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Pocket Kingdom: Own the World

Pocket Kingdom is the story of a massively multiplayer online RPG of the same name. The game world of Ulgress is the battlefield for thousands of players and until recently it was dominated by a single user who “owned the world”. However, the management have cracked down and the aptly named Griefer Ulgress has been banned, leaving the playing field open to anyone. Here Pocket Kingdom begins, giving you the chance to “own the world” for yourself.

Pocket Kingdom is essentially split down into its online and offline components, with the former only becoming accessible once the latter is completed to a certain extent. When you enter the world of Ulgress through the offline mode for the first time, you’re given a helping hand in the form of a tutorial given by a woman named “Ms. Roxor”. It soon becomes apparent that this isn’t the only use of ‘net speak’, with the game’s characters using it almost all of the time. Ulgress, you see, is a land where medieval wizards running around, shouting “this one’s for my homies!” makes perfect sense.

Rather than controlling a single character with a defined experience and health levels, your task is to manage a whole army, acting almost as a general. First of all, you buy units and items from the shop, then group them up into parties, before sending them off to fight via a map window. Combat itself is a bit of a disappointment though; instead of giving you control of your characters, they fight autonomously, guided simply by background statistics and calculations. The visceral satisfaction of slaying your opponent is taken away from you, leaving the number crunching to determine who the victor is. Whilst initially amusing for the unusual use of language, battles tend to become repetitive and prove far too passive an experience.

Even worse, though, is the menu system which operates everything within the game. Each time you want to do something, Pocket Kingdom will make you traverse screen after screen in an orgy of option selection. Every single action requires you to use this clumsy interface, making simple tasks needlessly arduous and frustrating. Even with the N-Gage’s 14 game buttons, the developers couldn’t come up with a control system that used more than two of them. Too much time spent coming up with ludicrous dialogue and not enough spent on giving the player a hassle-free time.

It’s not all negatives though. Pocket Kingdom clearly has a huge amount of depth to it, especially for a handheld game. Each of the numerous characters can be upgraded and given all sorts of items, then arranged into groups with countless tactical options. Objects can be combined, bought, sold and customised, while new areas of the huge map are unlocked by defeating bosses in each kingdom. The online mode is also a major advance in the handheld market, making Pocket Kingdom the first mobile MMORPG available. Although it could end up costing you quite a bit in terms of phone tariff, it should be well worth the effort for fans of the genre.

Presentation and visuals are something Pocket Kingdom definitely gets right. The graphics are colourful, with well animated and neatly drawn sprite characters throughout, almost reminiscent of the 16-bit era. Perfectly suited for the N-Gage’s small screen, the visuals are crisp and vibrant, with the only downside being that some units are a little too similar to one another.

The game’s lifespan really depends on whether or not you manage to get into Pocket Kingdom; some will find it engrossing, while others will find it equally frustrating. For those who do get into the game, there’s the potential for months and months of gameplay, offline and online.

Pocket Kingdom is a game that could be judged harshly for its clumsy interface and overuse of net-slang, but then again its depth and online mode stand out as a beacon of hope. Own The World is a game of contrast, one that will either frustrate or delight. It may seem like an uphill struggle sometimes, but if you’re a fan of the genre and willing to invest the time, then there’s ample enjoyment to be had here.

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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