Sometimes, I play role playing video games for teens on my phone. They?re a complete waste of time, and worse, my phone is learning that I like them. I?ve seen ads for weeks for Game of Sultans, a game in which I believe you are a woman trying to rise through the ranks of an made up ancient country which could be anywhere in the Middle East. It looks dumb. But I admire persistence, and the game has probably spent at least $5 trying to convince me to play it. So ok: here I am, and I am ready.
What I believe the game will be: A combination of The Bachelor and Game of Thrones that will manage to be more racist than both. There will probably be a story component, but it will mostly be about trying to get me to buy pretty dresses for my avatar.
What I imagine the plot will be: I am a young woman who lives in a cottage whose parents have died; I am very poor. One day, a rich handsome older man who is not interested in me sexually and will be a handsome but sexless mentor throughout the game notices me on the street. He suggests that I come to the palace, where I am introduced to a world of palace intrigue.
What I think I will rate the game: There are about six thousand reviews of the game, and they are 4 stars. I do not think I will give Game of Sultans 4 stars, but I have an opportunity to change my mind.
I am not surprised to find out that all of the sultans are white. I am given the opportunity to pick from five sultans white male with different facial hair, which is disappointing because I thought for sure I would be a girl. I picked the one that reminded me most of Daario Naharis, though they are honestly interchangeable. My randomized sultan name is Joy Burt. I accept.
My father dies so Joy Burt might live.
My father, the Sultan, is dying. I ask him to please tell me he?s ok. The animation of this game is more sophisticated than I expected. I am upset by the face of the Dying Sultan, who blinks at me too realistically. It?s ok; he is dead almost immediately. The stage direction is written in the dialogue bubbles in parentheses. It?s a bold choice which I respect.
I?m greeted by my advisor, Piyale. I?m disappointed that this game seems to be about building a city, not about role playing game about romancing sultans. Either the ads were misleading or I am just remembering them wrong. Anyway, it seems like I will have to invent my own plot to keep things interesting, so I?ve decided Piyale is my lover. Sexual tension thrums under every instruction about how to upgrade my citadel. He looks almost exactly like me, which is hot in its own way I guess.
I have a second advisor, Hocas. He has a white beard so he?s presumably old, but he has the exact same muscular body build as every other character. He tells me I am low on janissaries and food. I don?t know what a janissary is, and I do not find out. Instead, I go to battle with an adversary named Manuel. I lose, and my advisers tell me I should get more Viziers. Hocas and Piyale are both Viziers, so I suspect they are more concerned about job security than helping me run my empire, which is apparently the Ottoman Empire. I power up Piyale and send him back into battle. He wins.
My viziers and my opponent, Manuel.
I realize this is one of those games where you just click and wait for things to happen. The design is busy and bad. I can?t tell what anything is. They took that game Kate Upton was selling at the Super Bowl a few years ago except they changed the graphic so it?s sultans. These are the kind of games that are supposed to give you dopamine rush after dopamine rush, rewarding you for staring at the screen for sixty seconds and then clicking on a button. Later, they make you wait longer, and you have to spend real money to hurry your wheat harvesting or whatever. This game is boring and bad, but I have made a commitment so I will continue.
Fortunately, there is at least one good thing ? Divination. I drink a cup of coffee and a beautiful woman in purple with lots of rings tells me my fortune. This is my jam. I thought I would be seeing more women in purple dresses. She sees a fish. ?The fish means you will discover a pool of wealth,? she says. I believe her.
Oh, and this is interesting. One of my mini-quests is to Challenge the Barbarian King. I do this by slapping him with my left and right hand and kicking him in the nuts. Who came up with this? Whoever it was, I thank them.
The fortune teller; kicking the Barbarian in the balls; a jester I met at a Masquerade.
Day One Review
Well, this game is not what I hoped. Every one of my predictions were hopelessly wrong. However, I need more grain before I can kick the Barbarian King in the groin again, and I can only drink coffee and have my fortune told once a day. I see that in the future I can marry off my heirs for my own gain, which is more my speed.
Day One Rating: 2 out of 5.
I have met a woman; her name is Canfeza. She didn?t recognize me as the sultan, but looking at her boobs and killer cheekbone contouring I do not believe her. It?s fine; I am in love and have finally defeated enough enemies to unlock the Masquerede. That is apparently where I hang out with hot chicks. Anyway, I immediately ask Canfeza to marry here. I can?t believe I am now married to Canfeza. Game of Sultans comes at you fast.
Canfeza moves from the Masquerade to the Harem. I have three vigors; I use them all on Canfeza. We go behind a curtain in what is euphemistically titled a ?Random Visit.?
Also inside the Masquerade are various people I meet randomly; most are hot chicks, but there are also talented men, none of whom are hot. I guess if I meet them enough times I can invite them up to my Harem. As always, the game has explained nothing to me. I wish I could chose to remain loyal to my dear Canfeza, but I suspect that I will be getting reward points by attracting different hot chicks. Sorry, feminism and monogamy. When you play the Game of Sultans, you creep or you die.
How I met Canfeza; a woman in a pink dress I wanted to marry but couldn?t.
