Khan Wars X Review
Pros: Good graphics and interface, lots of features, mobile optimization
Cons: Repetitive/boring early gameplay content, confusing features and mechanics, crashes on some menu popups
We got the chance to play the new iteration of X Software’s browser based free to play strategy MMO Khan Wars, currently being marketed as Khan Wars X the game is an update and revamped version of the older classic city building title. In the game players must gather resources, construct buildings in their city, raise an army and fight against other real world player rivals to gain status and rank. The core concept of the game has remained the same, and players can still access the old “Retro World”, but the New World version comes complete with updates and new features.
The first noticeable change is of course the graphics, with vastly improved artwork the game looks current and a lot more pleasing in comparison to the more date graphics of the original version; now boasting a tidy, polished user interface that compliments mobile devices perfectly. With this extra mobile functionality we even checked the game with our 4.5” screen Galaxy S5 Mini and can say that the layout works well and the retail space (even on our smaller screen) is enough to play the game comfortably and interact with buttons and menus as long as you play in landscape mode (portrait mode was way too small).
The early portions of the game focused on guiding us through a tutorial on how to acquire and spend resources, upgrading buildings and training up new units to take them into battle. Oddly from level 3 we got the chance to make our own Clan, a new feature, which seems pretty low for such a feature given that by level 3 we had very little clue on how the game works and can’t imagine falling under the leadership of another similarly minded/inexperienced player wanting to play at leader. In all honesty, we think its low level cap is geared more towards being in place for veteran players crossing over from the Retro version who might already have a group/community and so can carry on where they left off, which is fine but doesn’t really benefit new players.
Another noticeable and documented change is that, unlike the Retro version, players no longer choose their faction/nation at character creation, instead players have to reach level 7 before they’re given the chance to choose their nation, each of which gives different boosts and a unique unit. The reality is that this is a completely pointless change as I don’t feel our gaming experience had changed that much from starting the game up new and playing for seven levels; there was nothing so profound that it would give us a better idea of which factions would be best and instead we still picked a faction that suited our general style of play; Aggressive war monger, all of which could have been picked at level 1.
The early player experience is extremely boring and repetitive; we were guided by optional quests that would reward us with a lot of resources and whilst we didn’t have to follow the quests it really would have put us in too detrimental a position to not do them. The result was a linear “quest” chain that focused on getting us to upgrade our buildings, consisting of clicking a building and clicking upgrade. The first quest was to upgrade our production structures to rank 3, then our barracks to rank 3, blacksmith to rank 3, archery to rank 3, etc., once we’d upgraded our unlocked buildings to rank 3 the next quest challenged us with upgrading our production structures to rank 5, and then cycled through all the buildings again in order to increase their level. It was a horribly dull experience that took way too long, the only break being when we ran out of required resources to construct a building and instead sent some soldiers off to raid a barbarian camp for resources.
Raiding barbarians sounds fun, but it’s just choosing your soldiers, choosing a target, then they spend a few minutes crossing the world map and having a fully automated battle that we get a report on and some spoils of war if successful. This was the player experience for the first two hours of play and it was not fun.
As you level up you acquire Skill Points to put into various skills and customize your nation, the developers have added the new “Intelligence” skill, which seems to be espionage based where you can find information about other players. We bumped the maximum three points into the skill taking us up to Master and it gave us a brief few lines of a generic overview saying we could find “additional information about the enemy” depending on our rank. How we got this information we’ve no idea, we checked a few places and couldn’t seem to work it out, there was no additional information in the skill or extra buttons on our UI that we could see. We did notice an “Espionage” button when hovering over some higher level players cities, whether this was here before pre-skill upgrade we’re not sure though, however we could only begin spying on people when we were level 9 so if we did suddenly unlock this feature then it was potentially a waste for a few levels.
The lack of user friendly information was the biggest gripe with Khan Wars X, although there’s plenty of changes that have been added (and no doubt plenty of boosts and tweaks that go unnoticed by us and are obvious to older Khan Wars players) it seems like they’ve focused on boosting the experience for older players and trying to retain them as opposed to making the new players experience more interesting. There was a lack of key popups that we feel should have been in place, such as how to use the Intelligence skill, such as once we had picked our nation we couldn’t find ANYWHERE what the boosts were that we’d gained (something as simple as hovering over our nation’s flag and showing the boosts seems intuitive but didn’t exist). Add to this the low rank requirement for Clan creation and it does feel that the upgrade is geared towards veteran players.
The game looks pretty good, the interface is sleek, the mechanics are simple (if not at times a little confusing), but the reality is that the early portion of the game just isn’t fun at all; the Building Upgrade simulator, automated combat and linear quests just did not make a game that we would want to keep playing. It’s a game for a certain type of player who doesn’t mind grinding for hours to get to the fun and strategy, but for us we want a good player experience from the moment we log into the game.