CrunchReview: MMO Civilization-game Ikariam

A few weeks ago I stumbled across one of the most delightful MMO browser games. In fact, I was so enamored by it that I actual convinced three of my other friends to play it with me in a world populated by… well at least a few hundred other would-be kings. The main reason why I was so enamored by it, and I am assuming you’ll be able to make the distinction as well, is due to it’s inherent familiarity with long-time famed series: Civilization. Let’s take a closer look at Ikariam, a massively multiplayer online strategic browser game.

Despite its instant familiarities with Civilization, the gameplay is actually quite different, but don’t be too quick to give up hope. Where Ikariam is different than Civilization is also why Ikariam is such a fun game. Some key differences include:

  • This game is time based, not turn based.
  • You won’t ever get to different eras of technology. You’ll primarily be hanging out with Caesar and crew in this game.
  • The entire world is divided up into hundreds of islands with a specific amount of space available on each for newcomers and colonies.

Now that I have dashed away the key differences let’s continue on to the actual review of the game which, like I have stated before, is still quite good.

You’ll start your new-found civilization on a random island, most likely already populated by other players. Depending on where you start off you could start on a relatively young island or an island already teaming with huge civilizations. For example, when I started I was placed on an island where the highest level city was only 5 (out of 24), where as, one of my friends started out on an island where the highest level was level 18. Needless to say, he was in a much heavier situation than I was. Naturally you’ll start your city with nothing but a town hall that is level one and from there you’ll build all your buildings in designated plots of land.

Now before I continue on, I think it’s important to explain briefly the mechanics that make Ikariam work. I mentioned above that the game is time based, not turn based. This means that every building you make (only one at a time per city) will take a certain amount of time and resources to make. So provided you have the amount of wood and ore required to upgrade, let’s say, your town hall it still means you’ll have to wait until it’s actually built. These times depend on the level you are upgrading your building too and range anywhere from 10 minutes to 12 hours and beyond. The same holds true for troops, trading, transporting, and warfare. Everything is time based and, while that may seem like a turn-off, the system works surprisingly well.

Continuing on now that we’ve explained the logistics of the game a bit more, you’ll find near everything in Ikariam that you’d expect from Civilization, only smaller and more suitable for a “play for 15 minutes” type style. Barracks allow you to build troops, academies allow you to invest in research towards one of four fields (seafaring, military, economy, science), hideouts allow you to train thieves, trading ports allow you to build cargo fleets, and shipyards allow you to build military fleets. All the same fun stuff you’d expect from a Civilization-esque game.

In order to recruit troops, research certain things, and build and upgrade buildings, however, you’ll need the resources to back them up and sometimes, those aren’t very easy to come by. In fact, this is probably one of the few annoying things about the game. When you start on your island you’ll have two resources available, wood and one of the other four resources. Each island has a different resource and depending on which you land on you could end up with marble, sulfur, crystal, or grapes. Each has their own uses and you’ll notice that each becomes extremely important in the later parts of the game, especially grapes. Early on, however, the most important resource you’ll need will be marble, and if you have no instant access to that material you had better start asking some of your neighboring islands that do to cut you a deal or else your expansion has ground to a halt. It’s a slow process and an even slower fix as it could take weeks to secure some marble. When all is said and done though, you should be back on your path to civilization greatness.

Of course, what would a good review be without a look at the battle system? Yes, worry not, those troops that you plan on amassing will be put to good use. Ikariam offers two direct ways to utilize your military; pillaging and occupation. They do exactly what they sound like. Should you decide to pillage your neighbor and succeed you’ll get an amount of their resources/gold (depending on how fast your troops can load up your ships). If you decide to actually occupy a city and succeed you’ll get full use of that city until such times as you decide to withdraw. The actual battles are a bit mundane and offer no graphics, but it’s still satisfying knowing that your troops are returning with a bounty of treasure.

So that’s basically it. There is a lot to do in Ikariam and if I really wanted to I could probably explain on and on about all the minute details that make Ikariam so much fun. However, as I am sure this block of text has already fulfilled your review quota for the day, I’ll just tell you to go out there and give the game a try! It’s 100% free and while they do offer a RMT system I haven’t noticed anything that they offer to give any players a noticeable advantage. For those who wish to look me up here is my information:

  • Server: Iota
  • Username: Dmitry
  • Island location: 2, 32

Hope to see you there!


  1. I actually have played Travian and I didn’t get nearly the amount of joy that I did out of Ikariam. Travian allows for mroe options and more customizability but it’s lacking an overall polish that Ikariam has. Where as Ikariam doesn’t necessarily look like a web browser game, Travian very much does.

