By Fabrice Stellaire / November 14th, 2017
|Title||Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates|
|Developer||Coin Operated Games|
|Publisher||Coin Operated Games, Work Shift Play Inc.|
|Release Date||October 4th, 2017|
Isometric RPGs often use medieval, cyber-punk, or post-apocalyptic settings, but not many of them take place at the beginning of the 20th century. Empyre explores an alternate timeline where coastal towns were flooded by water in 1899, causing most of the people to leave them. In 1911 New York undergoes a new crisis, as the fresh water, pumped out by pipes, stops running. You are chosen to solve this crisis, but are you willing to sail the seas of Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates
You start the game with the possibility to pick one of four classes: a soldier, a bodyguard, a magpie, or a daredevil. After having tried each of the 4 characters, I decided to pick the soldier, as it has easier times during fights, dealing more damage and having more health. After the short introduction, and getting my first quest, I quickly felt annoyed by some issues with the interface. One unusual element is that conversations do not progress by using the left click of your mouse, but with the space bar. This unusual choice is a bit uncomfortable, though you will get used to it. Another problem is related to the latency that happens when your character moves or you give him orders. For some reason, when you click on a part of the map to move your character, or when you give him orders, a delay of about 1 or 2 seconds happens. This can trick you into believing you did not input your order properly or did not press a button strongly enough. This makes the experience more painful and nothing seems to justify this problem, as the game does not use demanding graphics and seems to be running with a solid framerate otherwise. Those technical issues gave me the feeling that something about the game was unfinished.
The battle system relies on a combination of real-time and turn-based mechanics. You input orders when the game is paused, and your main character and his companions execute them afterward. Weapons used mostly consist of melee weapons like sabers of staves, while distance weapons are guns and rifles. You may also use grenades and bombs. What caused me problems was that the fights themselves did not really provide me any pleasure. While fights are not everything in an RPG, they are part of the experience, and in a CRPG, you generally expect to have to use a bit of strategy to win fights. I did some fights several times, and the difference in winning or losing those fights looked insignificant to me. It was a matter of sending my characters to attack an enemy one second sooner or later. There is no sense of epic struggle to the fights, the animation of fights is poor, and since you are going to experience a lot of them during the game, this is a problem.
The conversations between characters are generally bland and do not have the energy or originality you expect from a CRPG. Those who have played games like Pillars of Eternity and Shadowrun games have probably enjoyed them for the quality of the conversations. Characters had a strong development, a meaningful past, made good jokes. The problems while playing Empyre is that the characters feel lackluster. I will list a short example: the four available characters all have the same sister despite being from different regions and families. Also, an ambassador calls your character a kid even if you pick up a rather old character like Thaddeus. I have played many CRPGs during the last few years, and in all of them, the background of my main character impacted conversations. Interactions here are depressingly empty, which does not help to raise immersion.
The art of the game itself seems adapted to the choice of the “neo-Victorian era” but I did not like it. I am not sure if what I did not like was the art or the graphics, or both of them, but I found the environments rather poor and faded. I understand it may have been done on purpose to reflect a story set in the past, but it makes the game look dated. The lack of music does not help either as there is almost no music when you play. This gave me the feeling that the game looks like a preliminary draft of something that should have been more refined and polished.
I tried several times to get into this game, and spent a dozen or so hours playing it, but the lack of finish was a big disappointment. The game offers two different campaigns which you can play with three different difficulty modes, but I was not able to complete them because the fights really felt too boring. I cannot consider Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates as a good game and I also believe that the price it is currently being sold at, $27.99, is a bit high. Perhaps pick it up on sale if it looks compelling.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
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