bonbonetti's Oriental Empires (PC) review

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a fun 4x game with light Crusader Kings elements

Oriental Empires is a 4x strategy game set in historic China. It has a Campaign mode, where it puts the player at the center of various major historic events in China, as well as a Sandbox mode. It probably has multiplayer as well, but I'm a single-player gamer and thus haven't paid much attention to that.

You have lots of different factions or tribes to play as, each with their own weaknesses and strengths. You can win through warfare, cultural conquest, wealth, and so on. It's the standard 4x formula. The game does this really well. You can micromanage as much as you want, the game lets you focus on the gameplay elements you enjoy the most. For example, you can set some functions to automatic, what a city should focus its development on (growth, income, military, etc.).

You don't do combat in the Total War way, it's not that type of game. Instead it is more like Hearts of Iron and Civilization. You can pick different units (spear-men, archers, etc), and set formations and stances (defense, attack, etc). As far as combat goes, this game is more of a macro management type.

You need to specialize each city you control: to house army barracks, to house buildings for trade and income, etc. Each city has a limit to how many buildings you can construct, so you are forced to choose. Typically I would build fortified cities near my enemy borders, with cities focusing on military nearby, and have cities that focus on income and culture at the center. When settling a new city you really need to look at the surrounding geography, for example if you settle near mountains there's a limit to how many farms you can build, and thus how big your population can get in that city. Building near mountains however, allows you to create pavilions and such, that will increase your culture level.

The historic detail feels and looks good enough for me, I'm no historian or lay-expert, I just like playing strategy games and I liked the game's setting, that's about it. I feel I got the immersion I was looking for. The music is great by the way, I enjoyed it.

There are a couple of elements in this game that I feel are quite unique.

Firstly, it has a Crusader Kings inspired element, where you choose a spouse, allocate strategic consultants and other advisors. You have to choose whom they marry, and so on. You can even execute them. A core element of the game is the idea of an Heir and bloodline. You need to think ahead in terms of choosing an heir or spouse, since choosing wrongly could end up in rebellion in the worst case. The higher the difficulty level you choose, the more important this gameplay element becomes. It's not as complex and immersive as in a Crusader Kings game, it's a lighter take on it, but it does add an extra element of fun to the gameplay.

Secondly. You don't collect and house armies. You can instantly amass a big army in a single turn, assuming you have enough manpower. There's no "construction" of an army, in the traditional sense of most other 4X games. The smaller your population, the smaller the army you can gather, since they are taken directly from each city's population number. Once armies are no longer needed, you can - and should - disperse them, since keeping soldiers active will heavily drain your economy. You can still keep a few soldiers available of-course. This element is one of the game's central ideas.

Complaints? the game has a few minor bugs but nothing severe enough to detract from my rating of the game. I did not consider them significant to the gameplay experience.

In summary, I thought the game had good quality and I had lots of fun playing it, and I will most likely return to it in the future as well. It has a nice balance of micro-macro management, it's somewhere in the middle. We don't have that many 4X games that specialize on China, and this is a really good one.

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