Eventually, I have visited Canfeza enough for her to grant me an heir. The random name generator suggests I name him Garfield. I accept. It?s not as good a name as my own, Joy Burt, but hey, I?ll have other heirs. There?s only one me. I level Garfield up to level 2 by teaching him about the military. Can?t wait to see him grow up.
I visit Canfeza a few more times, because I am loyal but mostly because I can?t figure out how to earn another concubine. The other ones have really pretty dresses and equally extreme contouring. I would also be cool having a male concubine, but this game is pretty gender restrictive. Plus, presumably, all of my Viziers would get down if I asked them to. I now have eleven.
I have been at war with my enemy, Alexander. I think it?s implied that this is Alexander the Great based on the way he?s dressed, though I?m not good enough with dates to be sure that Alexander the Great intersected with the Ottoman Empire at all. Every time I defeat Alexander, he leaps to another world ? a desert, or a snowscape, or a different color field. I take over his six castles and then pass on to the next realm. It?s very Carmen Sandiego. Every time, my Viziers act like it?s a huge surprise that he managed to get away.
After my father the Sultan died, my advisor asked: Will I be a good sultan, or a great sultan? I guess he didn?t anticipate me being a bad sultan. So which am I? It?s hard to say. All I know is that I have raised Garfield from a baby to a Level 9 child, and if that?s not being a great sultan, then nobody will tell me what is. Again, this game has very few instructions.
My beloved child, Garfield, and my many Viziers.
Day 2 Review:
Either this game has trained my dopamine receivers against my will, or it?s more fun than I gave it credit for. It still finds ways to be a little more surprising than I expected, from continuing to let me kick the Barbarian in the balls while he taunts me, to letting each of my Viziers try to shoot rabbits in the head with a bow and arrow for some reason. It?s like a shiny, confusing slot machine where you spend no money and earn no money, and I can only smile my approval, despite myself.
Day 2 Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Just because it?s better doesn?t mean it?s good.
We?ve arrived at the part of the game where they make things harder to try and convince me to either spend more money or an unbelievable amount of time. Unfortunately for them, I have put a mental cap on this for three days. Well, I have a few goals: to raise my child Garfield to completion and marry him off, to get another concubine, and to punch the Barbarian in the nuts until he gives me some kind of prize. I don?t know whether the game will let me achieve those things, but we?ll find out.
First up, concubines. Unfortunately, my first trip to the Masquerade brings me nothing but a maniac named Hezarfen who is trying to jump from the High Tower on some kind of homemade Parasail. Good luck to him, I guess.
Good news on the Garfield front, though. I manage to promote him to Junior Prince and unlock the matchmaking tent. It?s manned by some kind of cool marriage cleric whose dress I like. ?Some people come in to your life just to teach you how to love,? Garfield tells me. And I do love my Garfield. I can?t wait to marry him off to the Greeks or somebody.
The maniac Hezarfen and Garfield getting married.
I?m able to set Garfield up; unfortunately, I won?t know who he?s marrying for another three days. ?Marriage requires a lot of love, but also a lot of time and patience,? says Garfield. He?s right; I?ve done a good job raising him. He has 466 attributes; I just which I knew what they were. His mother, my dear Canfeza, is still only a 7.
I check to make sure nobody has proposed to me. Nobody has.
Fortunately, Garfield?s done early! I must have misread things. Again, this game is very confusing. Garfield is marrying a pretty girl in a turquoise dress named Lynn. She has 483 attributes. Clearly Garfield is marrying up. Godspeed, my son. I suspect you will not be important to this game again but I will continue to love you.
I stupidly spent all my gold trying to advance my military when I should have been stockpiling it to earn extra chances to kick the Barbarian. I don?t think I?m going to kick him enough. He keeps taunting me, too, calling me ?weak? and ?pathetic.? Barbarians are such jerks, even when they stand there waiting for you to kick them, not kicking or attacking you in any way. Why are they like this? I guess I?ll never know.
Finally, I earn another wife! Her name is Cecilia. She is a beauty with a deeply passionate heart and smooth unblemished skin. I don?t know how I got her. I wasn?t visiting the Masquerade at all. She just showed up! I found out that when I was visiting the Masquerade, I was in disguise mingling among the commoners, so the women I met there loved me for me, not just for my Sultan?s wealth. Since Cecelia showed up when I wasn?t in disguise, I don?t think she loves me for me. And that?s fine. I didn?t bother to get to know her, either.
My bonus wife, Cecilia; the very boring gameplay; some people I was promised I might meet at the Masquerade, but never did.
Day 3 Review:
I guess I had fun, but I had so many buttons to click that gave me rewards that I didn?t really want that the appeal fell fast. All I wanted was love, and instead I kept getting books for my Viziers that I still don?t know how to use. I guess it?s like the Fortune Teller says: ?The horse means your dreams will come true.?
Day 3 Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
So this is where I leave Game of Sultans. Two wives, several children, one married, and still taunted by the Barbarian. Would I recommend this game? No. Will I keep playing it? Maybe. I haven?t deleted it off my phone yet ? I don?t need the memory.