by Chris Tompkins
For all those folks still ducking the online-gaming phenomenon, VR1 Entertainment’s Evernight may be your entry drug. Evernight combines plenty of interesting human interactions with the leisurely chess-like pleasures of a solid turn-based fantasy-strategy game.
Evernight simply uses your internet browser as an interface. The game consists of maps, statistics tables, and email communications—all presented in a series of dynamically-generated web pages (interspersed with some high-quality graphic images).
You set your own pace for the game; taking as much (or as little) time as you need to manage your empire, study the maps, ponder the importance of emails, and to execute each phase of your strategy. When you are finished, click on “Done” and go about your business. Later on (usually in the wee hours of the morning), the system analyzes the maps and statistics, and the game advances by another “tick.”
Typically, each game begins with a land-grab rush, in which players deploy their non-magical units (called “Lessers”) to grab up as many provinces as they can reach. Different types of terrain confer varying amounts of treasure for every turn that you occupy them. Powerful supernatural entities (“Forms”) and lots of wacky spells are available in exchange for “Fury” points that you earn with your victories. You can also invest in fortresses and temples.
If Evernight was just another expand-and-upgrade contest, it would be pretty thin gruel; but after a few ticks the multi-player interaction kicks in. When you are fighting over a huge map with fifty or more competing players the possibilities heat up fast for deal-making, resource-swapping, alliances, double- and triple-crosses, and some really fine misdirection and duplicity.
Beginners can play a free game to see how they like it; registered users pay only five dollars a month, and can play up to eight games simultaneously (about as many as anyone could handle). I urge you to give it a try at http://evernight.vr1.com. After only three days of play, you’ll be hooked, even (or especially) if you’ve been skeptical about online games before now.