It's been in Steam Early Access since 20th September 2016, and one year later turn-based 4X strategy title Oriental Empires will leave Early Access. The official release date for the game is set as September 14, which was announced today by developer Shining Pixel Studios and publisher Iceberg Interactive. It's a little late as Shining Pixel originally was going to launch the game November 2016 but they obviously felt the game required longer in development to be the best it could be. To celebrate the game is 25% off the usual RRP of £22.99/$29.99 for the next week.
Considering how interesting, volatile, and, frankly, game-y the formation of the First Empire of China was we're astonished we haven't seen more strategy games set in that time period (hint hint Creative Assembly), with the whole of Asia divided into small kingdoms that were conquered through war or diplomacy with the final goal of uniting all the kingdoms into one Empire. It's good therefore that Oriental Empires is focusing on this time and finally giving the long in the tooth Romance of the Three Kingdoms series a run for that Koei Tecmo money.
Michael Brown checked out the game when it launched and was mostly impressed, suggesting that Civilization fans would be right at home and that it had a lot of good ideas and was very attractive for a 4X game, with graphics almost on par with Total War. However the game was lacking a multiplayer mode and the combat was frustrating, mostly because of AI and pathfinding. A year later Iceberg and Shining Pixel boast that the AI and battles have been hugely improved based on player feedback, and final full polished multiplayer will be added to the launch version, which is in alpha at the moment.
In Oriental Empires, you start off as a single tribe or faction and expand your reach with the goal of becoming Emperor. There are 16 factions to choose from, with a detailed play area map that stretches across China and Mongolia. Despite being a turn-based 4X strategy battles can be viewed in 3D featuring hundreds of thousands of soldiers with a lot of detail, who fight based on the battle orders and formations you set at the start. You can build up cities and settlements and do scientific, philosophical and religious research. Multiplayer supports up to 15 players in a single campaign. And the game doesn't stop once you become Emperor, you get to set edicts, laws and decrees and carry on researching new technologies to move your Empire into a new Era.