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MMObility: Combat Monsters still needs some tweaking

Fantasy, Bugs, Game Mechanics, Launches, New Titles, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Hands-On, Trading Card Games, First Impressions, Miscellaneous, MMObility

Combat Monsters screenshot
Combat Monsters is made by the folks at Rubicon, the same people who brought us the cute Great Little War Game and others. This made me almost immediately happy as I've spent a lot of time playing some of those titles and loved the way the developers kept things simple to play yet hard to master. Combat Monsters is supposed to be a multiplayer, turn-based, card-based, arena-style combat game with optional in-game purchases. I found it to be most of those things, but I also found that it still needed more time in the oven.

You start off in a tutorial that does a relatively good job of explaining how everything works. You have a card deck with a limited number of cards, mojo for card creation that's earned every round, and several different types of cards that do different things during a round. It's all pretty straightforward... until the frustration kicks in.

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MMObility: Checking in on location-based MMO Life is Magic

Fantasy, Real-Life, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Hands-On, Casual, MMObility

Life is Magic screenshot
The mobile market is a great place for unique games as well as remakes and games that are influenced by past titles. But mobile is sort of a Wild West right now, one filled with titles that are obvious ripoffs of more popular games or games that are advertised as MMOs but are nothing like an MMO. I don't mind coming across a game or two that is MMO-like, but when a game claims to be something like the "most popular MMO on the market" or "the first mobile MMO," I get a bit peeved.

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.

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MMObility: Introducing Deepworld to Minecraft fanatics

Screenshots, Game Mechanics, Patches, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Casual, Humor, Family, Miscellaneous, MMObility, Sandbox, Crafting, Steampunk, Player-Generated Content

Deepworld screenshot
My nephews are visiting this week; they are nine and seven years old. And if there is one truth about these two, it's that they love Minecraft. Oh, they're also creative and smart young kids, but Minecraft is always a ready topic of conversation. Jeff, the younger one, loves to drill me on my knowledge. "Did you know..." is how it starts off, followed by some cool fact about the game. John, the older one, is calmer about the situation, and he has gained the ability, thanks to his elder status, to pull his gaze away from the game (I have it running on three different PCs and three iPads) in order to maintain an air of politeness. When I ask him something, he can give me an answer that has nothing to do with Minecraft!

I thought this week would be a cool time to introduce Deepworld to both of them. Deepworld is a fantastic iOS-based Minecraftian MMO that is free-to-play with optional and fantastic cash-shop items. The last time I looked at it, I bought an entire private server for only 10 bucks! I logged in this week for the first time in ages and found my server still sitting, waiting for my creations.

Then I showed it to my nephews.

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MMObility: Manyland is deceptively simple and surprising

Betas, Screenshots, Video, Game Mechanics, New Titles, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Hands-On, Casual, Miscellaneous, MMObility, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content

Manyland screenshot
Is the primitive 8- or 16-bit design movement becoming too much of a good thing? At first it presents a cool way to see and interact with the game world, and it does so with a style that is familiar but in many ways more fresh than anything we've experienced for a while. But, then we grow used to it and it starts to feel a bit dated... even though it's only been introduced (in its unique way) in recent years!

If you're a designer and you design a game with mining and artwork that looks like something that came from an 80s arcade, do you risk a backlash from writers and gamers who yawn and say "ah, more Minecraft stuff?" Of course you do. That doesn't mean that fun things can't be done within the genre, and Manyland is a great example of that. It's also free and runs right in your browser, so you have zero to lose in terms of checking it out!

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MMObility: Battle Dragons and Tiny Tycoons make for light fun

Game Mechanics, New Titles, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Casual, First Impressions, MMObility

Tiny Tycoons screenshot
This week I would like to mention two titles that only recently came across my desk, Battle Dragons by well-known mobile MMO developer Spacetime Games and Tiny Tycoons, a semi-social, real-world game that is published by The Tap Lab. Which is possibly the cutest company name, ever. Both games shine a light on the current mobile market, even though they do not represent every genre that is popular on mobile devices right now. Both games show off just how well-made many mobile games can be and both design's help illustrate why mobile gaming has gained such a large piece of the gaming pie.

