Just about everyone has either played or heard of Risk, the ancestor of all modern strategy games. It’s been around for 50 years. Armies, countries, dice, cards, conquer the world. Well, give it an ancient history theme, put it on a computer, and you’ve got Ancient Empires Lux. The publisher, Sillysoft, makes no bones about this: They refer to AEL’s older sister, Lux Delux, as “a game of strategy and domination inspired by the board game Risk.”
That there’s nothing revolutionary about this game doesn’t diminish its value as a fun way to kill 20 minutes in an airport lounge. Even the free demo, which allows access to the first three of 12 ancient empire scenarios, has strong replay value. There are four difficulty levels, and once you’ve mastered those, you can play again using other, less advantageously placed civilizations.
The Ancient Empires Lux vision of the Roman Empire
Each map is accompanied by a brief, defensible history narrative. The East is as well represented as the West, which is more than can be said for many games that mine ancient history for their material. If you buy the full version, you will get to conquer Rome (and who doesn’t want to do that?), but not before you’ve established dominion over ancient India and Han China.
Gameplay is easy to master and moves quickly. Battles are animated with clouds of dust and angry little battle cries (or painful groans) when opponents are eliminated. That’s it. No blood, flying spears or little armies trudging across the screen. Ancient Empires Lux, like Risk, is meat and potatoes strategy gaming. Those seeking cinematic cutscenes inspired by Ben Hur or 300 should look elsewhere.
If you’ve been waiting for the opportunity to crush ancient Egypt under your boot while your laundry finishes, your game is here. Do your wallet a favor and wear out the demo before springing for the full version. Ancient Empires Lux is a perfectly nice little addition to a portfolio of PC time-wasters, but $20 seems steep for what’s essentially a strategy game widget.