Welcome to another edition of the Thursday Throwdown! After taking a break from Facebook games in our last installment, we return to that world once again this week. Before we do that though, let’s take a look at the results from our last Throwdown, which pitted the top two digital distribution services, Steam and GamersGate, against one another. The results are in, and you guys made your choice loud and clear. It may seem like an upset, but GamersGate actually walked away with this one, taking in a whopping 75% of the vote, to Steam’s 25%.
Now let’s move onto the task at hand, as we put two ancient city-builders against one another – Playfish’s My Empire, and Playdom’s City of Wonder. According to the latest AppData figures, Playfish’s My Empire, which launched back in May, now sits at around 4.3 million players. City of Wonder is a much newer game, launching just this month, but has already started to take off in terms of the game’s userbase, already climbing to almost 1.6 million players.
For those unfamiliar with both games, they function as most city-builders do – you’ll purchase homes for your villagers, along with businesses and decorative items (including historical monuments like Stonehenge) to flesh out the town, but these two titles are especially comparable due to their ancient theme. Both games begin in a time away from electricity and modern technological advances, and they function differently because of it.
Perhaps the biggest different between the two games is the advancement of time and technology found in City of Wonder. The game contains an in-depth research tree, containing the very basics initially, like religion, currency, and even the wheel. You’ll spend some of your silver, and wait a few hours to learn each step in the tree, which makes your town more advanced, and unlocks new items to research or items to build in the city. That is, if your people learn how to read and write, then you can build a Library or Cartography shop. Or, if you’d rather be a militaristic society, you can have your citizens learn iron or bronze working skills, thus opening up whole segments of the tree based on weaponry or cavalry, as examples.
In My Empire, this research tree is nowhere to be found, and you instead place your focus more on gathering resources and building projects in your town with the help of your friends. That is, while City of Wonder also requires the help of friends, who click on wall posts to aid you in your voluntary building of the Great Wall of China, the Hanging Gardens and so on, in My Empire, the game’s quest-based system requires you to build these items, thus forcing you (for a lack of a better term) into asking your friends for help.
As one particular example, early on in the game, you’re asked to “Complete Stonehenge,” and while you can collect most of the resources necessary to do so on your own, by building structures that produce these resources over time, there are other items, like Tar, which must be purchased either with Playfish Cash, or must be given to you by friends. If you never complete Stonehenge, the game sits, with no real progress being made. In this way, there is much more of a focus on community in My Empire than in City of Wonder.
Another major difference comes in the overall growth of cities. In My Empire, your population grows steadily over time, so long as you’ve built enough residential structures to allow for such growth. That is, new citizens automatically come to your town, and move into the empty structures you place. Once the buildings are full, all population growth stops until you build another home for them to move into. In City of Wonder, your buildings give off a specific amount of citizens to your town after set amounts of time, with the time limit varying from building to building. In this way, so long as you have enough leisure items to keep your villagers happy, you could have nothing but a single house, but never lose the ability to add new citizens to your town.
Your primary method of earning money in both games is perhaps the last massive difference between the two games, in that, in My Empire, you hire tax collectors to collect taxes from your citizens. Depending on how long you’d like to wait, you can hire a collector that will collect taxes in five minutes, or choose from varieties that will take hours to collect. Obviously, if you wait longer, your rewards will be higher, but you’ll also pay more to hire the collector in the first place.
In City of Wonder, the same “Factory” system seen in Social City is the norm, as players are allowed to build structures like mines, quarries, gardens, vineyards and so on, and then put their citizens to work on “contracts” lasting either a few minutes, or a few hours at a time. Depending on the length of the contract, these deals could be worth meager profits, or could make you incredibly rich.
As usual, while these larger differences are normally very easy to spot, there are also some smaller differences worth noting. Here are a few:
- City of Wonder features a system of Exploration, allowing you to trade with, share cultural experience with, or battle with other real world players for experience points, money or added population, which My Empire does not.
- My Empire contains a Map system. Collect all of the Map fragments released at the beginning of the game, and you can explore a Volcano Island, rich in resources and treasure.
- In City of Wonder, each friend that you add, adds an Embassy to your village. You can add these Embassy’s to your town to add happiness points to your own town, and you can visit your neighbors’ cities to earn coins from your embassy’s that they’ve placed in their own town.
- In My Empire, there is an added element of training soldiers to be in your military. The amount of new military units you earn depends on how many coins you spend and how long you’re willing to wait. You can also hire your friends to be your generals in your army. In City of Wonder, the military system is handled automatically, with your city gaining in “Attack” and “Defense” stats as you build more military-based structures (walls, barracks, guard towers and the like).
- In City of Wonder, land expansions are available from the store, with new expansions being unlocked as you add neighbors. My Empire allows for land expansions, but it also fits into the system of map fragments and exploration we spoke of earlier.
As usual, we could go on forever talking about the differences and comparisons between these two games, and each is great in its own way. But which is better? That’s something that we leave for you to decide. If you have a favorite out of these two games, let us know by voting in the handy poll below or by leaving us a comment at the bottom of this post, and remember to join us next time as we compare more of your favorite games, here on the Thursday Throwdown!