Somewhere between the highly-polished, subscription-based gameplay of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and the simple, free offerings on sites like Newgrounds.com, lies the relatively new domain of the “freemuim” game.
Most, like the wildly popular Farmville, make the bulk of their content available free and offer the option to trade real-life money for small in-game enhancements. Lords of Evil ostensibly works on this same principle, but does it very, very badly.
The gameplay and premise are vaguely reminiscent of old-school fantasy strategy games like Master of Magic and their more recent counterparts like Age of Wonders. You assume the role of all-powerful leader, presumably appointed Dictator For Life by your adoring minions, and have a choice of three races: orc, demon, or human. This choice influences what kind of buildings and units you will have access to as the game progresses.
Gameplay consists of using your resource generating buildings to produce enough gold, lumber, and ore to allow you to upgrade your buildings and construct more advanced buildings, which in turn allow you to build military units and attack your fellow players. This is all managed through an intimidatingly unintuitive series of specialized menus, and a simple representation of your growing city is displayed in a small window at the middle of the screen.
While this kind of dense, difficult simulation likely won’t appeal to a broad audience, it could still ably fill a small gaming niche were it not for one other consideration: time.
If waiting is the nemesis of fun (and it usually is), then Lords of Evil is the rocket-launcher-wielding Nazi-robot-demon of fun. It took me almost two hours of clicking an upgrade button to reach the point where military units became available, and even after finally building the barracks needed to produce zombies (yes, zombies come from a barracks), it took me another couple hours just to crank out five of the little bastards.
During all of this waiting, there is literally nothing to do but watch the building countdown timers and fiddle around with the included maze mini-game; it says a lot that the developers felt it necessary to include a second game whose sole purpose is to distract players while they wait for something to happen in the main game. Sitting several hours waiting for lumberyards to be upgraded doesn’t seem particularly evil or lordly, and it isn’t very much fun, either.
Users aren’t charged for playing (if one could even call it ‘play’) the game this way, but the only way to speed things up is to spend real money on in-game currency in the form of gems. Buying these gems doesn’t open up any new content or add anything to the game experience, it merely uncripples the core mechanics by allowing you to cast “spells” whose only function is to make shit happen faster. This kind of shameless cash-grab in a “free” MMO is, frankly, a bit insulting.
If the game’s near-vertical learning curve and unplayably plodding pace isn’t bad enough, its poorly translated text, abysmal graphics, clunky user interface, and uninspired art should drive off all but the most self-abusive of players. Lords of Evil is the poster child for everything that can go wrong with a “freemium” game, and should be avoided by anyone who doesn’t hate fun.