DomiNations [Android, iOS]
Developer: NEXON M Inc.
DomiNations comes from a renowned game designers Brian Reynolds and Tim Train, the masterminds behind Rise of Nations and Civilization II. Depending on whether or not you like the genre of base building, loads of micro-management and Clash of Clans-meets-Civilization (I would add Godus in between), you are either in for a treat, or not.
Those of you who have been waiting for a worthy alternative to the Clash of Clans, or an easier take on Civilization, are most likely to enjoy this light-hearted, somewhat grind-fest-ing, yet pleasant and content-packed delight.
The objective of DomiNations is to evolve from a simple Stone Age settlement, through Iron Age village, Middle Ages castles, Classic Age city up to the Modern Age of space exploration. Wage wars, make alliances, research technologies, build World Wonders, make peace treaties, recruit world-renowned persona to lead your nation to prosperity and possibly world domination.
You can choose to play as only one nation out of seven available – China, Japan, Britain, France, Rome, Greece, Germany. It’s a somewhat limited selection by the most modest standards, but alas, the game is not meant to teach us the world history or geography, but rather entertain with recruiting folks like Napoleon and Cleopatra. I surely hope they do not tremble with rage in their tombs, as we play with their characters over again.
At the same time, the choice of a nation makes some crucial turns in your scientific research, architectural style and color palette of your buildings and other strategy-related elements somewhat predictable, if you are knowledgeable about the nation of your choice, of course. For example, Japan is military-focused, but has strong peace traditions through treaties. China gets the technical and scientific research fast, but is often at war, and so on.
As the game starts with a thorough, step-by-step guide and overview of the game’s UI, you settle your first camp in the middle of the woods. You can only build three houses, two dwellers in each, if you do not invest real cash in the game early on.
From there, you start building up your “base.” Each Age has its own set of things you can build and their quantity. Your settlement has a core, a center, which needs to be upgraded to unlock more perks you can build and upgrade to move through the Ages, battle other players and the AI, recruit famous people and advance. The main delight of the gameplay is in unlocking and building new structures and recruiting the historical characters. Those of you who like bullying lower standing players will also have plenty of room for action due to the game’s poorly balanced multiplayer matching system.
Your people will be plainly wandering along the village’s whereabouts until you assign them with building, hunting, gathering or fighting tasks. In the Stone Age, you will be hunting deer and rabbits, gathering oranges from the fruit trees, thus producing one of the three essential in-game currencies – Food. Your people will consume food in exchange for doing the jobs you assign them.
The gold mines, markets, roads and trade will give you the second in-game currency – Gold. You spend gold on constructing, training soldiers, researching technologies and the like.
Achieving success in different game missions, like building a mine, or a market, or 200 meters of road, will give you the third in-game currency – Crowns. These are used to speed up things.
Each action suggests a cool down timer, and you can speed it up with the crowns.
Your town has a center, which has a level and a few upgrades per each Age. Depending on your center level, you can build a certain number of structures in your town – markets, gold mines, roads, barracks, places of worship or historical ruins, houses for your men.
Some structures serve to produce goods, others are often the places where you find surprise items, like some extra gold. Each building requires men, food and time resources to construct.
Once you have reached the Iron Age, you will be able to choose your nation. Make a mental note to read about the nations beforehand, unless you prefer to play by hunch. DomiNations is one game that is best played by hunch, as much as you might object to this stance, and let me explain why. Yes, you can read the world’s load of tricks and overviews of each nation’s pros and cons, but I only see it as a spoiler that chips away from the little surprise elements that are quite rare in the game.
On the flip side, if you don’t play to discover but to beat the game, or an opponent, you are probably better off with a few bookmarks of the game’s guides.
Another reason to weigh all pros and cons when choosing a nation is the decision is final. Once you choose the Japanese, the Japanese it will be until the end. There is no way to rewind and choose another nation, and the only way to do so is to start the game over again, from scratch.
The battling system in DomiNations is close to that of Clash of Clans, but it improves on the classic formula. You can choose who to attack; you can make peace treaties and form alliances. When on the battlefield, you can deploy special skills your men have. As for the attack itself, you simply choose where to deploy your men around the enemy base, and from there, they are going solo, or rather AI-wise. You can influence which structures they attack by placing them closer to the defense towers of the enemy. If placed recklessly, your men may drift away to loot a gold mine and get slaughtered by the defense forces without even defending themselves. Here comes another perk – you can adjust their aiming once in every 30 seconds, or so.
Another great thing about the battling system in DomiNations is your men come back home, if they survive the day. Unlike Clash of Clans or Star Wars Commander, where every deployed unit is automatically lost, DomiNations lets you keep the men that survived the battle, which is grand.
On the flip side, if you start the battle and retreat, all the deployed soldiers will be lost, like it or not.
Once you start out in the multiplayer mode, you might come across a somewhat imbalanced matching system, which more often than not pairs you with either someone much higher level than you, or the opposite. In the latter case, you will get easy loot, while the first case gives you no chance.
Also, once you open that multiplayer raiding door, you will have to endure other players raiding your base. At some point, it can get somewhat frustrating because having others steal your gold and resources slows down your progress. It all depends on the amount of time and effort you are willing to invest in the game, after all.
If anything, DomiNations can not be played casually at all times. Yes, you can visit it once per day to start a construction, order an upgrade, and the like. But every once in a while you will need to spend some 3 hours actually making progress, if you wish to get anywhere interesting here, and stop complaining about the rabbits not reproducing to feed your barbarians.
