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Empire of Sports Review

Updated Fri, Feb 06, 2009 by Cody Bye

Last week, I introduced my weekly commentary "In the Trenches" to Ten Ton Hammer readers. For those that did not have the opportunity to read it, I explained my constant need to compete and my express desire to find competitive MMOs, play them, and give a fair ruling to the Ten Ton Hammer readers via either a review or a feature article in my weekly commentary. These games will come in all shapes and sizes, and although they will all have elements of the MMO genre entwined within them, I'm not necessarily going to stick within the strict boundaries defined by people with brains bigger than my own.

Empire of Sports is a lobby-based MMO focused on five different sporting events.

Of course, any official previews and reviews I do for the Ten Ton Hammer network will only be done for massively multiplayer online games, and the first of those reviews comes to you in the form of Empire of Sports: Prologue Edition. For the past few weeks, I've been tinkering with the Swiss-made, sports-based MMO, and have found the game to be pleasant in an unfinished sort of way. According to the developers, the game is still in an "unifinished" state, and even though you can actively spend money on the title, the entirity of the title hasn't been put into play. After learning the basic premise of most of the sports minigames, I'd like to use this opportunity to reveal what I've experienced with you - the Ten Ton hammer reader.

Initial Surprises

To be honest, when I initially fired up Empire of Sports: Prologue, I thought I was going to be in for a very pleasant surprise. Unlike most free-to-play online games, the installation for Empire of Sports: Prologue was incredibly easy, painless and hassle-free. There was an official download link on the website with a very fast connection speed and within only a few minutes (thanks to my wide-open broadband connection), I was sitting down to create my character in EoS.

The character creation system in EoS isn't incredibly deep, especially since your character's traits aren't of any use (that I could tell) in the game. For instance, making your character taller in the creation system doesn't make them better basketball players or worse sprinters. Instead, your traits are merely cosmetic touches.

Your skin color and (sometimes) your hair color are displayed, but more often than not you're strapped into a suit or outfit or body type that has nothing to do with your avatar. Your character is certainly displayed in his authentic form in the lobby, but that's not really where it counts, is it? I want to be able to go into a competition with my sub-five-foot sprinter and juke some seven-foot giant out of his basketball shorts.

Splitting time between the different events isn't necessarily the best idea.

Jack of all Trades, Master of None

Like many of the lobby-based games that have taken the title of an MMO (a topic that we could spend hours arguing), Empire of Sports: Prologue gives gamers little spurts of private activity in between the more social elements found in their interactive 3D lobby. There are five sports to choose from in EoS - track and field, bobsledding, skiing, basketball, football (soccer) and tennis - and each of these sports has its own gameplay features. The skiing and track and field minigames are less challenging to learn than the more competitive and complex games like basketball and soccer.   

With so many games to choose from (and this doesn't include any of the training that your character can go through), I found myself constantly jumping around between the various sports. At first this was great fun, but I soon realized that if I continued this habit of "bouncing around" I would never reach the leaderboard in any of the sports.

A Sports Game Made By Non-Athletes?

As I mentioned in my first "In the Trenches" column, I've been involved in athletics for the majority of my life, from basketball, to pick-up soccer, to track and field. With that said, I have to admit that the actual competitions in Empire of Sports: Prologue don't feel anything like what I would expect a sports game to feel like. Companies like EA and 2K Sports have made a killing off of the creation of very visceral, very authentic feeling sports games. Empire of Sports, on the other hand, feels like it was made by individuals who had never played sports in their lives. Thankfully, this should be improving as the game continue its development and, over time, these sort of feelings should disappear.

Why am I limited in how I can pass in basketball? Why can't I dunk the ball? When does a "super-sprint" option ever occur when you're skiing down a slope? How come I only have to mash buttons to achieve high scores in track and field? According to the Empire of Sports: Prologue developers, all of that and more is still on its way. Unfortunately, it wasn't in the game I played, but learning the ropes to your favorite sports now may not be the worst idea in the world. It's much easier to learn a new tactic than to wait and have to absorb everything at once.

Despite my complaints, Empire of Sports makes for a decent, casual MMO.

Ironically, the one sport that I really enjoyed in Empire of Sports: Prologue was skiing and with the company creating the game based in Switzerland, this wasn't surprising at all. Yet even the skiing game was fairly repetitive in its format. The slopes might get harder to navigate, but why not throw in some variations like "trick skiing" or "mogul skiing?"

A Semi-Nice View

Yet despite my complaints, I still had an average amount of fun with Empire of Sports: Prologue. Viewed as a more casual game, EoS definitely hits a number of ideals that I would want in any free-to-play, casual game. Decent graphics, a social option, a varied experience, and competitive gameplay are all definite factors in what I'd want from a casual competitive game.

Finally, for those players that truly want to compete, the Empire of Sports: Prologue team does offer opt-in tournaments where players can actively take part in cash prize venues. For me, I'd never, ever want to take the chance of risking my hard-earned cash on a game where latency could affect how well I score, but some are more willing to take that risk than I.

At this point, I consider Empire of Sports: Prologue to just be an average attempt at an MMO sports game. They did an adequate job of translating each sport into an MMO environment, but I think it could have been done better before being unveiled to the general public. Let's hope the game continues to improve as the developers work past their initial "prologue" phase and continue on into a more wide-ranging and in-depth sports venues. In the future, perhaps we'll see some of the more veteran sports companies try their hands at a sports-based MMO.

(2.5 / 5 Hammers)

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