Pillage The Village is the spiritual successor and prequel to Defend Your Castle, one of THE original web-game classics from back when there were only so many good web-games on the whole Internet. One might say it's the Super Mario Bros. of Flash games, but it was certainly the Super Mario Bros. of then-burgeoning XGen Studios, one of the first companies to dive into the Flash scene with gusto and not a look back. Now, years later, XGen is back with Pillage The Village, a smashmortion of click-tastic mayhem.
In contrast with its predecessor, the game indicates how far browser-based games have come over the course of this decade. The graphics of Defend Your Castle were simplistic, single-shade color fields populated by stick figures, while Pillage the Village offers lushly illustrated backgrounds and stylized character designs. The funny thing is, you're more reticent to, you know, commit genocide against a race of human-like characters than you are against generic stick-men, but you get over it once you start collecting cash from their corpses. This leads into a deeper macro-game of upgrading your magic and abilities as you face greater numbers and challenges. You even get to choose between a hilarious moral dichotomy, the "good" path involves spells like euthanasia (killing them softly) and bending time, while evil is more directly aggressive, involving anvils and power gauntlets. Little details, like the windmills and the sheep, the roll of the thrown hut, the scaling of the globe sprite between saving, the fact that there is a good save system (rare for a browser-based game), or the voice-acting in the intro add up to a holistically charming experience.
Despite its polish and solid gameplay, the game does suffer from some control issues; however, since this review was first published, XGen Studios has informed us that many of the issues that made the game frustrating to play upon its released have now been addressed.
XGen founder Skye Boyes provides the writing and design of the game and delivers a certain zany panache in his descriptions of why euthanizing people is moral. The variation in the spells and villagers only ripens the further along you get, keeping you pegged for the long haul. This may not be the Super Mario Bros. 3 to Defend Your Castle's franchise original, but its definitely better than Mario 2.