new players often are unable to ask for help when they need it. As a result, world chat is filled with the same small group of people and when a decent conversation strikes up, it is interrupted by alliances trying to recruit members or people winning prizes on the wheel of fortune. Whilst alliance chat doesn’t need speakers and the game does provide an in game mail system, this is cumbersome and makes communicating with people outside your own alliance difficult, even with allies.
Although some words are rightly filtered from chat and have no place in the game, the censoring system is unpredictable, filtering the word Evony, the letters ‘ho’ (even in words like who or should!) and even numbers from chat and mail.
This speaks of a greater problem and that’s the developers themselves. The game is fraught with bugs and glitches, which despite multiple complaints see no action taken. When a change is made, it is often a ‘quick-fix’ that is badly though out and has unforeseen consequences (such as the filtering incident). On the whole, Representatives do not listen to feedback from players and randomly change minor elements of the game whilst completely ignoring its underlying flaws. The reason this is not mentioned in player reviews all that often is that they run a service that rewards players for writing reviews of the game, but not if they write anything negative. I wrote not for a few game coins, but as a fair view of my experience of the game.
Lady Freija, FATE Alliance, Server 15