Rise of Empires: ice and fire (aka. fire and war) is a mobile, pay to win, game developed by im30. I first came across this game, probably a few weeks ago, and have been playing it intensely since — I only spend about one doller to upload another avatar..
I wanted to find a casual mobile game that I could kill some time with in my spare time, but as it turns out, this game is not something casual players will be able to enjoy. The main problem is that you will constantly be under attack from stronger players — I currently have a level 16 castle, with about a million in power, and I am just about to upgrade to level 17 — my alliance has been under non-stop attack the entire weekend. Developers must realize that this sort of thing is going to push off players.
There is only a few useful ways to protect yourself, such as using an 8 hour, or 12 hour peace shield, which can be brought for points in the alliance store; the problem with that is, those are insanely expensive, and you need to activate them on strategically important times. You can not simply activate a peace shield and go to bed — you either need to constantly monitor your castle, or pay real money to be able to keep it up.
Using peace shields to stay safe
Often when you activate a peace shield while not under attack, it is going to be wasted. But, as your castle levels up and you want to protect your resources, it can still be worth it doing those key-moments while preparing those expensive upgrades.
Some lower level players seem put peace shields on before they go to bed, but this is just a waste, because peace shields are very expensive to come by, and it is really later you need them.
Instead, you should try to find a alliance to join, as this might offer some protection.
Nap 20 and KE
Some of the largest alliances in my province seem to make their own rules. Basically they agree on not attacking the top 20 alliances, which is known as NAP (No Attack Pact), but then they break this whenever they want and call it "Kill Event" (KE).
I would recommend not playing by those rules, since it does not seem to be part of the game.
It would be nice with ways to ally with other alliances, and enter into non-aggression pacts; but as it is currently, this is not possible, so there is no way to enforce these rules effectively.
The kill event, as far as I can tell, is just an excuse for top players to quickly plunder resources from lower level players, which they need for ever more expensive upgrades.
Pay to win
I will describe Rise of Empires as a pay to win game, because the possibility to spend real money to buy gems and power-ups provide players with huge, unfair, advantages. Typically it allows a player to complete their building upgrades almost instantly, which again creates a very large gab between players who "cheat" and those who are just trying to play the game normally.
Ironically, the company behind the game is prohibiting account sharing and resource selling activities, arguing it ruins the gameplay; I often get these disturbing spam mails telling me that buying or selling resources is prohibited. This makes me rather angry, because they do it themselves! Of course, the only reason they want to prevent players from doing it, is so that they can milk their own cow — they do not care about the gameplay, because then they would not have made a pay to win type of game.
One of the goals with the in-game frustrations and limitations, of course, is to force people to spend real money to buy peace shields, which comes at 500 gems for 8 hour shields, or 1.000 gems for 24 hour shields. Gems can be brought in packages, and earned by tediously long "gathering" missions on the world map.
Low-level players do not only have to constantly deal with resource plundering, they also have to deal with loosing their units and power; to minimize fallen units it is important to keep medical tents sufficiently upgraded, but healing units is still insanely expensive, and can really stunt your progress in the game. There is just no way to escape.
A continued attack can almost completely halt your progress in the game. The only way out is to draw out your credit card and pay for some peace shields or teleports — if you are lucky, you will not be consistently bullied, and you will have a sufficiently large stack of shields and teleports saved for emergencies.
Finally, another point of criticism is in-game ads. Sometimes you will be offered to earn gems or double your rewards by watching an ad, and this is just incredibly annoying.
Teleportation ruins the game
Another aspect of the game is the possibility of teleporting your entire castle to another spot on the world map. The problem with teleports is that they are expensive, and they are heavily abused by the top players to bully lower level players. A single high-level player can wipe out an alliance of low levels, no problem. Rallying to try and defeat him is pointless, because his friends will just come around and help him — as I have attempted with my alliance a few times.
In fact, if you are not a top level player, you are just "cattle" to be milked for resources to higher level players. The higher your castle level, the more resources is needed for upgrading your castle further. A castle upgrade can costs millions of resources, and so can other buildings, and, unfortunately, easiest way to obtain resources is to attack other players.
A single teleport costs 2000 gems, or you can buy them in the alliance store for 400.000 points. You can be stuck for days in the dame location, just grinding to afford another teleport, if you do not want to buy one with real money.
We can also get teleports by slowly grinding, but it seems they are mainly intended for players that buy gems with real money — the rest mainly use them to escape and defend the little they got.
The concept of alliances is fairly well done, and offers huge benefits for players. For example, players have the ability to complete research that benefits the entire alliance; this can be many different aspects, such as protecting resources when under attack, or even improving gathering speed on the world map.
Alliance research is advanced by individual members donating resources or gems. The amount of resources each individual member can donate is limited. There is basically a timer on, and the number of times you can donate slowly recovers.
Rise of Empires offers some limited fun, and is very well done graphically; but this is only in order to lure people into spending money on what is basically pixels. The game does not warn enough about this when you sign up.
I do not mind buying a game once, but, this idea of paying to win is just ruining the fun. I miss the times when you would just buy a game once, and then own it. No disrupting ads, and no in-game purchases.
Pay to win ruins the game for everyone, including those who do the buying — it is hard for people to control their urge to buy gems in a tight moment of the game, in order to quickly advance their castles.
The unfortunate fact is, to many players, it will be extremely tempting to draw out a credit card when they come under attack consistently for several days — sometimes even less will do it. It is so obvious when it happens, because you will notice their power or castle level go up a few levels very quickly in just a few minutes.
Later on in the game, upgrades will be very slow. Not just the upgrades themselves, but also preparing for them and gathering enough resources!
In conclusion, you can pay this game without paying, but it is probably not going to be enjoyable. The fact that it is possible to pay money for in-game advancements ruins an otherwise comprehensive multiplayer game for mobile.