CrowdStar's Wasteland Empires on Facebook: Both fresh and decayed

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CrowdStar's Wasteland EmpiresMel Gibson would be proud to discover that the spiritual, social tribute to Beyond Thunderdome has arrived on Facebook. (Well, after he stops talking to that infernal puppet.) CrowdStar has released its next big Facebook game for all to play: Wasteland Empires. Wait a tick ... that doesn't sound happy or girly at all. You're absolutely right, imaginary dissenter--this real time strategy (RTS) social game marks marks the company's interest in the supposedly burgeoning male audience.

According to lead producer Jonathan Cook, Wasteland Empires draws inspiration from the tower defense genre and classic strategy games like Warcraft and Starcraft. Simply put, CrowdStar is looking to emulate the hardcore strategy game experience, but without the massive amount of time that most strategy games demand. Not to mention in a setting that has admittedly been largely under-served on Facebook: Wasteland Empires takes place in the not-so-distant future, 58 years after the apocalypse.

"We picked the style because it's something that we wanted to see, and hadn't really seen anything else like that," Cook tells us. "We don't have as much time as we used to when we were in college, but to be able to build something that reminds us of games being fun, and bringing that to the Facebook environment, is just really exciting."
Wasteland Empires concept art
Players assume the role of a leader of sorts over a growing shanty town of colonists that have just found their first pure source of water in years. Not governed by an energy system, actions in Wasteland Empires like expansion and creating new troops and buildings merely takes resources and time. As you send colonists to scavenge the outskirts of your village, you'll acquire more resources and uncover more land to place buildings like houses, farms and water towers upon.

These motions will surely increase your population, which is split 50/50 between workers and attack units. There are multiple units to choose from like Scouts (small, fast units with speedy attacks), Clubbers (larger, beefier guys with slower attacks) and later on even gunners and troops piloting bipedal war machines. Attacking other players' or NPC (non-player character) outposts on the map is simply a matter of directing your squad of units to destroy any defensive buildings first and clean up what's left.
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On the other end, it's up to you to build a tiered defense of sniping towers, ones that deal explosive damage and makeshift mines. When you're attacked, you'll lose some resources based on how much the enemy managed to destroy in the time they're allotted during their invasion. But your friends can help replenish those resources by gifting them to you.

On paper, Wasteland Empires doesn't sound too different from the lot of strategy games already on Facebook. And, aside from its decidedly fresh setting and multifaceted approach to combat (it's not as simple as sending in a few meat shields while your long range snipers do the dirty work), you would be right. But Cook thinks that if there is one thing that separates this social, strategic wheat from the chaff, it's the story.
Wasteland Empires Battle
"I think a lot of the other Facebook RTS-ish games have interesting gameplay mechanics, but there isn't a story," Cook admits. "You're not in a world, [but] you're kind of just thrown down and told to go fight people, be engaged. We're definitely trying to balance that with [saying] that there is a world behind this and we're moving that world forward."

The story in Wasteland Empires unfurls with NPCs popping in from time to time and giving you things to do to progress. The main storyline is presented in chapters with specific quests and tasks. But CrowdStar plans to introduce other ways that the world's lore will be revealed to the player, namely through scavenging. Even now, you can see chunks of rubble with tags attached to them that read, "Coming Soon." Ultimately, the goal of the story is to explain how exactly this cataclysm happened.
Wasteland Empires mech concept
While the game has existed on Facebook since earlier this summer in an alpha testing phase, CrowdStar plans to add more features to Wasteland Empires like alliances for players to form. As to how the company plans to garner an audience for the decidedly different game, Cook jokes that throwing a banner ad for Wasteland Empires on top of, say, Happy Pets probably wouldn't be a good fit. That said, CrowdStar is looking to build a new player base with the game.

Wasteland Empires might make a lot of the same moves that competitors like Kabam and Kixeye have in the sub genre, but CrowdStar has clearly taken some notes. CrowdStar's first foray into what the company plans to flesh out into a full-blown franchise is a fresh take on strategy gaming on Facebook, if only through its dreary, post-apocalyptic setting. That said, in time we could easily see Wasteland Empires become the Mad Max of social gaming.

Click here to play CrowdStar's Wasteland Empires on Facebook Now >

Do you think a game with a post-apocalyptic theme could do well on Facebook? Do you plan on giving it a shot? Is there room for anymore strategy games on Facebook? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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