Evony: Be the king of the (virtual) castle

It is inevitable that "Evony" will draw comparisons to the popular Blizzard game, "World of Warcraft," but there is one important distinction: "Evony" is free. In fact, the game is sometimes called "Evony Free Forever."

There is no software to buy, no monthly charges and no sign-up fee. The game runs through any Web browser and is compatible with Macs, PCs or any computer that can access the Web with. Just visit the game’s Web site, http://www.evony.com to sign up.

In "Evony," the player is the ruler of a fledgling kingdom surrounded by barbarians and the fiefdoms of other players. The player struggles to build their city, attract inhabitants, and defend their citizen people from invaders.

Evony" is a massive multiplayer strategy game online, everything in the game happening in real time. Workers to erect buildings, fortify the city walls, harvest crops and toil in the mines and quarries even when the player is not logged on. Likewise, the city could be attacked at any moment. It doesn’t matter if the player is in class or asleep. It’s important to build solid defenses so that the city won’t be overrun while the human controller is offline.

The graphics of the game are simple (they are no fancier than early SimCity games) and there is very little animation. When building are erected, workers are seen moving up and down, but there is a little more action than that. When citizens attack cities, only a progress bar is displayed and the game provides a report detailing the casualties and the resources plundered (if any).

"Evony" has no sound at all. While it would be nice to hear the sound of workers hammering away or soldiers clashing swords, it is, ultimately, unnecessary.

However, for a free game, "Evony" is a lot of fun. Despite how addicting it can get, there comes a time in the game when the player has used up their resources, or they have as many tasks going on as they possibly can, and there is simply nothing more to do. It forces the player to stop playing (which is a highly beneficial feature to a struggling college student). When you logging on again in the morning, the player will have more resources waiting and they can begin their projects again.

While it’s free to play "Evony," there are opportunities to spend real money. Players can always speed things up by purchasing items in the game. If the player spends $30.00 in a month, you get a free bonus package of goodies, which can range from soldiers for the city to resources like gold or food.

Some tasks in "Evony" take excruciatingly long. As the city progresses, tasks take longer and longer. It takes only seconds to build a level one farm, but high level town halls or city walls can take days. Add that to the fact that the player can only construct one building at a time and those magic speed-ups they sell in the store start to look mighty tempting.

When the kingdom is strong enough, the player may be prompted to join an alliance. Being a member of an alliance will make others think twice about attacking the city, but there can be drawbacks too. Another alliance may be at war with new allies and joining them may make the player’s city a target!

However, once in an alliance allies can help the city when it gets attacked. This is especially useful if the city is attacked while the player is offline. Allies can dispatch troops to help defend the city offline.

"Evony" is a fun game and it’s free. It fits well with a college student’s schedule and budget. Players can select tasks that will take about an hour, go to class, and come back to select new tasks to work on. When the player goes to bed, they can pick longer tasks to be worked on while sleeping. The key to the game is time management – a skill that is useful to master in real life as well.