Grow Empire Rome: Detailed Review

After a long silence (because reasons), I return to Medium (as intended a while ago!) I actually have several unfinished stories, some that are in old school notebooks and others just existing as a draft in title. So content is in abundance and hopefully I’ll be able to share more and more consistently in the coming weeks. I even acquired a tablet, with one of the main motives being more writing. In fact, my return article is related: I’ll write about a game I’ve been playing on the tablet. So without further ado, let’s talk Grow Empire: Rome!

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As an avid Starcraft UMS and Warcraft 3 custom map player, I’m always on the lookout for tower defense maps on mobile. My recent search brought me to Grow Empire Rome. The name was familiar, but I hadn’t give it much thought at first. The reason it was familiar was because of a game I played on my phone before: Grow Castle and I would indeed notice the gameplay parallels quite soon into the game. They aren’t developed by same people from what it seems and indeed there seems to be a major difference between the games. Okay, enough with the fluff and meta, let me talk about the game!

Main Concept

Grow Empire Rome, GER from now on, is a defense game, rather than a traditional TD. As you might imagine, it has a Roman Empire setting. You have a base where barbarians attack, wave by wave, each wave triggered by you. So you don’t start a game and play 10 waves. You play one wave and it’s over. You can start the next one if you like. On top of that, there is an empire map and you can launch invasions on enemy colonies to acquire them, which sort of reverses the roles. Each acquired colony then has 3 waves of rebels you can fight whenever you wish. I haven’t bested the 3rd level yet, but I’m guessing that’s it.

Resources

You gain gold from kills in each wave (meaning you get some even if you fail the defense) plus some amount from your colonies. This amount can be increased by upgrading the colonies by investing in some gold. You even generate some of this gold when you are not playing. You will also get the option to watch an ad to get some gold now and then. Gold is used for upgrading your walls, archers, towers and units. The upgrades will occasionally have visual affects too. Units will look better every 4 upgrades and your flimsy fences will turn into actual walls with archers and towers in time.

The other currency, crystals, is acquired after every 10 levels or so, plus by defeating the rebellions in colonies. Crystals are used to buy and upgrade heroes, a type of unit that brings a passive bonus to your army as well as fighting actively on the front line. You also use crystals to upgrade your bank, which in turn improves your gold gain from colonies when you aren’t playing the game. You can also buy card packs with crystals. These you can use when invading colonies to provide you bonuses. Finally, you can buy mercenaries, which are extra troops you can use in invasions. As you might imagine, you can buy crystals and farming them takes some time (but not too terrible to unlock the most expensive hero to be honest.)

Finally, you gain experience from battles. This is earned by the General, which is basically you. You can level up and distribute skill points to unlock passive and active skills. I’m not sure if there are ceilings for these bonuses. I believe the cost to increase a skill also increases in time. I have leveled one to 20 and so far haven’t seen it though.

Wave Defense

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Brave hero on the front line, being slain fast, reinforcements I summon defend the walls.

Each wave is basically a bunch of enemies rushing at your walls, fighting any troops they may encounter on the way. Your archers and towers will attack any enemies in their range but your main fighting force will be the reinforcements you summon. There are several unit types that will attack you and you will use to defend, sort of in a Rock Paper Scissors setup.

Speaking of unit types, there are 4+1+1 in total. 4 are the core units that you can use anywhere: Infantry, anti-cavalry infantry, ranged and cavalry. Then there is the siege unit, which is a battering ram that resembles Age of Empires variants. This is only used by the sieging party, not the defenders. Finally there is the elephant. From what I see this is only for the computer. Oh, and the heroes I mentioned above. I only saw them for our side and I imagine computer do not have them.

Normal waves will only spawn two types of units, one group after the other e.g one ranged, then one infantry, then another ranged… until the whole wave is cleared. You will have two charges of reinforcements at the start and you can use any of the 4 types, you don’t need to choose a layout. This will come handy in every 10 levels where there will be bigger groups of enemies in sort of mini waves, and their unit types will also change within a single wave. Every 30 levels you will face elephants that are loaded with hp and offensive power. Luckily, you aren’t limited to the two types of units at the start: As soon as you summon a unit, the bar will start filling and you’ll be able to summon more during the fight.

