iPad Version Preview
The allure of an iPad mobile version of any MMO is an obvious one. I’d love to be able to carry something like Torchlight with me when it finally goes into the MMO territory down the road. I don’t think many behind the back viewed third-person MMOs would work well, but the devices are perfectly suited to the top-down vantage of games like Diablo. It was with a great deal of excitement that I downloaded Conquer Online to my iPad 2 last week because of this. I’ve never played CO, but from screens and video it looked like a perfectly serviceable hack and slash grinder import. I mean that in the best way possible. But what I was confronted with instead was a nearly direct port of the PC version to the iPad, complete with a virtual mouse pointer, misplaced UI, and one of the longest most boring opening tours of any game.
The biggest problem with Conquer Online for the iPad isn’t anything to do with the gameplay itself. Granted, at its core, it’s still just an imported grinder, but I can get down with that on my iPad. I’ve not quite gotten to the point where I expect more than that from a mobile MMO. It’s only a matter of time before we all realize that a truly great MMORPG could be made on the iPad, but for now, I’m content with basic functions. No, what put me off immediately on CO was the UI. Ripped straight from the PC version, it essentially uses your touch as a mouse pointer. Everything else seems to be exactly the same, and therefore unwieldy.
I spent most of my time jumping incredible distances on the map, because I have no idea to get my guy to just walk anymore. Ordinarily, on the PC, you jump with a combination of key-presses like CTRL+click, but you can’t do that on the iPad, so I have no clue how I began jumping in the first place. On top of that, because of the relative screen size of the iPad compared to the zoom-level of the game (with no apparent way to zoom in), clicking on the small beginning monsters is a chore of epic proportions. And don’t even get me started on picking up items. These are little things that could have been rectified with features like a “nearby loot” option or an “attack nearest” button. But they’re simply not there, and from the very start I realized that Conquer Online is a quick port to the iPad when it should have been a more robust conversion.
The gameplay itself, isn’t too terrible, minus the controls and UI problems. I mean, there’s a wealth of quests, rewards, and lots of features to help you traverse the game world quickly and easily… but there’s one major flaw that will turn off a lot of people right from the start. Conquer’s tutorial is a lengthy, boring, and tedious series of “run her, talk to this person” quests that will span the first 10+ (yes, 10+) levels of the game. You will level from 1 to well in the double-digits merely by running around on auto-pilot “learning” the game’s systems. It’s boring, boring, boring.
One past this, you’re free to go a-killing, questing, loot-hunting, and so on. And here the game becomes a fun Diablo-clone. With a little more tender loving care, Conquer Online could be a really solid MMO alternative for people sick of the “Legends” series or Order & Chaos. It’s got a wealth of existing content to draw from, a solid PvP system that will remind folks of the PK-days of old, and some interesting lore if you’re willing to read the somewhat clunky translation. As it stands now, I can’t quite recommend Conquer Online for the iPad, and would only recommend the PC version of the game to folks looking for a very specific sort of MMO. I shouldn’t have to refer to a Game Guide on the official website just to be able to play your title on what’s supposed to be the world’s most intuitively interfaced device.
Stay tuned for Carolyn Koh’s full official review of Conquer Online for the iPad later this month. Perhaps she’ll have a better time with it than I did.