Pocket Kingdom: Own the World
Trying to own the world? Then look no further than this MMO game. Actually, MMORPG. Wait... MMMGORPG. On N-Gage. BRB.
Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games are digital crack, just like our cell phones. But did you ever think we would hear the two mentioned in the same sentence? Well, for the first time, publisher Sega has put the two unlikely bedfellows together in one entertainment experience for the N-Gage in the cleverly titled Pocket Kingdom: Own the World. There was no way I could pass up the opportunity to see if it was possible to translate this popular genre to such a compacted platform.
Technically, Pocket Kingdom is an MMMGORPG (Massive Multiplayer Mobile Global Online Role Paying Game), but don't let the long acronym fool you. This is a very simple game custom-made for the micromanaging freaks around the world, but with the built-in capacity for the complexity that keeps MMOGers logging in day after day.
First, I have to mention the concept behind Pocket Kingdom since the story is one of the more unique aspects of this game. Breaking the fabled fourth wall, "The Pocket Kingdom" is a game with in a game, taking place in the fantasy world of Ulgress. The kids in Ulgress have apparently been playing this game for quite some time, and the top ranked player had his account banned due to griefing. This left one lucky earthling, maybe even me, to "own the world."
Pocket Kingdom goes the extra mile to engulf you in its storyline by almost making fun of itself, using l33t speak, the uber-secret language of gamers. For those of us without omgwtflol skills, you'll easily decipher recurring lines for the NPCs such as "Pimping ain't easy but it's necessary."
The gameplay is pretty basic: you enter your castle where you will buy your units with loot, assemble them into groups of four, construct a few weapons and some armor in the lab, send your men to scout the territory, then attack and loot NPC Castles. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. As with any MMO the buying and selling occupies a large part of your time, even allowing me to participate in a world auction buying items from players globally once I had earned the right to join other players online.
After I cleared the first four levels of the single player mode I won my "Online Crest" and was finally allowed to log in to N-Gage Arena and loot some real castles. I admit I was pwned quite a few times before I finally got the hang of the live battles, but pretty soon I was ready to show off my scores on the World Leaderboard. w00t!
Now while the N-Gage has a few obvious limitations, it also garnishes some very unique strengths. Specifically, if you have a GPRS plan with your cell phone carrier you have the potential to be constantly connected. This opens up an entire new form of game play, not only to the N-Gage but to mobile gaming as a whole. If I want to battle my friend in Finland, I can.
But the limitation of real-time online mobile competition is obviously the speed at which the data can travel. This means the battle system is turn-based. I can spend hours setting up my troops, ranking them, experimenting with strategies, but when you go into battle you are powerless. You can't even "run" (which would have been a nice option in the single player mode). Given the other innovations in the game, I was okay with this. Actually it works quite well for a game I found myself playing while walking down the streets. When I would bump into someone, I could look up, tell them to watch where they were going, then return to my game without missing a beat.
However, there are a few things about this process that can be frustrating. For example, the unnecessarily grueling process behind ranking up a unit, or selling multiple quantities of the same item. If a unit is considered "out" in a battle, they are removed from your party and placed in the hospital. After spending a percentage of your battle winnings to heal them, I had to go back and reinsert them into my party. This simple design flaw was enough to make me put down the game several times. Actually it was enough to throw my phone across the room. Add to that the tedious menu system and the high failure rate when combining expensive elements and it can be annoying.
Like this title or hate it, Pocket Kingdom is an important landmark in mobile gaming that deserves to be played. One of my pet peeves is when handheld gaming tries to be miniature console gaming, but this title avoids trying to do that, instead successfully doing something different. While certain flaws make the game extremely frustrating at times, I still found myself picking it back up. You can be sure I will still be trying to "own the world" long after this article is published.
What's Hot: Innovative and a handheld gaming landmark.
What's Not: Some of the more tedious procedures. And where's the ability to run?!