Ikariam is a free and addicting online RPG-style game that mixes strategy and city-building. You play in real-time with others around the world, with a capital village on an island. You construct and upgrade buildings like the town hall, warehouses to hold harvested/pillaged resources, barracks, shipyards, and more. Each island has its own special resource, and to get the others, which will be needed to expand and grow your empire, you will have to colonize other islands that have different resources, or attack other villages from those islands. You can join alliances to find friends and willing trade partners. There is a helpful guide and a busy community discussion forum to talk about strategies and bugs in the game. The game does get patched automatically, and it can change elements in the game, some beneficial, some not. Each game world contains a grid of nearly 1000 islands (spread on a grid), and each island holds 16 towns. There are 12 worlds, and I play on Alpha world (if you want to find me in game, let me know).
It doesn’t take too long to build up your initial city, which is good, as you don’t want to frustrate early players. I’ve been playing for almost five months, and I’ve almost hit a wall with how far I can go, as it gets real expensive to upgrade buildings after a certain point. You might get to a point where you will need massive amounts of resources that can take a couple of weeks to harvest in order to upgrade the palace to level 6, which allows you to build a sixth colony, so you will need to get those trade routes open or attacking forces ready and buy more trading ships. I just established my fifth colony, because my empire needs a second city harvesting wine to keep all my citizens happy. Each of those five colonies will need a couple of weeks each in order to upgrade a specific building to allow me to build a sixth colony.
I don’t think I’ll get that far, as it will take too long. Fortunately, I haven’t felt bored by any repetitive gameplay, sometimes called “grinding”, which is an element of a great many RPG-style games in order to build up experience points or gather resources. I could get back into resource trading to quickly build up enough material, or I can continue attacking other towns, which is the fun part. It’s kind of like a grab bag – you won’t necessarily know how well-defended your enemy is (unless you use spies, but they can defend against that as well), and you won’t know how much gold and resources you will pillage. You might leave the city with only 2 ships of stuff, or you might hit a well-stocked warehouse and need 38 ships to haul back all the gold, wine, and crystal.
Play it here: http://ikariam.org
Previous time wasters:
2. Falling Sand
6. Pandemic 2