Another game’s perk is the Wonders of the World you get to build once per age. You will have a choice among the four beautiful architectural wonders, and you can choose only one. This choice is permanent – there is no going back to change the selection. Also, bear in mind the other three structures will never be available later in the game. Once the pending choice is done, they’re lost forever. So, choose carefully.
Some players have posted extensive guides on which wonders are best for specific nations because each wonder may work for each nation’s benefit, when the two powers get combined. On the other hand, there are players who like to choose simply the most gorgeous structures, like the Floating Gardens or the Eiffel Tower.
DomiNations is an eye candy, mostly thanks to its structures and highly detailed elements – from the tiniest rabbit to the architectural world wonders. Even the Stone Age buildings look attractive, not to mention the castles and buildings you will be playing with much later. That said, each nation seems to have a peculiar color palette of its own – the European nations seem to have more cold blue colors in their architecture while the Oriental ones are more rustic and warm-looking.
The lush greens and the pale sandy yellows are beautiful, but the texture of the grid makes it somewhat difficult to aim correctly when building, especially roads. I haven’t found a way to switch a camera angle, so I don’t know if there is one.
Overall, both the design and the music are top notch, and even if you are not a big fan of the genre, but are looking for a pretty base building time killer, try out DomiNations.
We have explained the three in-game currencies already – Food, Gold and Crowns. The first two, Food and Gold, can be earned by playing, grinding and raiding other players’ and AI’s bases. You can earn crowns for completing missions the old man in the top left corner gives you. You need the crowns to speed up constructions and research, hunting and trade merchandise production.
Try not to run out of the crowns when you are in the Stone Age because at some point, in the 3rd or 4rth Age you get set back by the long waiting timers. This is where the game wants you to venture out and play with the others – attack, make peace, form alliances.
Also, you will have to pay real cash if you wish to be able to build more homes, and consequently have more people in your town than the default free mode allows you to – three houses, six people. A few good men and women more will dramatically increase your progress speed.
On the other hand, non-paying players are bound to grind, but the resources they mine might get lost in the battles, when other more powerful players attack them.
When you are looking for a player to attack, you will be able to pay with gold to find you another, more matching player. As a result, you may spend quite a few coins spinning that matchmaking wheel.
Is DomiNations a pay to win game? More yes than no and let me make my point. Unless you have a LOT of free time on your hands with nothing better to do than playing DomiNations, you won’t be making a fast and significant progress without paying. Yes, you can play without paying, but it will be long until you finally get to that Eiffel Tower. However, if you appreciate the process itself and not the destination, you are just fine with the game as it is, without paying.
Finally, irrespective of whether you are paying or not, DomiNations requires quite a significant level of dedication, if you wish to make real progress. If you are the kind of player who hops to and from many new games on a weekly basis, you are unlikely to appreciate the fact.
On the other hand, the game is quite addicting for the right player, and once you get the knack of it, you will be losing up to 3 hours in each gaming session easily. Once you see the first essential progress, you get the taste of the DomiNation’s charm.
Even with its somewhat poorly balanced multiplayer matching system, the game is the kind that will last you months and months of entertainment. On the flip side, it is not like other games you can play, like and keep them for those time when you are bored. If you don’t play it continuously and regularly, you will get looted and stuck, and it’s no fun getting back to the same Stone Age village, if you play during one hour twice a week.
Overall, the replay value is excellent.
The game is quite heavyweight and get ready to wait for a while the first time it loads – it will be downloading even more resources. Once you are up and running, a few connection issues might happen, but the overall performance seems smooth. Sometimes, some UI elements would fail to load, but the most affecting glitch is when the game loses connection to the server while you are in the middle of something. I would like to stress these issues might be pertaining to particular devices, however. For example, I myself have experienced the UI elements bug, but no connection problems, while the reviewers on Google Play report them and crashes more often than any other bug.
- Great design, beautiful buildings and Wonders of the World
- Interesting blend of CoC and Civilization
- Lots of things to do – constructing, hunting, researching, battling, making alliances and peace treaties
- Advancing through Ages gives you a very rewarding feeling of accomplishment complete with new buildings
- Very addicting gameplay, accessible
- Intuitive UI, but for the barracks – I can’t find an explanation to why I can’t recruit 30 soldiers, but only 25, when my barracks stats say I can have 30
- Excellent replay value, months of moderate gaming to enjoy
- Plenty of information to get from the game forums, guides, walkthroughs, overviews of nations and Wonders to get you savvy early in the game
- Imbalanced multiplayer battle matching
- It gets pretty tough to protect your resources from being stolen and make progress later in the game without paying
- Requires more time and dedication than a casual player would be willing to invest, despite the grand addiction factor
- Some performance issues – vary with device, and hopefully will be addressed in the upcoming updates
- Some users suggest there’s a bug that makes the Starter Pack unavailable for Android users
DomiNations is a notable entry in an over-saturated niche of base building strategy games with a crazy deal of micro-management. Diligent and meticulous fans of the CoC will love this game since it borrows a few great elements from Civilization and Godus-like games, improving significantly on the battling system of CoC. Sporting a gorgeous design, DomiNations is fun to play, but requires a significant level of dedication, which comes easy for the game is addicting. A few performance and matching glitches need to be addressed, however. There is a paywall (call it a grind-fest if you like) you are most likely to hit some time mid-game, but even that is not a good enough reason not to try this game. After all, it’s a breath of fresh air in a crowdy genre. We certainly recommend you give it a go!