Epic Wars 5

Epic War 5 Brings Massive Combat Simulation on Your Browser

For Those Starting Out

If you have never played a single Epic War title before, then we really recommend starting from the top. Not that you get any bonuses or even a story to follow, but it certainly gives you a good grasp of the game and how it has evolved over the past four iterations - you can play the first epic war here. With that said, expect some nice features (such as the buff timer and easier to follow spawn trackers) to not make it to the later versions. As to why the developer made these edits we really cannot tell. Despite that little letdown, the rest of the game has been a slow but certain display of how sequels should be made: each should be made grander and better than the last. After all, a successful sequel is not simply one that manages to bring back all the good features of the originals, but one that actually surpasses the ones before it.

Epic Delivery

When the developers decided to call this game Epic War, they were not kidding. Players will face off hordes of enemies ranging from measly imps and goblins to gigantic screen filling behemoths from hell. In between you have got spell casting witches, exploding bombers, charging lancers, poison spitting hell riders, tank like dragons, sword wielding angels and a whole assortment of troop types adding all up to an impressive count of 30. Leading your troops is one of three special hero characters. These three are unique units that are not part of the thirty other units mentioned above.

All characters are beautifully animated sprites that have their own individual attack, movement and death animations. And by animations we are not just talking about your typical left foot forward then right foot forward cheap two-frame sequences either. The guys behind the artwork for Epic Wars 5 have gone all out when it comes to bringing their fantastical creatures and denizens to life. Gigantic Golems stomp thunderously on the floor as they march to do your bidding, Elderly Wizards float magically cradling their staves as they glide along the path, and the mighty Earth Dragon heaves a slow but certain trudge into the fray. And that is just the warm up, wait until you see them start bringing out their fists, weapons, fangs, claws and magical spells to destroy their foes.

For the most part, the graphics feels very much like the artwork for a serious young-adult level storybook, balancing out in-depth visual details with bright colors and solid lines. The mix provides a very natural, fantasy-fictional approach that many players would find quite natural and appealing.

Your troops will not be the only thing you will be looking at in the game. All throughout, four massive stage templates, an assortment of magical structures and a wide array of spells provide a distinct level of eye candy that we appreciate. The stage backgrounds provide a very distinct environment, mood and feel for each of the four main areas of the world map. While the animations are trite -like water cascading down from small falls, or distant volcanoes erupting, the backgrounds do a great job of serving their purpose: setting the stage. The structures on the other hand add a bit of detail, but ultimately are pretty much forgettable. In terms of details, the buildings, walls and towers feel a little mediocre (though hardly sub-par) when compared to the rest of the details that you would find with the game.

The spells on the other hand, are wonderfully made. The eruption spell literally breaks open the ground and spews out pillars of molten lava at your foes, the oddly-named meteor spell actually calls forth a barrage of dark matter surrounded by magical blue fire that explodes in a sci-fi inspire sphere of destruction. Whether you are calling forth lightning from the skies or casting a spell of healing, the magic effects in the game help provide a wonderful sense of mysticism and lore.

Much like the structural details, the music for Epic Wars 5 pales a little when compared to the graphics and the gameplay (which we will discuss below). Again, there is really nothing wrong about the music, from the slight fantasy feel to the solid use of sound effects, it all fits the game nicely. But in the end, that is all that can be said about it. Nothing about the game's soundtrack manages to stand out, which is not really all that surprising for a Flash title.

Waging War with Style

There is a novel simplicity to the world of Epic War 5, you and your opponent charge in from two directions, casting spells at one another and send in waves and waves of troops in the hope of completely obliterating the other side -or more particularly, being able to kill the primary enemy target (in the CPU's case, the target is your hero). In between all of these you have space for 6 different troops, one hero and an array of spells and structures to help you out.

