Order and Chaos Online: WoW meets iOS

Ever since the iPhone — and more specifically the App Store — was released, gamers around the globe have been praying for a way to be able to play World of Warcraft on their iPhones or iPod Touches. The trouble with that idea is that WoW is a PC game, so it makes use of pretty much every button on the keyboard, a two or more button mouse and generally isn’t played on a three-and-a-half inch display. Imagine trying to raid, chat and do whatever else WoW players do on something that easily fits in your pocket.

So, Gameloft came up with the next best thing. It isn’t actually WoW, but it is a native, full 3-D, MMOPRG experience on iOS, that clearly and obviously takes almost every aspect of its style from Blizzard’s immensely and almost dangerously addictive PC title. And you know what? They did a really good job. It’s called Order & Chaos, and let’s get into it after the jump.

Getting Started

After downloading and launching the fairly mammoth sized app (just under 600MB), you’re greeted with your typical fantasy game login screen, accompanied by your typical fantasy game orchestral soundtrack. It’s all very authentic, and a brilliant first impression, but don’t go expecting anything that verges anywhere near the realms of originality.

The login screen fits the genre well.

The login screen fits the genre well.

Creating an account temporarily chucks you into a totally different “Gameloft LIVE” menu, which seems very out of character — but hey, it’s just there for creating an account. I would have liked to have seen some kind of Game Center integration, but to be honest, you really won’t be spending any time here so it isn’t all that important.

Once that’s done, you’re on to the cool bit — creating a character. There are four races to choose from (human, elf, orc and yep, you guessed it, undead), and a handful of character classes to pick from too. You choose a name and gender, then you can change hair colour and a few other cosmetics. It’s pretty in depth for a mobile game, and it does build up the excitement quite well.

So with a strangely named fantasy character now at your disposal, the time comes to jump into the game world.

The loading screen when you login provides you with tips.

The loading screen when you login provides you with tips.

Gameplay

When it comes to playing the actual game, OaCO gives you exactly what you’d expect from an MMO. There are quests, PvP, guilds, auction houses, vast areas to free roam, other players to party up with, chat channels — the lot.

In case you don’t understand what you actually do in an MMO, it goes something like this: you are in a virtual game world inhabited by other real world players. You pick up quests to complete from AI controlled characters (called NPCs), your character gains XP for completing said quests, you level up, you purchase skills and gear with in-game currency earned through quests or selling things you own, you team up with other players and fight in “instances” to earn more gear, and a whole lot more. The general gist is, MMOs are pretty addictive, and a lot of fun to play with friends. OaCO mimics this trend brilliantly on iOS.

Environments are rich and you can become pretty immersed in the game.

Environments are rich and you can become pretty immersed in the game.

The music, the environments, the story, the characters — they all sort of form this awesome little bubble that you can lose yourself in for an hour or two. This really is a full-blown MMO — Gameloft isn’t joking. Oh, you will have to be connected to a Wi-Fi network to login though, which is something worth noting. It seems that potential lag is trying to be eliminated, and in an MMO, that’s understandable.

Controls

OaCO makes use of the all-so-popular virtual on-screen joypad, although it works a lot better than most other games that use it. Your left thumb can be placed anywhere on the left side on the screen and moved around to make your character run or strafe, and you drag your right thumb around to change the direction of the camera. Essentially, if you’ve ever played a first-person shooter on a console, the controls are like that.

Managing your spells, friends lists, character windows, bag, etc. is all managed through windows you simply tap to appear. The interface is truly touch-optimized, and considering that you don’t have a keyboard and mouse like you would with a traditional MMO, you can manage pretty well with just the onscreen buttons.

Unfortunately, the game suffers from the same thing that most other iOS games do: your fingers get in the way sometimes, which is especially apparent when trying to move around while attacking a mob, as you’ll often find yourself blocking your view of the enemy with your thumb and having to drag around on a different part on the screen.

Graphics

This game is the first MMO on the iOS platform to make use of full 3-D environments, and boy do they look great. I can’t fault Gameloft on this one. While you may find a very small number of other games on the App Store that have slightly richer visuals, bear in mind that this game is constantly rendering actions of other real players in the area, and other areas as you move towards them. There are no loading screens between areas, which is essential so as to not break the immersion of the game.

Just keep swimming... just keep swimming...

Just keep swimming... just keep swimming...

Pricing

The authenticity of this game as a true MMO even extends into its pricing — there is a subscription fee, however, it is incredibly affordable. You can pay $0.99 for a month, or $1.99 for three months — hardly breaking the bank there, and Gameloft do seem to be updating the game pretty regularly with new content and features.

The initial app download itself will run you $6.99, which I think is a very reasonable price. It may make people a little hesitant to just jump in and download the game straight away, but I really can’t argue with Gameloft. I believe the price they’re asking is totally worth it.

In-App Purchases

One area that I’m not sure if I approve of or not, is the inclusion of in-app purchases. Now, I’m not talking little in-app purchases to get a pointless pet run along side your character just to show off. You can pretty much buy yourself the best gear in the game for about $15, and save yourself weeks of gameplay.

This has already spurred a lot of controversy within the game’s community, and I can see why. MMOs are all about spending time to build up your character, and a lot of people take pride in finally getting that sword that’s super rare, and finally beating that quest that’s taken you fifty tries, just to get some epic armour. Having the option just to buy yourself success in the game completely defies the point of the genre — at least to most people, myself included.

Conclusion

I still can’t quite believe that a real, true, authentic MMO now exists for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Gameloft has nailed almost all aspects of the genre on the head, and are continuing to improve the game through regular updates.

Despite the unfair in-app purchases that will totally put some people off the game, and some minor niggles like not being able to play the game on 3G, Order and Chaos Online is a triumph. There is a pretty big community around the game already, so if you have been waiting for a proper MMO on your iPhone, you no longer need to. It’s here.


Summary

Order and Chaos Online delivers an incredible MMORPG to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Games like this are the reason Sony and Nintendo should be shaking in their boots.

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