Ikariam, the browser-based Civilization

Sometimes articles in my Google Reader pass me by, especially if I have 100+ posts to sift through, but if multiple bloggers post on the same topic, I tend to take notice. Such is the case with Ikariam, a free-to-play browser game that is starting to garner wider attention.

Ikariam is, at its core, a watered-down version of the classic Civilization series. Even the advisors are cartoony and resemble screenshots of the upcoming Civilization Revolution, and I mean that in the most flattering way possible. You create a town, and then proceed to add and upgrade new buildings, control the flow of resources, and eventually communicate with, pillage, and wage war with other towns. There’s no need to worry about stupid A.I. since every single town in Ikariam is controlled and operated by a human player. In a sense, Ikariam is a strategy-game take on the free MMO phenomenon.

The beauty of the game, and what separates it from many other traditional game designs, is that it is a browser game meant to be played only in small chunks of time. There will be no all night sessions of Ikariam, it’s simply not possible, at least in the early stages of the game. The game gives you feedback on how long actions take in real time. For example, building a Barracks might only take 12 minutes, but upgrading your Town Hall to level 4 might take 1.5 hours. At later levels, upgrades look like they will take several days or weeks to complete, and since you can only build or upgrade one thing at a time, it’s perfect for quick bursts of play.

Making Ikariam a browser game was a great decision, because it means there’s no software to download and you can check on your town from any online PC. I’ve gotten into the habit of logging on once or twice a day at the school where I work, modifying production settings and choosing which building to upgrade, all of which takes no more than 10 minutes.

My only problem with the game, and it’s a problem only a gamer would have, is that I keep compulsively checking on my town, even when I know I literally can’t do anything in the game. I keep wanting to play it like a traditional game, but I still love it for what it is. It’s very addicting to plan ahead and think about what to research or build next. As a side note, Ikariam has made me spend a lot of time researching, and now playing, Civilization II, which is giving me the richer strategy experience I yearn for.

Check out Ikariam. You might be surprised at how addicting and relatively complex it is. I’m Korey, on the Delta server, living in the town named Yamagata. I’ll be awaiting contact from you.