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Ensemble Online

Ensemble Online

Release Date:  01/04/2012
Publisher:  SemiFormal Studios
Developer:  SemiFormal Studios
Genre:  MMORTS

Developed by indie SemiFormal Studios, Ensemble Online is a browser-based open world real-time MMO strategy game with elements of RPG and simulations.


MMO zombies like me has long been used to being a muppet, waiting for tutorials to feed us with pieces of the game and doing absentmindedly what the quests asks by repetitively clicking “Next” and auto-navigation. Ensemble Online is about to change that.

The game is set in the inhabited mountainous area near the overpopulated city called Cidona, whose people are setting out into the unexplored territory in search of new shelters. Spawned in the middle of the deserted, you will find yourself surrounded by ferocious beasts, undeveloped mines, and fenceless vast land, where you can hunt monsters to loot drops, gather resources to construct buildings or just travel further into the depth as a frontier. Mob hunting is mediocre. With full skill trees of archer, mage and warrior, you just unlock the wanted spells and hit the shortcuts to cast. Building and the strategy behind it is definitely the highlight of the game.

Traditional browser-based MMORTS like Evony and Grepolis provides you a piece of land to build cities, gather resources and train armies, but by no means can you step your foot on your allies’ cities to see the real picture; Facebook counterparts do a better job by integrating the Visiting Neighbor features but still you develop cities separately on your own. Ensemble Online provide you another option – allying with your fellow players to build together a town consisting of farms and windmill for resources and tower for defense. Any unallied player will be attacked when approaching your or your alliance’s towers. This brings the strategy, PvP and player interaction to a whole new level.

Much as I like the above innovative RTS idea, I still have a few concerns. Once the game hit open beta with new players swarming in, will they stack onto each other leaving the relatively small newbie zone a disaster? As the population grows, will it take late comers hours of walking to look for an empty plot to build their towns on? Will the system turn down unfinished buildings or inactive players’ towns like most MMORTS did?

Moreover, open world as it is, the game still needs to instruct the novices on some basics via tutorial, Help system, or at least a FAQ list they can resort to when running into trouble. Unfortunately, we have none in alpha beta test. I, to be honest, was at a loss after creating my character, without a slightest idea of what to do next, who to talk with or even how to move (Years of gaming experience works against me because the game requires right click to move.). To my relief, the developer is aware of the problems and hopefully they will crack them one by one in the future updates to come.

In all, Ensemble Online shows us the creativity and innovation we’ve been expecting for long but still needs improving and fine-toning in graphics, parameters and UI etc.

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