When you look at the resumés of the developers at C Prompt Games, you wouldn’t expect them to be making a turn-based 4x strategy game like Millennia. With the small team having been founded by and consisting largely of veterans from Ensemble Studios, you’d have anticipated a real time strategy in the vein of Age of Empires, but Millennia is something rather different. Leaning into systemic gameplay that allows millennia of history to unfold as you play, it’s built upon core pillars that explore how neighbouring cultures and events can impact upon one another in fascinating ways. Beyond, that is, just invading each other.
Millennia is a game set across 10,000 years of history, breaking this vast expanse of time and the growth of mankind as a whole into different ages. From the Stone Age to the Bronze Age, through to the Age of Kings and beyond, you’ll go through 20 ages in a playthrough, but they key thing here is that the path through each is not prescribed and history can deviate from what we read about in textbooks at school or (let’s face it) spelunking through Wikipedia.
As a new age dawns, this presents to you and every culture the opportunity to research different areas of technology, build new buildings and trade in new goods. Through the Age of Bronze, you could put religion first, foster discipline and government, or put production to the forefront with mining and shipbuilding. After a few of these research projects have been completed, you’ll have the opportunity to choose the next Age to progress to, which ordinarily would be the Age of Iron. However, by completing optional objectives, it could also lead to the Age of Heroes, or if you wage war on many other nations during this time, the Age of Blood.
This is a Crisis Age, a divergence to the darkest timeline for a period, until the flow of history can be restored by progressing through to a subsequent age, though more crises await, whether its the Age of Ignorance and a rise of anti-technology Luddites, or the Age of Plague
The thing is that you aren’t the only one who gets to determine what age comes next. Each nation is able to get to that decision point and trigger it for everyone, so while you might have awful sanitation through the Age of Kings, to the point that it locks out the other options at the end of your research path, you could hope that another faction outpaces you and triggers a different age instead. Then again, maybe you want a plague to sweep across the world?
This in and of itself is a fascinating idea and really interesting to see brought into the game, but it’s far from the only one that C Prompt are playing with as they look to feed more depth into every aspect of this 4X game.
Starting off as a single settlement, there’s some common ground with the Age of Wonders series in how this will grow to give you territory, expanding one hex at a time and adding more land for you to then tap into, with smaller towns settling within that tie into the city’s economy. As technology advances and new ages of buildings become available to you, your city’s sprawl will give the opportunity to create complex production lines. Trees can be used for construction, but what if they go instead to the saw pit and paper mill, allowing you to make books? Well, they can help to boost the religious side of your culture, or they can be fed into the administration. Through this you can steer the economy of your growing nation.
Eventually you’ll want to add more cities to your nation, sending out settlers to found somewhere, or trying to conquer a neighbour. Initially, they’ll start off as a vassal, building up over time without your input, but still giving you kickbacks and the opportunity to invest to increase their prosperity. Eventually, you’ll have the chance to integrate them.
Helping to join them up and claim territory before your neighbours spread themselves too far are outposts founded by pioneer units. Not only do these stake a claim to some land, but they also make roads to connect up your cities, give territorial healing bonuses, and can eventually by consumed by a city’s limits and turned into a fully-fledged town.
The tech trees of the Ages are not the only way that your culture will advance, though. The six Domains of Government, Exploration, Warfare, Engineering, Diplomacy and Arts are fed by your actions in the game, earning points in the specific categories for performing various activities. You’ll then spend those on abilities and perks – for the military, this could net you the ability for a forced march, volunteers or improved reinforcements.
There’s also the National Spirit, a rare opportunity for you to decide on a defining characteristic for your nation, similar to Germany’s reputation for engineering, the Swiss for banking, and the like. You’ll choose a spirit that will be unique to you during that campaign, differentiating yourself from other cultures as they evolve separately. With a spirit of wild hunting, your archers can be taken away from military duty and sent to hunt on an animal resource, boosting food production and opening further options for things like elephant tracking down a spirit progression tree.
Of course, you will want archers in your armies, and here Millennia provides and intriguing blend of depth and simplicity. Armies are relatively constrained in number, ensuring you can’t just roll across the world with a doom stack, but when you do get stuck into combat, it plays out across three short rounds that have a bit of an Advance Wars vibe to them. You set out some rules of engagement, such as archers attacking first, and then have a play-by-play of how battle panned out, so that you can potentially adjust your tactics in future battles.
Whatever path you end up following, and with the game’s timescale extending through the modern day and into the future, it all leads to a climactic Victory Age. This allows one nation to decide the terms of victory for all the others, giving everyone a simple choice of whether they try to race and beat them to that goal… or to try and tear them down before they can achieve it. There’s the potential here for some relatively early game victories as well, if you play your cards right.
There’s a lot of really interesting ideas coursing through Millennia, as C Prompt Games has found a unique way to break down history and the flow of human existence through the ages. We’ve had just a brief glimpse at how the game pulls this together, but I’m keen to play some more and (depending on if I’m in a bad mood), steer the world into crisis after crisis after crisis.