In addition to summoning troops, you have a few active powers you can use. These are your defenses (catapult and towers) and your general powers (e.g. raining arrows on enemies.) Some are skill shots (like the catapult) and others just work (like the general power that gives a damage boost.) You can also choose the ammunition type of your towers to be more effective versus troops or siege units.

Colony Map

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The second part of the game is the colony map where you invade colonies, upgrade them and defend them against rebels. There are several colonies with increasing defense strengths, indicated by numbers on them. You can have 3 legions in each attack, which have 6 unit slots each. My legion consists of 4 main units, my hero and the siege unit. I believe the rest is to add mercenaries and maybe probably other heroes as well. Not much to do here as you don’t summon extra units and have no towers. You just use your general powers. The enemy has some troops at the start and gets reinforcements, so usually you’ll use them on cooldown to win as soon as possible. Once you take over, you can upgrade them a few times to increase the income, then fight the rebel waves whenever you want. This is basically a reverse invasion: the strength of base depends on the colony and the whole army attacks altogether.

Shop

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The game shop is pretty simple. You can buy crystals, which you can use to buy commanders and card packs. If you just want to unlock the heroes, the crystal package around 20€ is enough (Germany IOS store) and a more pragmatic approach might be to buy less crystals and only get the Roman Commander (the most expensive one,) or maybe buy the same amount of crystals and just use the surplus to upgrade him a bunch. For the record, you don’t need this hero. The one you get through the campaign is pretty good and has a gold bonus that should be useful for a new account.

In the end, it’s nice that the game does not force you buy anything. But then again, I usually buy something from free games if I spent some time on it… but I really didn’t feel like buying anything.

Summary

All in all, I did sink some hours into the game in the last days. But it was also because I was sick and resting at home. I feel like I’ll depart ways as I don’t think there is more to see in this game. It doesn’t feel challenging, there isn’t much to see other than a couple soldier models and the grind is way too steep.

That said, if you are looking for something to play on the train or you know, the sacred part of the house, feel free to take a look. I did enjoy majority of the time I sank.

Before I end the article, there is another topic I want to talk about.

Vs Grow Castle

Now, checking the downloads and review counts, I notice that GER is way bigger than Grow Castle but since I played Grow Castle first, I want to compare them a bit.

The major difference is that GrowCastle uses the auto fight mechanic. You get some of it via playing and you can purchase it if you want: Basically the game will launch waves on its own and will use skills on cooldown. Sounds weird, but it actually works because in the end, the game is super repetitive and you basically play because of three reasons: Leaderboards, to unlock everything to see how they work (that’s me) and either lack of or surplus of will power to unlock everything and max them out. For the second, you only need a certain amount of grind and you want to be done with them. The other two makes you grind A LOT. So you want the result but without the effort… because the effort is really just starting waves after a while, then upgrading something every 5–10 waves or so. It’s not skill, it’s monkey work (no offense to tablet using chimps.)

I really, really expected this to appear in GER because the core loops of the two games are literally the same. But it didn’t appear and honestly, I’m a bit disappointed. I would love to see the final forms of the soldiers but I don’t know if I want to endure through the grind.

Despite GER being the bigger title, I think Grow Castle was more interesting in terms of content. There are many heroes and tower types to choose from and you can actually have builds in that game. Unfortunately, it looked to me like in GER you can just upgrade the main soldiers (which are out of the Rock Paper Scissors — they have no advantages or disadvantages) and summon them and only them and succeed. The comments I’ve read online also indicate that way.

So if you liked GER, I would strongly recommend to check out Grow Castle too. In fact, I would recommend it over GER, unless you are here for the theme.

Written by

Gamer, gaming industry wanderer, development and design enthusiast. Current WIP: TBD

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