Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, February 06, 2024
Doubts about Millennia

Millennia is a historic 4X game, similar to Civilization, Humankind, or Old World. It is currently available as a demo during the Steam Next Fest, and has a release date of "coming soon". The game is made by C Prompt Games, a relatively unknown studio, but published by Paradox Interactive. And as the game was listed in several "upcoming strategy games of 2024" videos, I decided to take a look.

At first Millennia looks very much like a Civilization game: You start with a city and a warrior, and you can either build units or city buildings to boost your economy. When exploring you meet other civilizations, neutral cities, and barbarians. So far, so good. Where it becomes interesting is that you can stack your units, at the start up to 3. That allows for a bit more unit concentrations than the one unit per hex of some other games. Unfortunately you don't control anything in combat, which makes the combat replay popup window not very interesting. It also is one of the ugliest parts of the game, in a game that already is graphically behind many of its competitors. The animations of your warriors and archers attacking some barbarians behind a palisade will hurt your eyes.

But what makes me doubt that this will be a huge success is the fact that Millennia is needlessly complex. Over the course of the 60-turn demo, many different currencies are introduced. Your cities have food and production, but you also produce knowledge points for research, culture points, government points, improvement points, warfare points, exploration points, engineering points, diplomacy points, and so on. My list might not be complete, as you don't get the points displayed until you earn the first point. Each of these points can be used to buy stuff at different thresholds. That quickly gets very confusing, as you can use different types of points to do the same thing, e.g. buying a new warrior unit. Except for research the game also doesn't stop you from moving on to the next turn although you could have spent some type of points for something. If something interesting is happening on the map and you advance turns quickly, you'll notice far too late that you should have spend those points several turns ago.

The unique selling point of Millennia is that after researching three technologies, you can advance your civilization into the next age. At first you don't get a choice, but to move from the Stone Age to the Age of Bronze. But afterwards you can either move to the Age of Iron, or the Age of Blood, or the Age of Heroes, and these ages play a bit differently. Age of Iron is the default, and you need to fulfil certain conditions to choose one of the other two, like having discovered 3 landmarks to unlock the Age of Heroes. That sounds interesting, but there is a major problem with the concept: The first civilization to get to finish one age determines which of the ages the world enters, and everybody else is locked to that age and doesn't get a choice. Unless you play a rather low difficulty level, it will be one of the AI-controlled civilization that makes this choice, which isn't half a much fun.

If you like games like Civilization, I'd recommend trying the free Millennia demo, which is available only until Monday. I did have fun trying it out. But unless there are some rather massive improvements to the game, I doubt that it will be the next big thing in the genre. I think some people were misled into thinking this is a Paradox game, but Paradox is only the publisher. Millennia isn't a triple A game, and it shows.

I'm kind of surprised at the AIs getting to choose the next age - I didn't really think about it when reading about the game, but I assumed it would be the player. But maybe they could make it so the AIs don't try too hard in this regard, even at high levels, and it usually gets left up to the player unless he takes too long.

I haven't tried the demo as yet. They do seem to have some interesting ideas.
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