This is going to be a very circular review
Type: Singleplayer, Multiplayer
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Release Date: 15 April, 2020
Circle Empires Rivals is the new iteration of the original Circle Empires game. For those who don’t already know the game, Circle Empires puts us at the control of a circle, basically a small island of terrain with some resources on it, and asks us not only to defend it, but also to expand the number of circles we control. These are, in fact, connected together via bridges, so we’ll have to create an army with the limited resources at our disposal and attack the enemies surrounding our empire. What does Rivals introduce? More stuff… and multiplayer!
A lot of everything
While Circle Empires is based on a pretty simple concept and doesn’t have an especially deep base building, it does have a lot of content, and it shows from the beginning: there are six different game modes, 26 different leaders (more on these later) and many, many different units. Changing the leader means that also some of the units you can recruit change, making the matches more diverse as you progressively unlock new generals.
The six game modes are all quite unique, even if they rely on the same base mechanics: there are the classic Full Conquest (capture all circles in the map) and Imperial Conflict (basically full conquest with enemy empires), then there’s Monster Hunt, where your only goal is to hunt down a boss protected by an army. The roguelike game mode makes every choice count, since resources and enemies do not respawn, leaving you with a tight budget. The stop the army game mode is particularly fun in coop, since it puts the player in the dangers of a giant army roaming the map, with the task to destroy it. The last mode is king hunt: every player has a king and the last king standing wins the game.
The two more coop-friendly game modes even have new unlockable bosses/armies to further customize your games and increase the replayability to really high levels, considering that there are also 6 different difficulty levels.
The Lord of the Rin… Circles
Circle Empires Rivals features quite a number of leaders (26 to be precise) that have to be unlocked by playing. Leaders are not units in the game, but act more as generals of the army and have one or more bonuses plus their special units. Thus, you can play as Wolfam the Warlord, a knight that starts with a lot of food and instantly build 2 watchtowers in every circle he captures, or Smog the Shaman, which gets a war witch at the start of the game and a wolf rider for each captured circle.
While leaders do not radically change the way you play, they adapt to the different strategies players could use: more defensive-styled players will probably pick Barandur the Builder instead of Barg the Barbarian. It also comes down to the special units a leader has, not all are created equal and I really don’t like unicorns (or spend 888 gold for them), so I’ll never pick Harvey the Horsemaster again.
The Fellowship of the Circle
The main problem that affects Circle Empires Rivals is the easiness of steamrolling through your opponents without using the need for an actual strategy. Don’t get me wrong, the clever use of the units the game offers can be a game-changer, but the easy strategy often seems to amass resources and build a huge army before your enemy does the same, then use that army to make a big ball of swords, claws and arrows that conquers circle after circle, especially in singleplayer.
Luckily the game has a lot of different support units but, again, they’re not always easy to use against an enemy death ball and can get pretty expensive in some cases. The game also offers the possibility to build defensive turrets, which I found to be pretty underwhelming.
Circle Empires Rivals is the most natural evolution of its predecessor. The main aspect the original game was surely missing was multiplayer and, now that this isn’t the case anymore, I can safely say that this is a title that you can, and will, play for hours. With a release price of $14.99 / €12.49 / £11.39, I can’t help but recommend it.