If the term ‘World of Warcraft for your iPhone’ doesn’t excite you, then you can probably pass on Order & Chaos. On the other hand, if you’re intrigued by the prospects of sinking hours of your time into a huge fantasy world on your iPhone or iPad as well as you computer then you’re about to be ecstatic.
Order & Chaos [$6.99, App Store] is the latest in a long line of products from portable gaming company Gameloft that is basically a thinly veiled clone of a popular title on another platform. They’ve released clones of Halo, Starcraft and many others before, just not under those names.
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From the moment you launch Order you’ll be blown away by the similarities to Blizzards massive MMO juggernaut. The menu’s have the same look and feel, the world is rendered in the same cell-shaded cartoon look, heck, even the fonts of the character names are identical to WoW. You have four races to choose from, Human and Elf on the Order side, Orcs and Undead on the Chaos side. Sound familiar?
Order is a subscription based MMO, just like Wow and Gameloft are introducing it with a free three-month window for new players. After that it’s $0.99 a month, $1.99 for 3 months or $2.99 for 6 months.
Once you spin out a character using the very basic character creation tool you’re dropped into the world at one of a few initial spots you can choose from. From then on there’s a couple levels of tutorial that get you going with the basics. If you’ve ever played any MMO’s in the past you’ll be familiar with the gameplay.
You move using a virtual joystick that conveniently places itself wherever you drop your thumb. Actions such as accepting quests or activating spells are handled by taps from your other hand. Attacking is a matter of selecting a target and activating a spell or ability by tapping on the icon that’s presented in a rotating ability wheel in the bottom corner.
For the most part this works fine although once you move beyond the beginning levels it’s much to cramped to accommodate enough of the spells that you gather at once. A bar across the bottom that makes more actions available at once would be a nice touch, although that definitely wouldn’t make it less like WoW.
You also get a familiar chat window at the bottom of the screen although the system has been crafted specifically for the touch interface. When you launch the game you’re presented with a barrage of world chat but you can cut out the global channel by expanding the options and holding down on any channel to block it from appearing in your chat window, this calms things down considerably.
Although the look and feel of the game is a near exact duplicate of WoW, the storylines and writing aren’t nearly as well thought out. They’re mostly generic and as of the first 10 levels that I’ve played through at least, aren’t pointing towards there being an incredibly deep story for you to explore.
Order & Chaos also takes offers the purchase of two in-game currencies, Runes and Gold, right up front. This eliminates the gold farming seen in games like WoW but does pretty much kill the ‘leveling means time’ curve that many MMO’s stress the importance of. Basically if you have the real-world money to waste you can level faster and boost your characters stats quicker by purchasing better gear. As unfair as this sounds at first, I actually think it’s a fine idea.
This way the people that are obsessed with power leveling can fill Gameloft’s pockets and everyone else can just play the game at their own pace. This is coming from the perspective of someone who plays MMO’s to enjoy the content and not to ‘be the best’ so this may bother you more. If you love to grind away at MMO’s to level up quicker than anyone else, but don’t have a lot of additional income, then you may hate this concept.
The environments and enemies in the game, at least through the first few levels, seem fairly varied. Monsters, animals and traditional creatures like goblins are all represented and the higher levels seem to promise more of the same. I obviously can’t evaluate the high-level gameplay yet but as of now I’m having a fine time enjoying the exploration of the low level areas.
Graphically the game is no masterpiece. The poly counts are very low to keep things at a decent framerate and the pop-in distance is extremely short and sometimes buildings, monsters and whole towns appear right at your feet as the engine renders them. These choices were likely made to keep the game moving at a decent clip, which it does both on the iPhone and iPad. Currently it only plays over WiFi but a 3G version would probably run just fine with these limitations in place and a decent connection.
For those of you interested there is a guild system in place for organizing and administering groups of players. There are already half a dozen major ones on the US servers where I play. If you’re interested I’ve created a guild for TNW on the US servers. It’s called, ever so imaginatively, TNW. I have to warn you that I may not be very active in the operation of the guild as I’m normally quite busy and I’m just a casual player.
It also bears mentioning that you’ll want to take a close look at the terms and conditions that you agree to when you open up Order & Chaos for the first time. Some reviewers have noted that in section XIII of the TOS there is a clause that allows Order to monitor your devices RAM for mods or hacks that are running in the background. This is pretty standard behavior on a desktop machine and Blizzard actually does this themselves with WoW, but if you’re freaked out by this then take note.
It will take me a while to develop a final opinion of the game as I level up through the ranks and it’s still a mystery to me how Gameloft keeps getting away with these clones. But, until Blizzard releases an official version of WoW for the iOS platform, Order & Chaos is the best way to get your grinding fix.