The last few months have seen an explosion of online games hitting the iPhone. Developers are waking to the fact that in today's WiFi world and speedier mobile internet, online content delivery for the iPhone has finally entered the mainstream. Com2Us have tapped into the mother load of online genres, the behemoth (to pronounce) Massively Multiplayer Online RPG, through its release of IMO: The World of Magic [AppStore].
IMO adopts the controversial 'freemium' model, where games are released free to the public, but charge an in-app fee for premium services and items. Instead of just recommending you an app that you can try for yourself, this review should assist to shed light on what is actually available to premium users, and what free users may be missing out on.
Many would be surprised to learn that IMO is in fact a port of a 2006 release on older mobile devices in Korea. The in-game artwork is a give-away in this respect, not being as high-resolution as you would expect from a native iPhone app, but still sporting the vibrant colors and cute characters that the Korean game market is known for. Another apparent symptom of the port to iPhone is an ever-present stutter as the game world scrolls around the character, a factor that detracts from the fluidity of the game and lends it a sometimes lag-like quality.
This shouldn't detract people from enjoying The World of Magic though, as it also happens to be a surprisingly comprehensive MMO that is a heap of fun to play with friends. There are three unique characters to play; a warrior, mage and archer, each of which has a well-developed skill tree up to level 50. These characters can have their appearances customized to a small degree at creation, but to a much greater scale through the many different armor and weapon sets expected of an MMO. IMO also features a full-scale guild and party system, as well as PvP battlegrounds, challenging dungeons and an expansive, open world.
What is more astonishing is that all of the above is available completely gratis. Where your wallets do come into play though is through the auction system. In the middle of town are two traders, both of whom are inaccessible to 'free' players. On purchase of a 'Starter's Pack' for $2.99, the player is bestowed with a Premium Member Ticket. This ticket enables players to access the auction house system, as well as removing in-game AdMob ads that pop up on occasion and cause minor irritation. Prospective traders may also choose to dig further into the purchasable items, as they can have their trading slots expanded to 10 and then to 15 for $0.99 each.
To entice players to pay, the 'Starter's Pack' opts for the carrot rather than the stick. Together with the Premium Ticket, you are given a 7 slot bag (an otherwise expensive in-game item), a random Costume Hat (I got kitty ears!), and a slew of consumable items that cannot be purchased through the in-game currency (and cannot be found either, from what I can tell). Each of these consumables have special effects such as resurrecting on the spot, summoning friends, insuring against item breakage or -- strangely -- permitting you to shout to all regions. If you had to buy them on their own, they cost between $0.99 and $2.99 for between 3 and 10 items, making the Starter's Pack a bargain.
It really seems as though the Starter's Pack is enough for most to get by with, but in any case IMO is not as restrictive as other 'freemium' games. In fact, it has no inherent requirement to purchase anything at all-- so long as you are happy with the ads and aren't using the auction system. The consumable purchases are of questionable use, particularly as they are offered in rather paltry bundles. Whether they become more useful in the latter game is yet to be seen though, as IMO also features a steep levelling curve that appears to require a substantial amount of grinding for both gold and experience.
If you can get past the MMO grind-- a fact made easier by the regular PvP battlegrounds that are a real spectacle-- IMO has alot going for it in both its social features and its huge game world. It may prove inaccessible to those not willing to ask questions though, as the game documentation is currently a little sparse. Having said that, this is an enjoyable, practically-free title that is capable of consuming countless hours and have you still clamouring for more. Our readers are certainly responding well to IMO, with hundreds of impressions already streaming in to our forums. IMO: The World of Magic can be played over both WiFi and 3G internet.
App Store Link: IMO: The World of Magic, Free (With In-App DLC).