Ancient Empires is a series of fantasy turn-based strategy games developed by Macrospace for Java-enabled mobile phones. The first game was published by Macrospace on March 4, 2004, while the sequel was published by Sorrent on June 17, 2005.
The players take turns moving and attacking their units. Units can only be purchased in castles which must be claimed by a king (commander in the sequel). In the first game, the king must be present in the castle to purchase units. This restriction is removed in the sequel. Additionally, in multiplayer games, the victory condition in the first game is to kill the enemy king. In the sequel, commanders can be purchased after dying, and the victory condition has been changed to "capture all enemy castles". Damaged units can heal in castles or houses which have been captured by soldiers. Most units can only perform melee attacks, which require the unit to be adjacent to the target on one of the four sides. This results in a battle where both sides to damage to one another (the attacker first). Some units, like archers and catapults, can perform ranged attacks, which are one-sided.
The first game's story takes place in the Kingdom of Thorin, whose benevolent King Galamar has just been ousted by his brother Valadorn. Galamar, barely escaping with the remains of his Blue Legion, is constantly hounded by his brother's more numerous Red Legion. Galamar must rebuild his army and gather allies, including the Lizard King, the wizards of the Grey Tower, and the wyverns captured by the Red Legion. Finally, after defeating Valadorn, Galamar finds out that his brother has been under demonic Mind Control all this time. Cue Cliffhanger.
The second game's campaign starts immediately after the first one. The demon Saeth, revealed to be the one behind Valadorn's betrayal, invades the kingdom with a demonic army. In order to defend their land, the brothers split up and rush to fight off the demons. They discover that the demons appear to be focusing their efforts on stealing mystical crystals from ancient temples. After finally cornering Saeth, the brothers find out that the crystals are keys to activating a Lost Superweapon called Heaven's Fury. Working together, Galamar and Valadorn must defeat the demon and his army before he can use the weapon to destroy the kingdom.
The games contain examples of the following tropes:
- Anti-Air: Archers do additional damage towards the flying wyverns/dragons. Combined with their ranged attack and much cheaper cost, they serve as an effective countermeasure to what is otherwise the most powerful unit in the game.
- Arbitrary Minimum Range: Catapults have the longest range of any unit, but they can't attack units in the four squares immediately adjacent to them.
- Boring, but Practical:
- The basic Soldier, the very first unit in the game. In combat, it's weaker than almost everything else. However, being the cheapest unit (except for Skeletons, which are raised for free but require a grave) they can be produced in large numbers. They are also one of only two units that can capture buildings, essential for healing and gold production. The only other unit that can do so, the King/Commander, is much less expendable (especially in the first game where the king's death results in loss for their side).
- The Archer counts as well. The second unit, it has the same stats in combat as the Soldier with one crucial exception: a ranged attack. That might not seem like much, but it's one of only two ranged units in the game, and the other (the Catapult) has disadvantages like being slower and much more expensive. Ranged attacks are potent in this game because they can't be countered, not even by another ranged unit. Range also makes them extremely versatile: Archers can be used in raids as they can stay behind stronger units and attack from a position of safety, or used for base defense by placing them on buildings where they can each cover a small area around them. Moreover, they get a damage bonus against Wyverns/Dragons, making them an effective counter to what is otherwise the strongest unit. And as the second-cheapest unit, they can also be produced in large numbers.
- Character Level: Units gain experience as they fight and can level up several times, gaining increased stats. In the second game, some levels are accompanied by name changes. For example, the Elemental becomes a Sea Elemental, then an Aqueos, then a Neptunian.
- Cliffhanger: The first game ends just as the truth behind Valadorn's actions is revealed and a demonic invasion begins.
- Cosmetically Different Sides: All factions use the same exact units. The only differences are colors. The sequel mixes it up a little by having 4 types of commanders, but, besides having different names and different looks, they are identical. The sole exception is Saeth, who has higher stats than a normal commander.
- Dem Bones: Wizards (Sorceresses in the sequel) are able to bring back destroyed units (either friendly or enemy) as skeletons. They are fairly weak, but a savvy player can quickly amass a Skeleton army, especially since Skeletons don't count towards the unit cap. However, Skeletons are extremely vulnerable to wisps. Notably, Skeletons are always humanoid regardless of what unit they used to be, even if it was a gigantic Dragon.