  2. I have played Travian and I was very isspointed with the graphics and the gameplay. Ikariam was of much better use and its awfully addictive, I go and check my town even though there is nothing to do. Travian was a dismal play and dont believe anyone that says it is better then Ikariam, Also travian reset servers so all of your lovely work is lost!! whereas Ikariam you can play as much as you want!

  3. Ikariam is still in beta. The balance of the game is not very developed. After spending quite some time to be in the top 50 on my server. I suddenly notice that they change the rules. And to sustain my 5 cities I would need 5 month of resource gathering… Also, you are unable to capture cities.

  4. “… build hideouts to train thieves…”
    Well.. actually.. not to be picky :P but it’s spies*..
    well, that’s besides the point. I play on Iota as well ^^ I’ll send you a trade treaty.. because I can :D

  5. this game is a rip off – i bought the plus account then they banned me – there rules aren’t clear and I spent over 10 minutes looking up why they banned me. The take your money, but won’t give it back to me now that I am banned.

    This was my first offense. I mistakenly created another account and never played it, but I still get banned.

  6. I can’t seem to sign in to my Ikariam account, or create a new one, is that some sort of bug with just me? well, w/e, it was goodd while it lasted.

  7. I was enjoying Ikariam for some time, and also started paying for the Ambrosia and such, thinking I was enjoying it, so why not pay a little.

    However, after not long some major flaws are becoming apparent. The game is run by volunteer GO’s (Game Operators). A thankless and unpaid job. However, they have formed a sort of “Good ‘ol Boy/Girl” network of their own. They are not individually allowed to be the operator on a world they also play on, but they just have their buddies do their dirty work. It becomes clear after awhile there is little point in even playing when there are a few abusing their powers and just doing whatever they please, taking banning to a nit picky extreme against those they dislike while ignoring all but the most obvious cheating of those they like or are GO’s of other worlds.

    There is already no true “end game” or way to win, and once is clear that it is all twisted in favor of an “in” few makes it even more pointless. It has been removed from my own ggod game list for sure, and am sorry I gave them any money at all.

  8. I current play on the .org server world Eta. I have enjoyed this game very much, but the GO’s make it very hard to abide by the rules. There is not a defined list of rules, they are left to interpretation. The “bans” that are given are also not consistent. ie: 1 player gets banned for 3 days for a staff insult the other 1 year. I encourage you to play the game, but do not invest in “Ambrosia” If you get banned for something stupid (like 9 of my Alliance just did) Your money is non-refundable.

  9. @Current Ikariam

    I just got banned for multi, but have been trying to get them to refund or transfer my ambrosia. So far have been getting a run around between gamepay and the GO’s. In reading the T&C and the rules, I see nothing that will allow them to keep my money (in the form of Ambrosia, so I’m curious as to why you think it’s unrefundable. Commercial law should prohibit them from enjoying your property (i.e. the cash you paid for the amrosia). Write back, will you?

  10. I’ve played the game for some time and the rules are not that difficult to understand. I would recommend playing for a few weeks and understanding the rules before investing any money in the game. That way if you get banned you don’t loose any money.

    Overall it’s an enjoyable game, but one that is still in heavy development. Since this review there have been major overhauls to the battle engine and research trees. If you are prepared to accept these shake ups two or three times a year then come and join the fun.

    Oh, and the original review neglected to mention the expansion (empires consist of multiple towns on multiple islands) which makes the game interesting, and the cooperative development of island resources. If you get on a non-marble island to start it only takes one palace to allow you to set up a town on another town with marble, hence solving your marble need.

    Overall a good interesting and entertaining game.

  11. There is no good ‘ole boys club with the GO’s. People get banned for cheating. Rules are not clear ? What What. looks like they are as clear and transparent as day. And those good ‘ole boys.girls GO’s have supervisors who are also volunteer with a supervisor who is also a volunteer and then and supervisor who is paid who oversees the volunteers to ensure clear fair and transparent game play.

    The game is in beta though so yes… bugs issues and regular changes as they try and balance the game out.

  12. It starts out fine there a thrill while pillaging other peoples cities. as You progress it usually stays the same city after city pillaged. I could not appease the other inhabitants of the Island with the amount of my donating of resources so I ended up having my cities taken over after my soliders were decimated meaning that all my hard work was for nothing. This game allows free range battle meaning that a level 16 can openly attack a level 10 without any restriction. If you decide to play this game be prepared to do a lot of kissing up to the higher level players they will expect you to donate everything you reap and will attack you if you dont and some will attack you just for the hell of it

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