As a tabletop gamer myself, I was immediately drawn to Dogs of War Online. The free-to-play strategy game is reportedly based on a tabletop war game of the same name. While I can’t say I’ve ever played the latter, after a bit of time with the former, I’m sorely tempted to. Although Dogs of War Online certainly does have its faults, it was, as a whole, both entertaining and engrossing.
Set in the war-torn world of Aarklash, Dogs of War Online pits three primary factions against one another: Light, Darkness, and Destiny. The Forces of Light are pretty much your vanilla ‘good guys,’ and are represented by humans and mages. Darkness, meanwhile, are the undead and unholy; creatures that have no business existing in the world. Finally, Destiny draws the Wolfen to its fold; wolf-like creatures who don’t share the black-or-white morality of the other two factions. These three groups are referred to as the Lion, the Ram, and the Wolf, respectively. When you start out, you’ll be granted access to one of the three; you can unlock more as you play through the game.
Army Points – immediately familiar to anyone who’s played a game like Warhammer – are used as a numeric representation of how powerful your forces are. Each unit has a particular AP value based on its stats and special abilities. Fielding a few ultra-powerful units might give you the edge, but you could easily see your bruisers taken down by a group of smaller, weaker foes. The units in each alliance follow the same design principles as one another, with enough variety that you’re free to develop your army as you see fit.
Take the force of the Lion, for example. Individually, they tend to be far weaker than the Wolfen, who gravitate towards savage units designed to roll over their foes in rapid succession. A Wolfen force may seem overpowered at first – after all, a single Wolfen can kill scores of swordsmen. With proper tactics, however, the brutes are rarely a problem – though the smallest mistake could see your army obliterated in a few turns.
The primary component of Dogs of War Online is engaging with duels in other players to gain fame and wealth with which they can build up their forces. There are other activities, as well; individual units can be sent on missions like tournaments, shakedowns, or kidnapping, removing them from your army for a set amount of time. Although the rewards for such missions are great and the investment small, there’s a chance your unit might end up injured or dead – though this decreases significantly with more skilled units. Oh, I should probably mention – each unit gains experience every time it’s used in combat, eventually leveling up and gaining access to new perks and abilti
The game looks and plays marvelously, with fluid animations, an easy-to-use interface, and aesthetically pleasing hex-grid maps. I won’t get too much into the details of combat, but suffice it to say, it’s quite satisfying, with a pleasing amount of depth. I’ll let you discover the rest for yourself.
The in-game cash shop is admirably designed, without even the barest hint of pay to win. Anything you can buy with purchased currency is available with in-game cash and a bit of effort grinding up the necessary funds. The end result of this combined with the game’s matchmaking system is that no player really feels like they’ve an unfair advantage over the rest; there’s really little difference between paying players and non-paying ones (save perhaps that the non-paying folks have spent more time in-game.)
Oh, and players can also construct their own buildings that will generate units for them, too, somewhat eliminating the need to use the cash shop at higher levels.
Now, Dogs of War Online isn’t perfect. There’s really no narrative to speak of, and the single-player missions are relatively bland as a result. Bad grammar and misspellings run rampant throughout the game, and the matchmaking system sometimes takes a bit longer than it should to track down opponents. It’s also still in beta, so expect a few quirks here and there. Still, it’s good for a bit of fun, especially if strategy games are your forte.