Now, we apologise for all the Civilization comparisons but there's no going around it - Polytopia is that kind of game. However, it's not a copy but a well developed game in its own right so let's dive into our Mobile Freebie of the Week.
The Battle of Polytopia, formerly known as Super Tribes, launched back in 2016 for iOS and Android. The game was developed by Midjiwan and it happened to rack up quite an award cabinet along the way. For the sake of simplicity, we'll refer to the game simply as Polytopia.
The game's stats are pretty impressive - 5 million downloads and 80,000 daily active players as of February 2018. Nevertheless, its popularity wasn't built on stats, so let's dig in.
As a resident cheapskate, I immediately noticed there's no need to be connected to the Internet in order to play Polytopia. Call me old school but I'm big on that so - big plus.
Polytopia has a few modes. The Perfection mode lets you play for 30 turns and checks how your score measures up to that of other players. Domination is an unlimited turns, free-for-all type of game.
As the name suggests, Polytopia's Pass & Play mode lets you play with friends locally. Midjiwwan recently added an online multiplayer mode as well, so you're well covered in every respect.
You can play as one of twelve tribes, each of which comes with a different starting technology. Just like in Civilization, this encourages leaning into various play styles, depending on the tribe.
Xin-Xi, Imperius, Bardur and Oumaji are available for free, while the remaining tribes come as in-app purchases. Sticking to tradition, we'll be focusing on the free part.
Advancing through Polytopia is done with stars as currency and they're used both in building units and researching the tech tree. While we're on the subject, we took a close up screenshot so you can make out the techs, but the entire tree can be found here.
You start the game with 5 stars and +2 star production, thanks to your capital. You can upgrade your star production as well by upgrading cities. This is done by harvesting resources around your glorious republic's headquarters, which also requires you to spend stars.
Making new cities is done by capturing villages, which are scattered around the map. Of course, you can also conquer enemy cities.
You'll find yourself juggling between technologies that unlock buildings and units, and production thereof. There's your city to upgrade as well, so lots of fine little choices that make Polytopia stand out.
Xin-Xi start in a mountainous terrain and come with climbing, granting bonuses in defence and early game exploration. Imperius starts with organisation, which lets you harvest fruit from the get go. Bardur's hunting lets you harvest game, while Oumaji get riding, meaning they can produce horsemen right off the bat.
Once you get into it, Polytopia turns into real treasure. Its mechanics may be simplistic in conception but their execution results in a finely tuned spectacle. You'll always have something to do around your dominion, be it conquests or just improving that city you just conquered, rounding up to a pretty great experience.
I've often taken breaks, many times for a few days in between but Polytopia's simplicity means you can get back and keep playing without skipping a beat. Most players remember the map so all you need to do is check the Tech Tree and in you go.
Polytopia is a godsend for casual strategy lovers. Of course, in case you want to dip your toes into hard core competition mode, you can always go for multiplayer. There's also the Perfection mode, but you'll want to brush up and fine tune your game even further if you want to compare to more seasoned veterans. I personally found Domination to be right up my alley but I've taken a few cracks at Perfection too.
This is where Civ comparisons stop - Polytopia boasts different, finely tuned mechanics that paint a completely different picture to that of Sid Meier's game. Its seemingly simplistic approach yields complex dividends in terms of strategy as well as just plain replayability.
In fact, if we had to draw a likeness to any Civilization, it would probably be the first one. Nevertheless, it wouldn't do Polytopia justice because it is, dare I say it, a vastly superior game to the first Civilization, even more so once you ignore historical connotations.
The Battle of Polytopia is one of those games that's incredibly useful to have on your phone for various reasons. It's free, which considering its quality seems too good to be true and it's very lightweight, at only 48MB.
Most importantly though, it's a great game that keeps on giving even after you've played the heck out of it, turning into a digital version of your chess set. You're bored but power went out or you've no WiFi around? Didn't I instal Polytopia sometime back? Oh yeah I did. Sweet. And here we go again.