The Battle of Polytopia: Moonrise is a mobile 4X turn-based strategy game. It is developed by Midjiwan, who are also developing the PC port. In the game players must quickly take over the land of Polytopia with their tribe through exploring, capturing cities and battling other nations.
The Battle of Polytopia offers very little to help you understand the game. Luckily, it is very simple and within half an hour I understood everything to take me to victory. But those initial 30 minutes could have been made easier. A quick tutorial showing me what everything on screen meant would make the game easier to access.
The game has a simple art style which changes slightly for each tribe. Each one has a different skin for the units and different skin for the region. For example, the animals you hunt for one might be a horse, whilst for another they are unicorns. These changes are really charming and cute to discover.
Later in the game the screen can become very chaotic as the maps are fairly small. This makes it easy to lose units as they don’t stand out. This could be easily fixed by allowing the player to scroll through units. This would be much better than searching the messy screen for each of your units. There is a little pop up to point out an action you can take, but waiting for this became frustrating as it seems out of line with the fast-paced gameplay that The Battle of Polytopia offers.
Quick, Simple Fun
The Battle of Polytopia is simple in it’s mechanics, offering much less depth than PC players may be used to from other 4X strategy games such as Civilization. The matches are short and always consist of simply defeating all other tribes to become the best. To do this, you upgrade your cities to earn more stars. These stars let you build units and unlock technologies. There is a lot of charm in this simplified approach to the genre. Those of you who like the idea of Civilization or other similar games but don’t have the time – this one’s for you. Short matches are something the game actively encourages.
Quick Matches, Repetitive Modes
The main mode, Perfection, has each tribe battle it out for 30 turns to see who can gain the most points. Gaining points mostly comes from defeating opposing tribes. So ultimately, the matches come down to who can defeat the other tribes the quickest. This is where the strategy lies and where The Battle of Polytopia shines. Quick, simple fun to pick up and play when you have 30 minutes spare. This is clearly a design choice made to tailor it to mobile audiences, but there will undoubtedly be a similar audience in the PC market. Students with laptops who have half an hour spare at lunch, or those of you who travel a lot for work – this game is quick, simple fun.
However, the game doesn’t offer much more. The other game mode, Domination, simply tasks you with defeating all other tribes without a time limit. Fight until you win. Since combat is so crucial to winning both modes, they are essentially the same. The only significant change being the timer. You will inevitably fight it out and win around the 30 turn mark if not sooner (depending on how lucky you are with resources when you spawn). These matches are still fun, but don’t offer enough to keep you playing more than one or two games at a time.
Other ways to earn points and win in Perfection would help set it apart from Domination. This would offer more strategy as you would have to decide on the best way to win, which may not always be combat. Each game would be like a puzzle. The quick rush to make units and overwhelm your opponent makes the game very repetitive.
Creative Lets The Game Breathe
Creative Mode lets the player tweak the game and tailor the matches to what they want. You can choose how many players you want in a game (up to 10) and the map size (which is usually decided for you). This means that if you want a longer battle between two tribes on the largest map you can do that. Or, if you want a quick match on the smallest map possible that option is there too.
The option to have a bigger map took away some concerns as I could make the game slightly longer. This made it less confusing and more fun to play as I can organise my tribe a little better. The win conditions are still the same, but it is nice to be able to make the map bigger and give myself a little more space to breathe.
Tribes Are Mostly The Same
There are twelve tribes to pick from in the base game as well as three special DLC tribes. The twelve base tribes only have one significant difference – their starting technology on the skill tree. The skill tree itself isn’t very large with a total of 24 different technologies. You can get them all quickly anyway, which makes the gameplay feel the same regardless of which tribe you choose: rush up the tech tree and overwhelm the opponent. It feels like more could have been done to make each tribe unique. Special units or buildings could have made each feel different to play, offering a little more strategy whilst keeping the simplicity of the experience intact.
The DLC tribes do improve on this. Each has different units and mechanics which can completely change the game. For example, Polaris has the ability to freeze the map as they explore and conquer. This lets them freeze the sea, giving the player the opportunity to surprise an opponent from another angle and win. This strategy is hugely satisfying to pull off and is exactly the kind of simple change that offers unique ways to win whilst keeping the core of the game as quick, simple fun.
Ultimately, Battle of Polytopia is a quick, fun and addictive taste of the 4x strategy genre. It was originally a mobile title and that shows in it’s simplicity and fun fast-paced gameplay. However, as someone who doesn’t have the time to play an in-depth match of Civilization over a few weeks, Battle of Polytopia appeals to me as a quick, satisfying bite of the genre when I can spare half an hour. Just don’t expect much depth. The two main modes, Domination and Perfection, are mostly played the same and can become repetitive. Likewise, the base tribes in the game don’t offer any significant variety or change in gameplay. However, the special DLC tribes are a great addition and do give you the chance to attempt more unique strategies whilst keeping the matches quick and fun. It’s just a shame the other tribes don’t have a unique factor to keep the gameplay feeling fresh.
The Battle of Polytopia: Moonlight will be launching on Steam on August 4th. Let me know if you try it out in the comments below or over on my social media channels. For all the latest Xbox news, go check out me and the team at Generation Xbox. For everything else, make sure to stick with The Games Freak!
I received a review code for this game for free.