Despite some shortcomings, Egypt: Engineering an Empire is an enjoyable game for turn-based strategy fans. Overall, there aren’t many decent strategy games for the iOS platform. The touch interface and limited memory of iDevices just doesn’t work for the Civilizations, conquer the world one turn at a time type of game. Because of that, Egypt didn’t have to do much to be become one of the top games in this category. Unfortunately, it did just enough and not much more.
Being a strategy game buff and a student of history, I’ve spent my fair share of time playing both real time strategy and turn-based strategy games. On the surface, Egypt reminded me of Civilizations type games since you had the ability to play as one of the many ancient civilizations - Babylonians, Persians, Sumerians, etc. However, it lacks many of the features I come to expect from these genre of games. For starters, there’s a lack of tutorial. Well, the game has one, but it wasn’t very helpful to the point of might as well not having it. The tutorial consisted of a series of blurbs that aren’t connected to each other and leaves out a ton of the gameplay mechanics. I finished the tutorial knowing not much more than when I started. So you might just want to skip it and save yourself some time.
There’s about 8 different scenarios that you can play. All of them is of the conquer-type variety where you have to kill every other civilization on the map. The developers tried to add some variety like the “City of Saints” scenario where you have to control the city of Jerusalem for 10 turns to win the game. I did that but ended up having to kill everyone else to get the “You win!” message. That’s probably a scripting bug.
In general the AI wasn’t very challenging, even on hard. If you’re patient enough, your computer opponent would just split the army defending his city even when you have stacks of troops waiting outside to storm the city. When that happens, there’s usually only 1-2 soldiers left and no matter the level of fortification bonus, the city is yours.
Interface wise, I thought the developers did a pretty good job. City management was one of the more tedious things in Civilizations and even they haven’t fully figured the best way to do it. That’s with a mouse and keyboard. iOS has just the touch interface. Egypt’s solution to this problem was to limit your options. Less things to do, less interface options needed. That’s a plus for ease of use, but a minus for game depth and strategy. Given the memory and CPU constraints of developing on the iOS platform, I can understand why they went they path they did. Troop management was somewhat tedious, especially when you control most of the map. Having the ability to set rally points would have been nice or perhaps a grouping feature.
For a game that’s associated with the History Channel, there’s a surprising lack of history in the game. There’s no facts or tidbits about the civilization that you’re playing. Every civilization has the same set of troops and assets. The scenario briefing is like, here are you cities, kill these other cities by this date. I know that game devs are always under pressure to push things out the door to make money, but it would’ve taken maybe a few minutes to look up some facts on Wikipedia about some ancient civilization and say like, “You are General Alexander the Great. Lead the Macedonian people to greatness by conquering the Persians.” Nope, not even that. You wonder why there’s a History Channel association at all.
It seems like I’m nitpicking a lot about this game and not liking it very much. I did enjoy the time I spent playing it. I had somewhat high expectations because of the History Channel affiliation and because it looked promising. The multiple comparison to the Civilization franchise is because that’s the granddaddy game in this space. Being a veteran of that franchise, it was too easy to notice things that were missing. As I said before, this is probably one of the better turn-based games on the iOS, but it still lacks the level of polish and detail of something greater. My hope is that the developer, Slitherine, will continue this franchise and make a much improved version 2.
You can get Egypt: Engineering an Empire for $3 on iTunes now. The price has since dropped from $6, so it’s a completely good deal and a must get for anyone into strategy games.