MMObility: Parallel Mafia is not a typical Mafia game

Parallel Mafia icon
If you have played Parallel Kingdom by PerBlue before, then a lot of what I am going to describe might sound familiar. If not, then it might sound very unique and exciting. The truth is that I have been attempting to get into Parallel Kingdom for a while but always found myself a bit overwhelmed, so I was excited to be invited to check out PerBlue's new title Parallel Mafia. I hoped that I might squeeze in some questions about Parallel Kingdom while I had the team on the line. Sure enough, I not only got introduced to the new title but left the interview knowing a lot more about Parallel Kingdom. I have been playing heavily since then. As I compare the two titles, I can see a lot of similarities, but there are some nice differences as well.

Both titles are location-based MMORPGs. I have always wanted more options in the genre, but I imagine it's a tough one to develop in. What's the point of the real-life connection? Why would players want to play in a game that is basically spawned on top of Google Maps?

Parallel Mafia screenshot
There are several advantages to both titles. For example, some NPCs or mobs might spawn only in certain areas of the map. In Parallel Mafia, hospitals might appear where real-life hospitals are located. When a new player transfers to the actual game after a short tutorial, she is transferred to an area that is based on her real-life location. If a player travels two hours south, she can then have her in-game avatar transfer to the location and stake a claim on the area, enabling her to travel there again. City centers are player-crated locations that can only be built near real-life cities.

Parallel Mafia buttonAll of this information is taken from the map, so you can see how using a real map has its advantages. It also makes the playing board as large as the world itself and gives players a sentimental attachment to their locations. I know the first thing I wanted to do after Parallel Kingdom's tutorial was claim my location and build a cabin. It will work the same way in Parallel Mafia, but buildings will come from a futuristic, cybernetic world. The UI in Parallel Mafia will also be updated for a more streamlined, science-fiction look. For a location-based game that is usually played on a handheld device, the game looks pretty cool. There are even avatar customizations, and evil NPCs can be differentiated by their looks, so I will be able to see how tough a mob might be. I've had some interaction with Parallel Kingdom for a while, so it's clear to me that Parallel Mafia shows just how much the developers have pushed the graphics since the title. I could easily picture the game eventually looking like a futuristic Ultima Online, animations and all.

So how do you play Parallel Mafia? Don't worry; the game isn't just some new form of that old Mafia Wars series of titles that drove so many of us nuts years ago. In this mafia game, a new player is thrown into a world as big as the real one. It's a persistent world with chat, player-to-player trading, and everything you might find in a standard three-dimensional MMO. The Parallel games are sandboxes, though. You can create your character how you want using scores of skills, and you can craft your way to a fortune or conquer your neighbors. It is essentially a hardcore sandbox that you can play on iOS, Android, and eventually, your browser (you can play Parallel Kingdom in the browser now).

The first thing a new player might do is to locate unclaimed territory. Once he does that, he can claim the territory and then start killing NPCs, gathering raw goods, or getting to know his neighbors if he has any. After a while, that same player might build a "business front" to gain money or join an actual player made city that is nearby. In Parallel Kingdom, for example, I joined the closest city to me, one about 10 miles away in real life. In that city, I have built an oil and crystal extractor and have started selling goods. I even built a house within the city limits. Parallel Mafia will offer similar play, but there will also be jobs to do for NPCs.

Parallel Mafia screenshot
The idea of the game is to spread out, claim your place in the world, and expand. If you want to find some quiet area of the world and settle in, you can do that as well. I am finding the freedom of the design to be a bit soothing, but at the same time, I am a little tense, considering the dangers of going at it alone. The first thing I will do in Parallel Mafia is claim my own area, but I will eventually be joining a group of other players. I will also be working to outfit myself with cybernetic implants, optional addons that can make me a better character. New items are promised each week.

How does real-life money effect Parallel Mafia? While players can buy certain things from a cash shop (like customizations and optional items that speed up tasks), there is a separate currency that can be earned only by playing the game. That currency will be used to buy similar items and will offer a chance for non-paying players to reach the same goals. Is it pay-to-win? I don't think so, but throwing a few bucks into the game will definitely benefit players.

I was given some interesting stats about Parallel Kingdom, and I knew that my readers would have fun dissecting them. The game boasts 1,135,000 players, a daily average user rate of 13,000, and a monthly rate of 40,000. Of those players, 22 percent are converted into paying users (one of the highest numbers I have heard of), with each one of those paying players being worth about 95 dollars over their lifetime. The average lifetime value of new players is about $3.25. Remember that not everyone who pays necessarily converts into a premium, paid account.

As you can see from those numbers, Parallel Mafia has a solid playerbase to jump off with. Will the games' similarities stifle growth? I'm not sure, but using Spacetime Studios' Pocket Legends and Star Legends as a guide, I suspect the success can be repeated even if the difference is mostly in the graphics department.

I can't wait for Parallel Mafia. I was not enjoying myself that much in Parallel Kingdom until I was able to understand how to play, so check out the handy new player's guide to help you get started. It's also important to remember that while the iOS and Android clients for Parallel Kingdom are on the same server, the browser version is an all-new server that is still fresh for conquering. I've rolled on both!

Claim your name for Parallel Mafia and get ready for the expected launch on April 4th!

Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

This article was originally published on Massively.