We’ve reached Edgar Allan Poe’s favorite time of the year – the bleak December evenings are upon us. You’ve probably already checked out the latest triple-As, and considering that the temperature doesn’t exactly encourage us to engage in any outdoor activities, we’ve prepared a list of browser games that you can indulge in while waiting for the next wave of big productions.
In defense of browser games
Internet browsers are a peculiar video game platform, and their greatest struggle right now stems from the fact that most people still perceive them as a playground for casual players, used merely as a distraction from work or studying. The fact is, however, that the best browser games offer substantial content and can frequently provide more gameplay time than many typical AAAs, which nowadays seldom require more than a dozen hours to complete them. Many of the browser games have also managed to generate the kind of income that makes the top publishers of the industry blush.
It’s true that a great majority of browser games are indeed aimed at casuals and that their mechanics aren’t exceedingly complicated. It’s true that the distribution model determines a slightly different attitude than regular games. However, since there’s a lot of people who can spend pretty serious money on such games (via microtransactions), then perhaps we’ve just been judging a book by its cover all along.
Browser games can generally be found on their producers or publishers’ pages, sites such as Facebook, or on gaming hubs containing hundreds of browser games. Oh, and since we’re on the subject of Facebook and video games, we ought to mention an interesting recent initiative of this leading social network – the owners of the site have been considering launching a gaming platform featuring browser games. The first step in that direction seems to be the Facebook Gameroom app.
Facebook’s platform mostly aims at providing a seamless experience – games will be launched via a separate client, without the limitations that different browsers have (such as the need to install additional plugins). Facebook Gameroom (in theory) will also have a couple more advantages – more fluent gameplay and the ability to create desktop shortcuts to your favorite apps. Games already known from Facebook will also be included in the new platform.
The following overview is rather subjective and its goal is not to create a comprehensive ranking of browser games, nor to discuss the potential superiority of certain games over others. That’s why the order in which the titles appear has nothing to do with the quality of the games. What we strove for was to prepare a list containing a broad range of genres so that everyone can find something to their liking. If you have other faves or you feel we’ve missed something, feel free to share your opinion in the comments section below.
Dragon Knight – surprisingly popular
- Genre: turn-based fantasy MMORPG with elements of strategy
- Developer: Sala Game
During the recent months, Dragon Knight – an MMO RPG by Sala Game from Hong Kong – experienced a surging popularity. While at first glance this game seems to be just another typical RPG from Asia, this game should really be described as a mix of Bleach Online and Might & Magic: Heroes Online. Dragon Knight is indeed a blend of strategy, where the players need to select the right team, and a typical MMO RPG, with character development and turn-based fights, similar to those found in the classic iterations of the Final Fantasy franchise.
The choice of classes is rather limited, but it doesn’t really affect the gameplay. For beginners, the fact that this game has no proper tutorial might be a deterrent, but it doesn’t take more than a couple of quests to learn the ins and outs, and despite the barrage of information, the game isn’t overly complicated.
More characters join the team along the way – and the game is build in such a way that it’s not possible to finish it with only one or two heroes. Combat is turn-based, and the player directly controls only the main character – the rest move and fight automatically. There’s a standard character development system implemented in the game, as well as weapon enhancements and a couple of game modes, among them a PvP arena.
- More about Dragon Knight
- Play Dragon Knight
- Play Dragon Knight on Facebook
League of Angels II – from a clone to a hit
- Genre: turn-based fantasy MMORPG with elements of strategy;
- Developer: GTArcade
Since we’re in the realm of Asian MMO RPGs, we also have to mention the sequel to one of the most popular games of recent years, which has build its reputation – at least partially – on the similarity to an immensely popular MOBA. League of Angels II gives you another chance to plunge into the fantastic world known from the first part and make a difference in the fight between good and evil, by commanding your team of powerful angels.
When it comes down to the general gameplay premise, League of Angels II is not much different from its first iteration, released in 2014. The focus of the game is therefore to build a team by gathering team members of different skill sets and special abilities, and taking part in battles of increasing difficulty. The combat is turn-based – the characters move and fight automatically, and the task of the player is to influence the outcome of the battle by using their special powers.
A vital element needed to succeed in the fights is the right choice of the characters and the use of an appropriate combat formation (tank on the front, wizards/archers at the back, for example). Much like the original title, League of Angels II is suited with a functional tutorial familiarizing the players with all the gameplay’s intricacies, as well as with a set of diverse game modes – there’s something for PvP aficionados as well as the lone-wolf types.
- More about League of Angels II
- Play League of Angels II
- Play League of Angels II on Facebook
Naruto Online – browser ninja
- Genre: turn-based fantasy MMO RPG
- Developer: Cyberconnect 2
The fans of the famous Japanese manga and anime by Masashi Kishimoto can’t complain about any scarcity of games utilizing the image of the protagonist, teenage warrior Naruto Uzumaka. Quite recently, the numerous bunch of platforms that accommodate the likable ninja has been graced by a new addition – Internet browsers. And even though Naruto Online turned out to be mildly disappointing, proving to be a rather typical Asian MMORPG, it’s worth checking out, since it was co-developed by Bandai Namco Entertainment and Cyberconnect2, both enormously experienced in developing games based on the Naruto franchise.
