Conquer Online by TQ Digital Entertainment is an Asian F2P MMO that was released in 2004 and exhibits many of the typical features such as steeds, in-game marriage, PvP and purchases of potions – health, mana, XP, buffs as well as basic crafting components and additional bank and inventory space. There isn’t a background storyline but a setting – ancient China as evidenced by the buildings, but there are also green-skinned orcs. There is also a form of “automatic play” in Conquer Online in the automatic pathing as well as in-game training that I shall elaborate on. And now it’s ported to the iPad, and works amazingly well.
The class system is straightforward at this time with six distinct classes: Warrior, Ninja, Monk, Archer, Taoist, and Trojan. Subclasses have yet to be implemented, and a Pirate class is also forthcoming. There are 140 levels and leveling up to level 40 where you get your first training is incredibly fast. It does slow down somewhat after that, but questing, combat and grouping grabs XP quickly. There is also a re-birth system which basically creates a stronger character for replay when you’ve maxed the first.
There is an in-game training system where you set your character on auto-attack at a training dummy and walk away. Progress is mind-numbingly slow if you are foolish enough to watch, but leave your iPad plugged in all day while you are at work, and you’ll get a little advancement without taking a hit to your equipment durability, health or mana. Then when you are ready, engagement in terms of quests and PvP or any of the mini-games such as horse racing and the arena are ready for you.
The Steed system is a combination of a combat system and a pet system. You can fight on horseback and your mount acts like equipment and provides buffs to your stats. Breeding your mount creates new mounts which increase in rank or Lineage as it is known in the game. The higher the lineage of your mount, the less likely it can be spooked by a player (it’s a learned skill) and the less chance you will be dismounted during combat (and lose the buffs the mount provides).
Other features in this game include housing – which you have to build yourself, a horse-racing mini-game daily quests and events
Aesthetics 5.5 / 10
Graphics are 2.5D; which is to say, more Ultima Online than EverQuest. For the small screen of the iPad, it works well, but icons and text descriptions are painfully small, and UI windows end up covering most of the screen as you access them. Not that this is bad in of itself, but become terribly busy when combined with the text and icons.
Gameplay 7 / 10
Gameplay on tablets tends to lean towards the casual and if we look at Conquer Online for the iPad as a casual version of the full MMO, it actually works remarkably well. The game provides automatic pathing to quest NPCs, hunting areas and various other areas of the game. One tap and you can go get yourself a cup of tea and come back to find yourself in front of the NPC you need. Aggressive mobs don’t break the pathing and neither do they chase you for long. However, the caveat is that you can easily wander into an area with mobs way stronger than your character and die in a heartbeat.
Combat is auto-attack. Simply tap on the mob you wish to engage and the game will do the rest although you have to actively swipe the screen to use skills and spells. Exploring the world is similarly easily done as there is a Conductress in most regions that will be happy to teleport you to another for a fee and teleport scrolls. Jumping is the faster move as you can leap the length of your screen with a single tap. The other game systems are also easily accessed on the iPad. PvP, harvesting, crafting are all accessed via taps.
With auto-attack, PvP loses much of its shine and it turns into a “who’s got the best stats” match rather than a match of skill. This is because the tap to move and cast means that you lose the finer tactics of positioning, strafing or kiting. Griefing is still possible and the PvP system provides bounties for those willing to hunt down the newbie killers, sending them to jail where they pay a time or monetary penalty to leave.
Bravo NetDragon for porting the full game to the iPad. It is not without its drawbacks but the ability to access a fully fledged MMO with as many features as Conquer Online has, on a touchscreen tablet is no small feat.
Polish - 6
The game needs polish. Text still refer to PC controls, telling players to “right click” or press “Alt F4” etc. to do things in game when all you really have to do is to tap through the menu. There is some annoyance in “tap throughs” where your character runs over to the area under your finger when you are tapping on a menu and further annoyance when you stand directly over your intended kill and aren’t engaging because you didn’t quite tap it right. Neither of these annoyances make the game unplayable as the latter can largely be mitigated by using a stylus, and “tap throughs” usually happen in town anyway.
Longevity - 7
Given how long the original game is lasting, who can say that the iPad game will not? The launch is recent and improvements are being implemented steadily, with the devs involving the community to help them bust bugs. As a game to pick up for a few minutes while waiting for your car pool or playing during your commute, it has quite a number of features to explore and with the re-birth system to create stronger new characters, players could be playing this game a long time.
Social 8.5 / 10
The game has groups, clans, guilds and marriage, a mentor and apprentice system as well as an active forum of iPad players, if it lacks the ability to easily chat in game. Grouping provides quite a nice XP boost and players aren’t shy to invite others into their group regardless of level. If you are of level to play in the area, you can group. Clans are “family” groups of up to 12 and in-game couples have to join and leave together. Guilds can be huge and the guild management system is sweet, with customizable ranks within the group. There’s also the “Couple” and the “Flower” systems in game. Male characters of level 50 and above receive a rose each day that they can gift to a female character, and male and female characters of level 20 and above may be married by heading over to the Matchmaker in Desert City or the Love Stone in the Market to tie the knot. Once they do, they can participate in couples PvP tournaments. Couples that kill together stay together, eh?
Value 9 / 10
It’s free to play. What more can we say? Except for some cosmetics such as hair, face and vanity costumes, all items that can be bought in the cash store can be earned in game. For example, to start off in the Steed system, a player has to kill horse thieves until a saddle drops, then save 500,000 silver to learn the first horse riding skill. If you’ve been picking up all your gold and silver, you would have saved that by the time you reach level 40 or so, unless you’ve been spending it on all the other neat things you can do in game. However, $5 will buy you the saddle and the first skill.
Conquer Online on the iPad is a casual mobile MMO. Interaction is simple. Want to go somewhere? Tap on the screen. See a Mob or a player you want to attack? Tap on it. Harvest something? Tap on it. The tutorial system is part of the quest system and you can access the features that you want to try at any time, after you’ve learned how to travel and to fight. While not for everyone, all in all, it’s a pretty nice package. There’s plenty of room for improvement, but more importantly, plenty of potential to grow.