MMO’s are a hugely successful game (and business) model with genre-defining games like World of Warcraft pulling in huge revenues each month in subscription fees from millions of players worldwide. Developed by PerBlue Inc., Parallel Kingdom: Age of Emergence is one of the first games to bring a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) to the iPhone. Even more ambitious than that, Parallel Kingdom is a geo-aware game that uses your actual physical location (via GPS or WiFi) as your starting point in the game.
When you first open up Parallel Kingdom you’re prompted to make a new account – you simply have to enter your email address, password, character name, age and gender. You can also toggle whether you would like to receive a text message when you’re being attacked or receive an in-game message.
Once your account is set-up, you’ll be able to jump straight in. One of the first things you’ll probably notice is that, graphically speaking, Parallel Kingdom isn’t the most impressive of games. A Google-maps background is overlaid with basic little sprites that identify players, enemies and resources and other items. What is cool though, is that the streets around your home or office have suddenly become a real-time game environment and there are trolls, stags, dire wolves and other creatures all around you.
To move around the map you just double tap where you would like to go. The player is surrounded by a “radius of mobility” which is represented on-screen as a dashed line. This line represents the limits of your territory and and to begin with, you’re unable to move outside of this area. You can however, expand your territory by building houses and flags – or by physically moving your location.
As you progress through the world in Parallel Kingdom, you’ll accumulates journal “pages” which are basically equivalent to experience points “XP”. Get enough pages and you’ll be able to level up. When you level up you receive a skill point, which can then be spent to learn a range of skills and unique abilities like Leatherworking, Weapon Smithing and Alchemy. You can also mine resources such as iron ore and sulfur and trade these items with other players.
A big part of any MMORPG is the social element, and Parallel Kingdom has a number of different ways that you can interact with other players in the game. There are several of chat rooms, in-game messaging as well as “group hunting” which is the closest thing to a party/raiding system that you’ll find in the game.
Parallel Kingdom isn’t quite at the stage where it will be to the iPhone MMO what WoW did for the PC, but this kind of geo-aware mobile gaming has a lot of potential. PerBlue Inc., have come up with a truly unique concept, and with over 75,000 players worldwide, Parallel Kingdom is set to continue to improve and grow.
Parallel Kingdom AOE requires the iPhone OS 3.0 or later and is compatible with iPhone and iPod Touch.