We have no issue with publishers who put out a game every other week, as long as those games consistently feel finished and polished. If the releases arrive buggy and broken, then – clearly – the rapid rate of release is a problem. There’s a faulty factory line and someone should press the ‘stop’ button to work out what’s wrong.
Crown of the Empire 2: Around the World is the moment that 8floor should press that button. They’ve flirted with it before, particularly with a run of games that shared the same save bug. Back then, we questioned whether they were testing their games properly, and with Crown of the Empire 2: Around the World, we can emphatically say they aren’t.
Crown of the Empire 2: Around the World uses a mouse-like cursor, much like the Gnomes Garden and Lost Artifacts games before it. Nothing special there. But as soon as you try to click on a resource to pick it up, or an obstacle to clear it, it’s evident that something is wrong. We spent a full few minutes, and one or two reinstalls, before we worked out what happened; the click-area isn’t at the point of the arrow cursor – it’s in the middle. We had been clicking a few pixels in the wrong direction every time. Thank you TrueAchievements forums for letting us know what we were doing wrong.
But that’s not the real gamebreaker. From level fourteen to eighteen, a broken icon appears on the screen. Who knows why it’s there: it’s not something that the game uses later on. But this icon overlays onto the game screen, covering important, clickable areas. You can’t complete the levels without getting at the stuff beneath it, so it becomes a game. You have to move your cursor, pixel by pixel, until – hopefully – you manage to trigger the obstacle and remove it. On some levels it’s harder than others. We took a full ten minutes of clicking and hoping before we could pass level fourteen.
That’s not all. Press pause and the game occasionally crashes. The button-prompts on the special abilities aren’t working properly, so you are told to activate them when they’re not ready yet. It’s all a rickety mess that should be anything but. This is the umpteenth sequel in a sprawling franchise of very similar games, so we fail to understand why this one has attracted all the issues to it.
We’re not angry, we’re just disappointed. Because once you sidestep these problems – muscle memory takes over from the cursor issues, and the icon disappears from level eighteen onwards – you’re left with a bog-standard entry into the 8floor series. It’s unremarkable, with only a couple of ideas that separate it from Lost Artifacts, Gnomes Garden and more.
Probably the biggest is the inclusion of weird top-hat wearing dudes who you can attach to a building and pump out resources. Similar characters appear in other 8floor games, but these goons are ludicrously lucrative. Mills will start pumping out an insane amount of food, to the degree that you won’t need mills again in that level. Buildings become resource pinatas, and that’s fun.
But aside from Senor Top Hat, and the proliferation of treasure chests that shower you in resources, it’s all identikit stuff. You drop into a game map, housed on a single screen. Starting from a headquarters, you click on resources to pick them up and obstacles to clear them. On occasion you run across a rundown building, and the resources are used to repair them and – eventually – upgrade them, so that they pump out more resources at a fantastic rate.
It’s My First Resource Management Sim, and it’s been that way throughout 8floor’s many other releases. If anything, Crown of the Empire 2: Around the World is simpler and easier than some of their other releases. There are very few levels where conserving resources is the name of the game: you almost always have more than you need. We’d have liked a touch more strategy to go with the cozy clicking. But Crown of the Empire 2: Around the World seems to be wary of offering any challenge whatsoever.
The story is as terrible as it always is, and we wonder why a narrative designer hasn’t been hired yet. It may start as a hunt for a kidnapped prince, but the plot keeps forgetting that’s the objective, getting distracted by other glittery baubles instead. It’s ripe for parody, but we’re not sure there’s an audience for that.
And much like the other games, the saving grace is its familiarity. The simple game loop of clearing a map and then using the resources to power your factories is unchanged but works. It’s ever so easy to fall into a rhythmic, brainless pattern of hoovering up resources as the objectives topple like slow, sleepy dominoes. There’s nothing new, nothing sensational about it, but it’s clearly got an audience, and we found ourselves hypnotised by the process.
We’re apologists for 8floor’s titles because, while they are almost complete copies of each other, they’re still mindlessly entertaining. But even we can’t excuse Crown of the Empire 2: Around the World. It’s so broken that it can’t have been exposed to someone with the word ‘tester’ on their name badge. Considering that we’ve played games like this many, many times before, we wonder how this one came out so half-hearted.