Rise and Shiny revisit: Order and Chaos Online

Order and Chaos Online screenshot
It's been over a year since I last officially looked at Order and Chaos Online. The funny thing is that when I reread my older article, I immediately notice how my experience has not really altered since then. I pretty much had the exact play experience. What has changed is my appreciation for much of what the game does. I am still impressed by certain parts and quite bored by others, but overall the presentation is where the mobile title shines.

There have been a few developments over the last year but not many. One of the biggest was the addition of mounts. I checked them out and basically spent my time between the two servers: one for Android players and another for iOS. I even struggled with streaming the game from my iPad!

Order and Chaos Online screenshot
It's obvious from a first glance of any Order and Chaos Online screenshot that the game pulls a lot from World of Warcraft. If you called it a WoW-clone, you wouldn't be that far from the mark. The biggest difference is that WoW packs probably more variety and content within the first few levels of its gameplay while Order and Chaos Online almost immediately forces players to burn through kill-10-rats quests and nothing more. It's still impressive for a mobile MMO and shows just how much can be achieved on a smartphone or tablet, but the quests and gameplay are pretty limited.

Graphically the game is very pretty. The smaller and higher resolution the screen, the better the game looks, but even on the larger iPad 2 and its 1024x768 resolution, the game looks crisp. I actually preferred to play it on the iPad simply because the controls seemed to respond better. It's not as though my Nexus 7 has less power or fewer capabilities than the iPad; in fact, it has more, but the Android version of Order and Chaos Online just seemed buggier. After seeing how many more players were on the iOS version, I imagine most development time goes into that community. iOS players have the new mounts right now, for example, while Android players have to wait. It's possible that the wait is due to approval times as well. Both versions need to be played by setting the tablet down on a flat surface and slightly raising one side. I literally control most iPad or Android MMOs with my index fingers while the game is sitting on my lap or counter. Sometimes I will even carry the tabs around with me as I pace the house, but that's only for shorter sessions.

The problems between the two game versions are apparent only when you compare them side by side. There are some strange differences. The Android version is a bit sluggish, but as I mentioned, that sluggishness is due to some sort of software issue. Both versions are on different servers, but one sign-in is required for both, so I can use the same login information for both, but I do not keep the same characters. I don't see how the developers couldn't allow for the same characters to transfer over, but they maintain two separate communities. The iOS version obviously boasts more players, while the Android version can sometimes be a ghost town. Heck, not so long ago, there was a wonderful browser-based version that was accessible through Facebook. That's been gone for a while.

I wish Gameloft were more consistent in developing Order and Chaos Online. Sure, the publisher is a master at cloning titles and publishing games that push the technical boundaries of our portable gaming tabs and smartphones, but I'd love for the company to use some of that massive talent and funding to produce a true, original MMO for the mobile market. I can only imagine the results if the studio took the time to make something completely original and wonderful. It would probably change the mobile market forever, just as Spacetime Studios has done. Unfortunately the company seems more content with producing mostly games that resemble other games.

Minus the samey gameplay, Order and Chaos Online can be held up for its wonderful UI design. The developers are very aware of the limitations of playing on smaller screens, so the inventory, quest list, and item comparisons are all perfectly fitted to mobile play. Item comparisons slide out of item descriptions, so all a player has to do is touch on the little magnifying glass and out slides a side-by-side comparison. It's quite brilliant and works well when you need it.

"I'd have to say that the UI design is some of the best I have ever come across in a mobile MMO. How a player interacts with a mobile game and how she can control that little character on the screen is often as important as gameplay or system design."

While the classes are pretty bland, the ability hotbar works well. Again, the keyword is "space-saving": Players can attach abilities to a rotating wheel or assign shortcuts to a hotbar that pops out of the right side of the screen. The only problem with using the hotbar is that it shrinks the space needed to move the camera around, but it still leaves enough control. I'd have to say that the UI design is some of the best I have ever come across in a mobile MMO. How a player interacts with a mobile game and how she can control that little character on the screen is often as important as gameplay or system design. I have played many mobile MMOs that seemed to consider the UI last and left me with aching arms.

I did have a lot more fun this time around mainly because I finally became comfortable with the Rogue class I played on the iPad. The melee or tank class I used while playing on the Android seemed underpowered and not even very healthy. It's possible that I was not playing it correctly, though, or that later on the class grew in strength. It was hard to justify the tank while playing on Android. After all, there just were not as many players around to protect while in a group.

It's important to note that even in this mobile MMO, there seems to be a raid-centered mentality among high-level groups of players who spend a lot of time tweaking abilities and items. I rather enjoyed watching those same players duel each other while I was visiting one of the major towns in the game. It was sort of reassuring that mobile communities can act just as standard client-based players do. Something about carrying around an entire world in my bag or pocket is nostalgic, even though this is the first time in my life that I have played so many such games.

Order and Chaos Online is still a wonderful portable MMO even though it does borrow heavily from World of Warcraft. Some of the designs are so blatantly inspired by the Blizzard flagship that I wonder why Gameloft didn't just call it World of Swordcraft or something similar. It would have made more sense. Despite this issue, the game is a great way to spend a few hours or to kill some time while waiting or chilling in bed. The graphics are nice to look at, and the combat feels familiar enough to allow players to jump right in.

Even with all that, I wish a developer like Gameloft would put out something more original. I can only imagine how much time I would play in a more immersive title that utilized the company's brilliant UI designs.

Next week, I will be checking out Knight Age, a mega-super-duper-cute new Anime MMO from Joymax. I will be livestreaming it on Monday, the 3rd of September, at 5:00 p.m. EDT, right here on our Twitch.tv channel! Come join me in the chat room.

Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!
This article was originally published on Massively.