Owning an iPad is like being part of a special club. We, the special few, poke and prod at our Apple-laden laps, grinning with a the kind of smugness only an "i" product may achieve. We raise our eyebrows at passersby, uttering a wordless "look at what I have" whilst also sharing a sacred bond between other "Padders". Not a day goes by when I don't end a conversation by covertly mentioning my little white device, nor will I scarcely give up the chance to say "well, on my iPad the other day..." it just seems so right, so good, and such an achievement. I have an iPad - and therefore I am better than you. Doesn't it feel nice? Owning one of the world's most pointless pieces of technology isn't easy however. And with an App Store that continues to threaten the health of my bank balance, one title has managed to capture my eye and send my fingers into prolonged swiping sessions: Order & Chaos is an exclusive MMO designed for your executive piece of hardware, and by damn, if they haven't just made the iPad that little more smug.
Developer Gameloft specializes in high-quality, iOS knock-offs. While this can be viewed as a bad thing, the superiority of design exhibited within their applications makes you forget that you are playing a clone. Order & Chaos unsurprisingly is the studio's take on the online behemoth World of Warcraft. From the slightly cutesy art-design, right down to the human and orc races, this one will well and truly send you back towards Azeroth, with little else creatively on show.
This isn't to say however, that this MMO is drab or dull looking. Order & Chaos manages to sparkle with Retina Display charm, and oozes the sort of graphical styling which will give any Apple enthusiast an iErection. Taken on a purely visual level, there is a lot to boast about here, but because of its derivative nature, and absolute lack of originality, you can't help but see a missed opportunity linger around the would-be Ewelynn Forest settings. Fantasy is fantasy, surely it isn't hard to come up with your own world minus orcs and humans?
Again, as in the above paragraph, we come back to the bugbear that haunts Order & Chaos - rather than developing an experience that is original, creative, and well suited to the iPad, Gameloft wallows in the decisions of Blizzard, rather than taking any direction themselves. The experience found within this app stings heavily of WoW, with questing forming the main core, and likewise crafting, shops, and talent trees also following suit.
If you can look past the shameless copy-and-paste mechanics however, you will see that the developer's have at least managed to fit the ensemble around the iPad with relative success. Control is managed by a virtual thumb-stick on the left side of the screen, while the camera can be manipulated by gesturing to whichever angle you wish. The UI also manages to be clean and simple, whilst also offering ease-of-access, and little in the way of annoyance. Tapping an enemy will target, and scrolling through the wheel of abilities will have you thunder-clapping until your heart is content.
Of course if you have played any MMORPG in the past decade, Order & Chaos will be a familiar tale - quest grind, craft grind, and later raiding will form the majority of your experience. With 4 races, and 4 classes (tank, DPS, Heal, Mage) it is nothing new but looking at things from the perspective from the platform it is on, the title is an impressive feat in what can be done with the iOS - but those weary veterans will find little amusement beyond the initial whimsy of having a cookie-cutter online game on the iPad.
For all of those smug Apple device owners out there, Order & Chaos is an impressive feat in technology. Wi-Fi connectivity is essential, but once you are connected the experience flows with ease, with very little in the way of lag or even frame rate issues. The innovation here is the excellence in which Gameloft has managed to port over such a (I would imagine) complex type of game. As mentioned, the controls are comfortable, and the tap interface shows true potential, which shows real future potential for the iPad as a future platform for the genre.
Aside from the general workings of the title however, innovation here is relatively thin on the ground. The mechanics are begged, stolen, and borrowed from likewise titles, and there is little here that is entirely "new". You have seen it all before, but in reality, the developer's aren't proclaiming to have reinvented the wheel - rather just fitted it onto a smug persons lap, between the times they aren't licking the screen and whispering sweet nothings into the microphone slot.
Coming from App developer Gameloft, it is expected that Order & Chaos will bear the same mark of polished, and innovative design. This iPad MMO is polished, refined, and performs well, even if there are one or two minor discretions in terms of content. The game is suited well to the device, in addition to boasting a large number of hours in which to indulge your fingers - it isn't Rift, nor Lord of the Rings Online, but for a relatively young game, it is as polished as you may expect.
Order & Chaos like most MMOs offers high-end content in the form of grouping. Certain quests/areas, are attempted with others, and the grand goal, as with any online-em-up, is to obtain gear, gold, and kudos for being such a great person. There are also PvP arenas, as well as a multitude of dungeons to explore. It isn't the grandest platter of end-game content, but it works well, and serves its audience while more is added over time.
As with most online games these days, Order & Chaos is one better attempted with friends, but that isn't to say that there isn't a community within the game. Hidden at the bottom of the screen, a small touch interface can be brought up to type messages to other players, allowing for grouping and as we Brits might say "chitter-chat". Surprisingly there is a lot of call for groups, even in normal hunting zones, as well as the constant calls for higher-end content. It isn't the type of community-driven antics of EVEOnline, but neither is it filled with references to the Ginger-Ninja, Chuck Norris - it is adequate, and suits its purpose.
With mid-week sales, and special offers, Order & Chaos can be picked up for as little as a dollar, and as much as $10. With that you get three months of subscription, with further time costing a mere handful of bucks, the quarter of a price of a traditional MMO. With various classes/races, and some enjoyable content, there is enough here to keep the most stringent consumer happy. The only slight drawback to this is the item-shop within the game, but rather than EXP potions, the only paid-for advantage is gold, which can unlock more baggage space, as well as help you capture the obvious in-game niceties such as better weaponry, armour, and potions.
Order & Chaos is a novel, interesting, and intriguing application. Being a truly fully-fledged MMORPG on the iPad makes it very endearing to a goblin-loving veteran such as I, but there are some glaring problems with the game to overlook before you can truly enjoy it. A WoW clone until the end, but for the price of admission, and the amount of "I Can't Believe It's Not Azeroth" fun you can have, you might just forgive it.