In terms of a learning curve, Epic War' 5th game is pretty easy to follow: you send your troops in, and kill anything in the way. The strategy element becomes apparent after the first two stages: determining how to pace your troops, when to tell them to charge and how to keep your hero out of harm's way. As new features such as spells and structures become available, you learn to develop new strategies for coping with the slowly increasing difficulty of the game. One little thing we did notice however, is that after the initial story missions are completed, the extra stages increase the difficulty into an exponential level -not quite an ideal setup particularly for a Flash title, but it is certain an interesting twist.

With the massive difficultly bump for the extra stages, players are forced to farm experience points by replaying older missions and will have to focus on managing mana and coming up with specialized strategies for dealing with stage-specific enemy setups. This becomes more and more apparent as the player finishes all the extra stages and moves on the insanely difficult trial stages where almost all enemies have been upgraded to ridiculous levels. Sadly, the player's own troops will never be able to reach such levels and the use of legendary creatures such as the Death, the White Tiger and other high level creatures become a priority.

Winning battles, aside from earning experience points, will also earn you pieces of equipment. These items or accessories are then worn by your troops which will then confer the bonus to all units in the group (a team of 7 amazons will all benefit equally from a single Gold Shield item -providing 15% damage reduction to each). If it is your first time to beat a specific stage, then you will also earn a new troop member.

The experience points earned is used by your troops to learn new spells or for increasing their stats. There is a definite cap on how much you can upgrade a single unit, which sadly wastes any exp it earns once all abilities have been gained. The same also goes for your hero character -which is a pretty big shame since that unit is left under leveled for a great part of the game.

Indeed, the game's challenge difficulty and level caps force players to fully focus on strategy -which is not really a bad thing, though the game could have certainly used a bit of a tweak when it came to increase the levels of your own troops and hero. This particular issue, which becomes pretty evident in the later stages of the game where you have to command your hero to fall back while you rely on your other units (lest your hero gets hit by a massive attack by the later bosses for an instant loss), if not only frustrating, but makes the player feel weak overall. By the time you reach the Trials, winning a stage is a matter of tactics, perseverance and in some cases, a bit of luck.

This little tangle with the game's overall difficulty certainly puts a bit of a bad taste in what would have been a greatly flavorful game. For casual players, beating the initial story missions should be more than enough of a satisfaction. But for hardcore players and completionists, there is a tangle degree of challenge that encourages you to push onwards -though not always in a fun way.

Grinding for experience points is repetitive -unless you are trying different mixes of units. For the most part, the best way to earn easy exp is by sending your troops on a full charge on a lower difficulty stage (though keep your hero at the back just to be sure). Set the speed to 3 times faster and do something else -after a few minutes, your troops would have slaughtered their way to the boss for a quick victory. Do this a few times in a row and you should have a few hundred exp to distribute. Taking on high challenge maps for experience points is not recommended, plenty of strategy is often required which means that you have to pay attention to the whole battle. Not to mention the amount of time it actually takes to complete the mission and you have an ineffective exp source. Fortunately, once you have special units -such as the dragons and golems, taking on the more difficult story missions (like challenging the King of Hell) becomes a breeze.

The controls for the game are easy to learn and master, and it really helps to read the documentation. While you can use the mouse for doing all the commands, knowing the shortcut keys is a must when tackling the later stages (when you have to tactically command each unit group). Also, setting the game's speed is important not only if you are playing on a low-spec device, but also for speeding up battles as a whole. This is a must when you are grinding for experience. At the same time, some stages can take pretty long if you do not speed up the process. The only sacrifice here is the current visual quality of the game, but aside from that, you get a much better pace and more value for your time.

How We Feel Overall

As we said, it is very easy to appreciate the typical run of the mill casual game. But for one such as Epic War 5, there are plenty of considerations to take, and not to mention, plenty of impressive things that it sets as a good standard for other casual developers to follow. The intricately designed visuals, the innovative control system and of course, the highly addictive gameplay all make Epic Wars 5 a must play title for both casual players and hardcore ones alike.