Grepolis: Death of a World

Michael O. Varhola

Odysseus Trismegistus stood on a rocky headland and gazed out over a shipwrecked-choked sea and, on the dozen-or-so islands he could see from his vantage point, the ruins of sacked and abandoned cities and the scattered remnants of shattered armies. He could see his commander, Essyx, standing nearby and knew that they were experiencing the final moments of a dying world. For untold years they had battled together across the 10,000 islands of the strange and sprawling archipelago known as Marathon, first as part of the valiant Phoenix alliance and then as within the larger but somewhat disorganized Aeterna Victoriae league.

Even at this moment, as the blood-red sun slipped toward the western horizon, their warships coursed toward enemy ports, their decimated formations surged through the breached walls of conquered cities, their troops defended their own besieged communities. Then, even as the warlord was shifting his gaze toward another theater of the great war, everything blinked out and the world and all it contained abruptly ceased to exist.

Nearly two years ago, on June 13, 2014, I saw a television ad for Grepolis, a massively multiplayer online strategy game set in worlds inspired by the mythology, culture, and wars of ancient Greece, and decided to give it a try. Almost every day since then, with the exception of brief periods when I availed myself of the limited amount of vacation mode available to players, I have logged on and played it to some extent. When I needed to expand my own empire through colonization or conquest I needed to put somewhat more time into it, as I did when I needed to defend my own domain against attackers (something especially necessary on weekends, when many people were online and playing).

About a month ago, when I logged onto the game a notice popped up saying that our world would end in 28 days, and it remained there and ticked downward every day. When it reached "0 Days Left" the world did not end and, even as some people stopped playing, others launched last ditch attacks, burning through resources they presumed they would not need much longer. A sense of melancholy descended over the world as, more than 24 hours after it was supposed to ended, commanders continued to go through the motions of attack and defense. I used up all the items in my inventory and launched all my forces in attacks, somewhat pointlessly and a little too late to be completely effective, the ennui that comes with doing things at the end of the world. I was, nonetheless, awarded "Great Power of the Day" for conquering the most cities on the final day of the game.

Then, suddenly, at 1:17 a.m. EST, Marathon suddenly ceased to exist and anyone in it was jarringly bounced back into the real world. Some of my alliance mates had mentioned that there would be some sort of closing credits, and I had hoped we might each receive an email message or report summarizing what we had accomplished, but there was nothing. It was just gone.

During that last month of the world, I resolved to play things out to the very end. When it ended, I had 28 cities. I gave all my cities classical-sounding names initially — e.g., Herculanium, Kos City, Nisyros, Tartarus Cove — but, as my domain grew larger and I had less relative time to maintain it, I often just kept those of captured cities. At the end I even had one labeled by default simply as "Odysseus Trismegistus's City." I was culture level 42, ranking me 126 at the end, out of thousands who at least started the game, with 323,255 culture points. I was battle rank 46, with 587,520 Battle Points.

I had long all 16 of the available heroes and had raised nine of them — Andromeda, Apheledes, Democritus, Hector, Heracles, Leonidas, Odysseus, Urephon, Zuretha — to maximum/20th level. My other heroes included Atalanta (level 18, who I probably should have maxed, as she became one of my most-used leaders), Chiron (level 16), Ferkyon (level 13), Helena (level 17), Jason (level 15), Orpheus (level 13), and Terylea (level 19).

When the end of our world was imminent, I decided to give up the game once it ceased to exist and not move on to another world and to instead devote to other games and my own writing and game development any time I would have put into Grepolis. When Essyx asked me if I would join my old comrades in a new world some months from now, however, I was moved and am now holding out the possibility that I may indeed return to fray beside them. And so thanks to all my friends and allies in Aeterna Victoriae, especially Essyx and DerekSK17! I have very much enjoyed gaming with and fighting beside all of you and look forward to the opportunity of possibly doing so again one day.