A few days ago, developer Lakoo released a new iOS MMORPG into the App Store called Empire Online [Free]. Empire Online claims to be the biggest iPhone MMORPG with over 5 million users across Asia and Australia, and it is now available to US players. It's free to download and play, with an IAP currency system. There are four races and five classes to create your character from, with a deep skill system to learn as well as thousands of different items and equipment to collect. What is cool about the equipment in Empire Online is that it affects the look of your avatar, giving you a staggering amount of personalization to set yourself apart from the rest of the players online.

Visually, Empire Online employs an overhead perspective and pixel art style reminiscent of some classic 16-bit RPGs. Combat is turn-based and can have up to 20 combatants in a single battle. You can battle in real-time against other players in single PvP matches or team battles with up to 5 players on each team. Another interesting aspect is creating your own Empire where you can recruit members and battle to take control of territories and build your own cities as you expand your Empire's reach.

What I really like about Empire Online is the touch-friendly interface and ability to customize how you want to play. There are a number of different chat systems in the game that allow you to type out messages to all players, only those in your Empire, private one-on-one chats, and more. These text messages appear at the top portion of the screen, and all other online players' avatars are shown roaming around whatever world you happen to be in. These two elements can add a lot of clutter and confusion to the action on screen, especially when you're first starting out.

Luckily you are able to filter out which types of text messages appear, or turn them off altogether, and you can turn off the other player avatars as well. Shutting both of these off allowed me to focus on the early missions in the game without any distractions, and let me get a handle on how the game played. In this way, you can basically just play Empire Online as a solo game, leveling up your character and completing missions on your own. Likely there will be certain missions that require you to have a helping hand, but for the most part there seems to be a lot of gameplay available for those who aren't keen on interacting with the outside world.

I've enjoyed my fair share of RPGs over the years, but I've never gotten into the whole MMO thing. Partly because I've seen how they can overtake my friends' lives, but also partly because they can be intimidating to a newbie. Empire Online is the first one I've tried that I actually felt I could get the hang of, and I've been having a lot of fun with it so far. While I can't really speak to whether it will be satisfying to hardcore MMO players or not, it's definitely friendly to first-time players or those who are constantly on the go. Player discussion in our forums has been positive towards the gameplay itself, but critical towards the implementation of the IAP. At any rate, it's free to download and try out, so there's no reason not to check out Empire Online if you're in the market for a new MMORPG.

  • Anonymous

    When will you guys consider reviewing more Freemium games in-depth, including an in-depth evaluation of the IAPs. For example, I would like to know if I have to spend at least a minimum of $20+ just to continue playing on some dungeon (Pocket Legends as an example). What about this game?

  • Bluehomeanimal

    This MMO has been in the appstore for over a month BUT was in chinese. Many people have complained about their itunes account being HACKED, where money has been withdrawn from their accounts without them knowing, Thing is, they say they didn't even download the app (it was in chinese) and still money was withdrawn. Is this gonna happen with this version????????

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2WNPMLERBS7JMXEQWNS3PIRHZM Playbbg

    MMORPG is great, but iPhone MMORPG may not work well due to its small interface. basically I want to play on my pc. I prefer to play games on http://www.ign.com http://www.mmogamesite.com, http://www.gamespot.com

  • DualFever

    Playbbg,
    I agree although, i have found this game has the interface very well done. They need different channels for Korean and English speaking though. Everything you'd expect to find in a pc MMo is here. So far its FREE and seems like you can play the whole game for free.

  • The Truth

    another korean grindfest scam. have fun pumping money into worthless items. lol.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2WNPMLERBS7JMXEQWNS3PIRHZM Playbbg

      It is from Chinese, not Korea

  • Grandpow

    People are so silly, it is not korean it is CHINESE. Also this game is fantastic, i do miss the beta though when the World was empty and there was no lag, but i'm sure they will make more servers. GREAT GAME, many many MMO element implemented, making it a great MMO for the iphone iOS.

    -Grandpow (featured on this apps page)

  • ramakrishna

    While I can't really speak to whether it will be satisfying to hardcore MMO players or not, it's definitely friendly to first-time players or those who are constantly on the go.

    http://www.dealks365.us

  • Greendino123

    This game is awesome now they have PETS who wouldn't want a maid or a sphinx as a pet.