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.