The game is set in a manga-like universe that combines modern elements and the Japanese culture of old. The plot follows the path of the source material and talks about the events that all the fans of Naruto will be perfectly familiar with. The developers have prepared five entirely new characters for Naruto Online; the player assumes the role of one of them, and the journey begins in Konoha village. The players can create their own ninja team, consisting of hero types and villains alike.
The combat is turn-based, but it’s been significantly simplified to meet the demands of the browser MMO RPG genre. For their victories players are awarded experience points, cash, and all types of different resources that are an integral part of the crafting and equipment enhancement systems. The game allows us to play both in PvE, and to challenge others in PvP clashes.
- More about Naruto Online
- Play Naruto Online
- Play Naruto Online on Facebook
Nyrthos – Diablo-style hack’n’slash
- Genre: isometric hack’and’slash action RPG;
- Developer: BeerDeer.
Another game on our list that can be considered a member of the RPG genre in the broader sense of the word, is Nyrthos, developed by the Czech studio BeerDeer. The game is still in its beta phase, and it’s the first project of the studio created by two schoolmates, Martin Jelinek and Martin Pivko, who both have lots of experience in developing flash-based browser games.
Nyrthos is also the first game on our list that is not a typical Asian MMO RPG. In this case, we’re dealing with an example of an isometric hack’n’slash, which quite obviously draws inspiration from the Diablo series. The Czech game isn’t a typical MMO (with an advanced social module) either, as it focuses instead on the single player.
The events take place in the titular land of Nyrthos, threatened by a grave danger. From the East come ominous forces of the Darkness, and the inhabitants of the fantastical realm are bracing for a great war prophesized centuries ago. During the game, we play the role of an adventurer, who’s trying to repel the incoming invasion of evil and at the same time win some fortune and fame.
As in any proper hack’n’slash, the protagonist will be roaming a set of diverse locations and dungeons, duel with more or less difficult opponents with sword and magic, and – as the game progresses – develop his skills, accumulate wealth and enhance his equipment.
Further on in the game, our hero can buy real estate, found his own village, and then manage his properties in spare time. Apart from the regular single player campaign, Nyrthos also provides an arcade arena mode, where the player needs to fight off waves of ferocious enemies. The game is complemented by somewhat old-school 2D graphics and an isometric perspective (also old-school), which is reminiscent of Diablo and other representatives of the genre.
- More about Nyrthos
- Play Nyrthos
- Play Nyrthos on Facebook
Total War Battles: Kingdom – a distant relative
- Genre: tactical-economic strategy;
- Developer: Creative Assembly.
Early this year Total War Battles: Kingdom debuted on Steam, iOS and Android – it is another spin-off of the popular franchise of strategy games by the Creative Assembly studio. Quite recently, the game made its way to Facebook, and along with it came full cloud integration that allows cross-platform fun between different operating systems. The game is set in medieval England, where we play the part of a nobleman, who, after the death of his father, inherits a kingdom that is barely standing. The task is to cater to the needs of the population and guard the territory, oftentimes by means of heavy cavalry and infantrymen.
As you might have already assumed, compared to other installments of the series this game offers a simplified version of gameplay – rather obviously, since it debuted on both browsers and handheld devices as a free-to-play game. This didn’t undermine the two main pillars the game is standing on: the first one is the management of the kingdom – obtaining resources, erecting buildings, gathering food, etc. Everything is somewhat reminiscent of economic strategies such as Anno Online. A system of changing seasons is an interesting addition, and so is the ability to alter the ground by raising or lowering it.
The second layer of the gameplay (and a real treat and trademark of the series) are real-time battles, also a little bit simplified in comparison to the “big” iterations of the franchise. Up to 9 units on both sides can take part in the battles, and the role of the player is limited to giving simple orders such as choosing the target of attack, changing the line of attack or using special abilities. The game is mostly designed with PvP matches in mind; it has its own ranking system, which works similarly to the one known from the popular card game, Hearthstone.
- More about Total War Battles: Kingdom
- Play Total War Battles: Kingdom on Facebook
Vikings: War of Clans – Nordic warfare
- Genre: Viking strategy
- Developer: Plarium
Vikings: War of Clans is yet another game by Plarium – a studio which for many years has been highly regarded in the browser games business, and whose back catalogue includes games such as Sparta: War of Empires, Stormfall: Age of War or Nords: Heroes of the North. The international studio has also been making increasingly bold moves in the mobile game market, where in mid-2015 they released the title in question, which is now also available via browsers.
Vikings: War of Clans takes the player to distant, Northern latitudes, to the land of freezing-cold winter, rivers, lakes and fiords, where only the bravest warriors can survive the search of their own path to Valhalla. We assume the role of an early-medieval jarl, who has to build a great stronghold and raise a ferocious army, which will then pillage the neighboring towns and defend their own.
