Forge of Empires: progression and maintaining culture

The challenge of progression models

Within the mobile market, builder games are a genre in which players start with rudimentary structures and spaces, and develop them into their ideal, custom world. These games often feature elements where players consistently return to a game throughout the day to continue to progress. Each level of progress is gated by in game timers reflecting the time it takes to complete an action, gain a resource, or research a new technology.  The greater the complexity of the action the greater the time needed to complete it, building a small encampment 5 minutes, building the Sistine chapel, 48 hours.  The joy of these games comes from creating a utopia, but the dystopian truth is that these games often cause the players to wrestle with the desire to maintain their vision for their society, or surrender to the pressures of efficiency and progress.


(I immediately chose to use diplomacy over military aggression and conquered the first area through trade agreements; however, due to the structure of the game, my society remains stuck with the objective to develop units for war)

As the player progresses these games unlock bigger and better buildings for the players to grow their society.  Older technologies fall out of favor and the player must move on to the latest and greatest tech, or else they must submit to being less efficient using their old ways.  It can be difficult to want to maintain buildings we love as players for the aesthetic and cultural meanings behind them, when another structure can quadruple its output.  Many games make the march of progress sound so tempting that it begins to destroy the important element of choice in builders.

Maintaining a cultural identity

Forge of Empires does an impressive job of including such a diverse variety of building types that throughout the ages the players can continuously express themselves without feeling like their culture is left behind as they move from age to age.

(The incredible amount of technologies to be researched in the 14 ages featured in Forge of Empires allows for an enormous amount of creativity in how the player wants to express their culture, all military, all education, all labor, all economy, or a little of each)

I have truly enjoyed being able to look forward to what each age will hold for me to express myself as a player and the culture I envision.  As always, my focus has been to play the more time consuming, but ultimately more rewarding, path of diplomacy and knowledge over war and economy. The fact that the game pushes for war with the popularity of combat builders, but still features a robust series of tech and cultural advancements that focus on peace and knowledge, speaks to its focus on providing the player with depth of gameplay and cultural development.


(I have focused on building educational structures such as schools, laying out housing units as neighborhoods, and goat farms for production (influenced by my girlfriend’s love for goats))

Have you played any builders on mobile?  Did you like upgrading your buildings and changing them out for new ones?  Have you ever felt that the culture of your town changed too much as you began to follow progression more than your own vision? If you liked this article or have something to share, please leave a comment below or write in to


Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on FacebookInstagramand Youtube.

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