Luckily there are a lot of great titles to choose from, games like Arcane Legends from Spacetime Studios or Grepolis from Innogames. There are also games like this week's Life is Magic, a neat location-based MMO that comes from Red Robot Labs. It leans a bit more to the pseudo-MMO side but is still a lot of fun when you want some turn-based action.
First, let's talk about some of the designs in Life is Magic. The game takes the approach that other location-based games do, but instead of just being game assets laid on top of a section of Google Maps, the entire world of Life is Magic is "cartoonized" such that you and your local city (and the rest of the world, for that matter) are actually bright and stylized. It's a fantastic look, one that I wish more MMOs would utilize. Essentially, you'll look at a map of your local area and zoom into your specific neighborhood. Once you're in that close-up view, you can visit local businesses that can benefit from your visits.
Inside the local businesses you'll find that all of the decor has been influenced by the real-life business -- a restaurant becomes an old-school tavern, for example -- and NPCs can hand out quests or sell you items. It's a smaller part of the game but a great way to find goodies. Your neighborhood will be dark when the real world is in night time, and it's a lovely sight to see the usual houses and businesses covered by a warm, inviting cartoonish glow.
Out in the rest of the world, you will visit dungeons, group with players, and fight in PvP combat. The combat is essentially turn-based and relatively easy to understand, but it does become much more strategic once you fight with more than one character. It's a fun system, just one that becomes a bit boring if you grind too much.
When I logged in recently, I found that giants and other monsters have recently been added to different areas of the world. I was able to teleport to the Alps, for example, to fight frost-based monsters. Of course, the mobs were much too powerful for my freshly rolled character, but I made a note to go back and try again once I'm more powerful. There was a hotlink to the arena as well, but I was warned that I could not try it out until level 6, which shouldn't take all that long.
The game can be a bit grindy and repetitive, but joining a group is a fantastic way of fighting with AFK versions of your friends. I joined a group in beta and had a blast as we fought AI-controlled versions of each other. You can use the other player characters' abilities as well, which leads to more strategic gameplay. So for example, I joined a group with a player's monk. When in combat, I can use his abilities to complement my own use a healing spell of my own or a similar spell from a groupmate's spellbook to ensure that we survive level after level of the dungeon we're trying to conquer. I've come back from AFK to see that I had gained some experience because my character had been used in the same way. Life is Magic is a unique location-based MMO in so many ways, and its combat is one of its best systems.
You can also work to conquer local towers, which are difficult dungeons that represent large cities. Even during the testing period when I had a character who gained a higher level and had access to large amounts of cash, I was not able to conquer one of these important towers. Now that the game has opened to the rest of the playerbase, there are many more players to group and communicate with. I'm betting I just might have a chance at one of these towers soon.
In order to participate in dungeons and fights, you have to have plenty of energy. Yes, that familiar and dreaded word pops up in this game as well, but really it's just another word for stamina, a word that you find in sandbox titles all the time. Energy is plentiful for most fights and play sessions, but you can refill it easily. You can buy it with crystals or earn those crystals through gameplay or purchase. It's a typical system and mechanic but works well in this game. The turns during combat do not have a timer on them, so you can take plenty of time to make the right decision, meaning that energy becomes less an issue.
The cash shop also sells weapons, cards that you place in your card-deck (spell book), and boosts to gameplay. It's typical stuff as well, but it might affect how you perform in PvP. Fortunately, much of the game consists of dungeon-running with your friends' characters, so there's plenty to do without feeling too much of an influence from the cash shop.
I'm glad I reinstalled Life is Magic after getting my new tablet. It's a staple for me now, and I wouldn't let my tablet go without it. Travel is easy, and it's fun to see other parts of the world, but this is mostly a game for turn-based combat and tweaking your spell-book to perfection. Most of my play sessions last maybe 30 minutes to an hour, the perfect amount for a mobile title.
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.