- Dire Beast: The second game has Dire Wolves in place of Spiders. They're strong and fast and apparently have poisonous fangs, as their attack poisons the enemy.
- Elemental Embodiment: Elementals (specifically, water elementals) replace Lizards in the sequel. They have increased attack and defense in water and are not slowed down by it.
- Elemental RockPaperScissors: The undead Skeletons take increased damage from Wisps. This isn't a recommended tactic for dealing with Skeletons, though, as Skeletons are cheap Cannon Fodder while Wisps are expensive and more useful for buffing your units.
- Escort Mission: The sequel has several missions where you have to protect a Crystal. The Crystal can move but can't fight at all, and you lose if it's destroyed.
- Geo Effects: The type of terrain the unit is currently on determines the defense stat and how many movement points are expended. Some units are better in certain types of terrain than others.
- Giant Spider: The first game features giant Spiders with poisoned attacks. They can move fast through the woods. The sequel replaces them with Dire Wolves.
- Golem: Golems are the game's heavy troopers. They are tough and pack quite a punch. Interestingly, they look significantly different between the two games: the first game has humanoid golems while the second has spherical golems.
- <Hero> Must Survive: Played straight in the first game, where Kings can't be revived if they're killed and are needed to produce units. Averted in the sequel, where Commanders can be revived if killed (though at an escalating cost) and any allied castle can produce units even without a Commander on it.
- Immediate Sequel: The second game's campaign starts immediately after the end of the first one.
- Instant-Win Condition: Killing the enemy king in the first game counts as a win, even if the enemy still has a lot of units. The same goes for taking all enemy castles in the sequel.
- Lightning Bruiser:
- Spiders (Dire Wolves in the sequel) are stronger, faster, and tougher than Soldiers while also having a poisonous attack.
- Wyverns (Dragons in the sequel) take this even further. They have the highest attack and movement in the game (and the latter is enhanced by their flight, which lets them cross any terrain without being slowed) and their defense is second only to Golems.
- Lizard Folk: Recruitable in the first game. Story-wise, Galamar convinces the Lizard King to join his quest to retake the throne of Thorin. Lizards are more mobile and have better defense in water. They are replaced by elementals in the sequel.
- Lost Superweapon: Heaven's Fury, an ancient weapon that Saeth reactivates in the final mission of the second game and uses to periodically attack your forces.
- Mighty Glacier:
- Golems aren't any faster than most units, but they are strong and the most durable unit in the game.
- Catapults are an atypical example. They have a very powerful attack, above-average defence and are the slowest unit, but they also can't attack units right next to them, effectively making them closer to Glass Cannons as they can be killed quickly.
- Mind Control: Valadorn turns out to have been under Saeth's control throughout the first game. In fact, he's an ally and a playable character in the sequel, hoping to pay the demon back for forcing him to betray his own brother.
- Necromancer: Wizards (and Sorceresses, their replacement in the sequel). They can attack by throwing magic at the enemy, but this isn't their primary purpose (their attack is weaker than a Soldier's despite being more expensive). If they are next to a gravestone (a structure produced when a unit dies) they can raise a Skeleton from it, consuming the gravestone in the process.
- No Experience Points for Medic: A problem for Wisps. Their main purpose is to stay in the back and boost your attacking units. Sending them to attack is a bad idea as they have the lowest attack of any unit and are relatively expensive, yet combat is the only way to level up units.
- Our Dragons Are Different: The first game features Wyverns as flying fire-breathing units. The sequel has Dragons instead. They are virtually identical in function, being the most powerful and most expensive unit. Due to their flight, they are not slowed down by any terrain (but still benefit from its defensive bonuses).
- Poisonous Person: Spiders (Dire Wolves in the sequel) poison enemies they attack. The "poisoned" state lasts for several turns, during which the unit's stats are decreased.
- Status Buff: Wisps boost the attack stat of nearby allied units.
- This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Lizards and Elementals are a literal example. Though great in water, and essential for maps with a lot of water, on land they're no stronger than Soldiers despite being twice as expensive.
- Universal Poison: The poison of Spiders and Dire Wolves works on everything, even the undead Skeletons and spiritual Wisps.