Slitherine has just released VR Designs’ latest game. Shadow Empire is an expansive sci-fi turn-based wargame. It is played on a hex grid. This is not a game for the casual player. It is a very extensive strategy game with an enormous amount of tactics involved. Included with Shadow Empire is a user’s manual. You can consult it to help you get started. It contains a quick introduction to the world of Shadow Empire, the rules and a “how to play” section. This manual is 365 pages long… I imagine you can tell from the length of the manual alone that this game is not for players that are new to the genre. VR Designs have developed several other games including the Decisive Campaigns series which is another turn-based strategy wargame.
The game is set in a post-apocalyptic setting. The civilization just went through a world ending scenario and you play as the leader of a small nation trying to rebuild on the ashes of the previous one. Your role is to defend your borders and your citizens. However, you also need to expand your nation and your power. You are the supreme leader after all and you want to reign over as much land as you can conquer. You will have to command your army to scout and gain more land so that you can augment your power while defending your empire. Build your city with all the infrastructure it requires. Recover ancient technology and advance the science at your disposal by putting effectives into research.
I am forced to admit that it looks quite dated visually. It is the kind of graphics you would expect to find in a ten years or even older game. Thankfully, graphics are not the most important part of a game of this genre. However, it would have been nice if a little more effort had been put into creating graphics that look a bit more recent. Some might not put any importance on that aspect since the images are few and far in between. For those like me that are visual, it does make the game less appealing. The UI could use a little more work to give it cleaner look. The game is packed with menus and statistics and it is easy to get lost when looking at the screen.
As a leader, there are a lot of aspects that you will need to take into account. Shadow Empire has tons of stats and menus. It is obvious that the developers have put tons of work into this game. With all those statistics, making sure that everything works together is not easy and you will have to micro-manage it all. The back story is good. It is pretty light there is only a sentence here and there added to a static image. To me it is not that important within the game, but it is a nice addition to have some background on the story. The statistics are well… saying they are in-depth would be an understatement. Suffice to say that each and every aspect of your empire has been thought out and added to the game. It is pretty close to what reality would look like in this situation.
It starts slow, but as you play you will have to juggle lots of data between organizing your troops, setting up the research with the nation’s scientists and protecting your borders. Through all that you have to send your troops onto new pieces of land which are divided within a hexagonal board. You have to manage which of your underlings will do what. Sometimes your troops might get some nasty surprises. You are not the only nation on this world and there are even some pretty unusual characters that will appear and want to conquer your nation. You will have to be strategic and make sure that your army is ready to fight and protect the population. You will have to face unexpected enemies like a hungry cannibal horde or an army of mutants so you need to be ready. Meanwhile the nation’s scientists are looking for ancient and new technology alike through research, and as the nation’s chief you are in charge of assigning personnel. As the ruler the ultimate end goal is to become the supreme ruler of the world.
If you like deep strategy games featuring complex statistics, Shadow Empire probably will appeal to you. It is a very complete and extensive strategy game, but it can get confusing if you are not used to juggling multiple actions at once. If you are a casual player or someone new to the genre, then there are better games out there with better tutorials and easier interfaces. Leading a nation involves lots of management and with Shadow Empire that is exactly what you get. The game lets you control right down to the smallest detail. The issue is for those like me who are used to lighter strategy games it can get very overwhelming and felt a bit too much like work. However, those who like substantial wargames will probably enjoy the deeply realistic feel of Shadow Empire and appreciate the endless possibilities.
Written by Vee