In terms of mechanics, Vikings: War of Clans doesn’t make a significant departure from the previous productions of Plarium, so those of you who have already played any of their games will feel at home. Similarly to most of browser strategy games, the gameplay is based on two principles: developing your own base, and conducting battles with enemies.
Most importantly, one has to secure an appropriately strong financial position by raising and upgrading buildings, gathering resources, producing food, etc. At the same time, the military aspect also needs our attention – we must get down to building barracks, recruiting units, and employing scholars to research military technologies.
Once your fortress is powerful enough, you can begin to trouble your neighbors. However, unlike in many strategies, here the player has no control over the army during battle – the warriors sent to a skirmish return after some time – either victorious or dead. The game is complemented by quality visuals – detailed 3D models and realistic animations are especially easy on the eye.
- Play Vikings: War of Clans on Facebook
RageWar – a journey in time
- Genre: strategy plus time travelling.
- Developer: Fury Studio
Another strategy game on our list is a production by the Bulgarians from Fury Studio. Also available on PC/Mac and mobile platforms, RageWar is a complex strategy that utilizes the popular theme of time travel.
The player becomes a hero whose time machine has broken – very unluckily – while he was exploring the Stone Age. In order to get it up and running again, he has to collect seven parts of the shattered vehicle. This won’t be easy, however – the protagonist first needs to establish his own civilization and lead it through subsequent stages of development.
As regards the mechanics, Rage War combines elements typical of strategies such as Clash of Clans, with elements of the tower defense genre, and even some features reminiscent of the famous Sid Meier’s Civilization series. Hence the game is mostly about developing your country and conquering neighbors, which either belong to the AI or to other players. The player has to take care of both the military and the economic layer by gathering resources, erecting buildings, researching technologies, developing culture and recruiting an army.
The experience is considerably diversified by the fact that our village, as it becomes more and more developed, eventually becomes a vibrant metropolis; that’s not all, though – along with the progress, the appearance of the buildings changes completely, as do the technologies used within them. The armies, on the other hand, consist both of regular barbarians, and fantastic beasts straight from a Tolkienesque universe. Contrary to most browser strategies, in Rage War you won’t find a simplified combat system – your influence in battle is not limited to just choosing the line-up and hoping it will fare well; instead, a real tactical sense is required. War isn’t the only way, however, since those more comfortable with words than swords can also choose a more peaceful, diplomatic path to success.
- More about RageWar
- Play RageWar
Big Bait – something’s fishy
- Genre: fishing company tycoon
- Developer: Unikat Media
We’re still within the realm of strategy games, at least in its broader sense. Big Bait is a game by the Germans from Unikat Media. In contrast to the previous titles, here there will be no combat involved whatsoever, as the game is a classic example of economic strategy, where the player becomes the head of a small fishing company, with the ambition of dominating the global fishing industry. Big Bait’s beta version is available without any limits since July last year.
Mechanic-wise, the game obeys the standard rules of economic strategy. At the beginning, the player has only a small port and a wooden boat at their disposal, and has to look for the first decent fishing ground. That’s just a modest beginning, since the ultimate goal is to challenge the greatest fisheries of the world, and become the one and only fisher king.
During the game, the player accepts subsequent commissions for fishing in different areas. The money they raise can be invested in the fleet – you can choose from regular fishcutters to enormous fishing tawlers – and in the infrastructure, which will surely make you a prominent fishing entrepreneur. Fortunately, in Big Bait, there’s no grinding known from other similar games. The game also features over 80 species of fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and other members of the marine fauna – each of them is somewhat different and requires a different approach and equipment that will ensure maximal output.
- Play Big Bait
- Play Big Bait on Facebook
Let’s Hunt – who’s the king of the jungle?
- Genre: deer-shooting sim
- Developer: Ten Square Games
Enough about the strategies. Now let’s take a look at a Polish game, developed by Ten Square Games (founded in 2011). Despite a rather brief history, the studio already has a couple of similar games in their “gameography”, such as Wild Hunt for mobile devices and Let’s Fish. The discussed game is, however, devoid of the relaxing quality of a fishing expedition. Instead, Let’s Hunt offers a set of rather exotic locations, where the only task is to enhance our list of hunting trophies.
Let’s Hunt caters to people who already have some experience with hunting games (often considered casual because of their specifications) – the players begin at the deep end as soon as they start the campaign, learning the basics during a couple of initial missions. As a reasonable individual might infer, the game is focused on hunting expeditions of increasing difficulty, during which the task is to hunt specific animals (although a free hunt mode is also available).
Finishing the missions yields some cash, which can be spent on new equipment and gadgets facilitating our hunting trips. Much like in other games of the genre, the key to success is not dashing around the map John Rambo-style and shooting blindly from the hip – in order to succeed, one has to show cautiousness and patience. The player needs to sneak, gain vantage points, observe their prey, learn its routines and weaknesses, as well as choose the right equipment.
- Play Let’s Hunt
- Play Let’s Hunt on Facebook