We'll start with Battle Dragons, the more MMO-like game of the two. Perhaps because it was created by a studio that has dominated the mobile MMO space for the last several years, Battle Dragons works perfectly on a mobile device.

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MMObility: Perfect World's new mobile lineup

Fantasy, Interviews, New Titles, Previews, PvP, PvE, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Casual, Miscellaneous, MMObility, MOBA

Arena of Heroes screesnhot
When I first heard that Perfect World was finally moving into the mobile space, I was excited and a bit worried. The gaming giant publishes a wide variety of games but tends to stick with classic, three-dimensional, client-based MMOs and has even rescued or bought out a few "Western" titles. If you want a publisher with a ton of different F2P games to play, Perfect World is a solid one.

So how will it tackle the mobile world? Will it offer as much variety as it does with its other games? Will these mobile games be MMOs or pseudo-MMOs that are attached to social networks? I was able to snag some answers from Fabian Pierre Nicolas, General Manager of Mobile for Perfect World Entertainment.

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MMObility: Motion Twin's Mush conjures delightfully paranoid gameplay

Betas, Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, New Titles, Previews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Casual, MMObility

Mush screenshot
If you are a regular reader of mine (thank you if you are), then you know how much I enjoy Motion Twin, the studio behind one of my favorite games, Die2Nite. I fell in love with Die2Nite over the last year or two; the game has grown into an amazing and sometimes scary experience, and it does it all with very little imagery. Motion Twin is in fact a one-stop-shop for many unique games that come from many different genres.

So when I heard about Mush, the latest multiplayer title from the same developer, I was naturally excited. For the record, Die2Nite and Mush are both pseudo-MMOs or MMO-like games; make no mistake. But as I have pointed out before, the gameplay is so intriguing and smart that MMO developers would be wise to pay attention to the designs.

Take Die2Nite and set it in space, tweak it, and make it more immediate, and you might begin to understand how Mush plays. Let's look into it -- just remember that in space, no one can hear you scheme!

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MMObility: Dragon Eternity's Sea Battles promise glory (if you get in)

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Humor, MMObility, Dungeons

Dragon Eternity screenshot
Dragon Eternity is a unique multi-platform MMO that promises some epic content. It's epic, sure, but hard to get to as well. Even with a press account and a character that already had some decent gear and cash-shop funds on him, I found myself struggling to keep up with the grind of the game. The fact is that the game can easily be defined as a grinder, a game that pushes players through piles of monsters in the hope of killing even more monsters in the eventual hope of gaining a level or a new piece of loot.

It's not as hopeless as it sounds. The game is actually quite fun and great to look at. I love its painted-scene-styled atmosphere. A player can zoom out and see that she is actually inside a painting that acts as a zone. Monsters and NPCs wander around the painting, and there are even clickable events and nodes for gathering. The music and sound are top-notch, and everything works across every platform I tried it on: iOS, Android, and browser.

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MMObility: Ultima Forever is tons of fun, even with repairs

Fantasy, Screenshots, Business Models, Game Mechanics, New Titles, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Casual, MMObility, Dungeons

Ultima Forever screenshot
EA's new toy, Ultima Forever, is a fun mobile game that is loosely related to the first great MMO I ever played, Ultima Online. It's set in the same universe, 21 years after the events of Ultima IV, and it made me happy to see many of the same names and places that I remember from my yearly field trips back into the original, but the game still plays and feels differently from the classic. You'll have fun with the mobile version anyway, hacking and slashing your way through classic dungeon after dungeon.

But is the effort worth it? Is EA just asking for veteran players to come along and torpedo this latest effort in the Ultima series? How will potentially curmudgeony old-school players adapt to a title that forces them to play on a tablet (or later, a browser)? Because after playing Ultima Forever for a while now, I can safely say that this is not a game made only for veterans.

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MMObility: Zynga's Solstice Arena is a solid MOBA without a farm in sight

Game Mechanics, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Hands-On, Casual, MMObility, MOBA

Solstice Arena screenshot
Let's say you're mucking around with your iPad and get the nagging feeling that you'd rather be owning other players in a game of strategical combat. What do you do? Well, one of the solutions is to pick up Zynga's new MOBA Solstice Arena and start hammering away. From what I can tell, the game really isn't showing us anything new and inventive, but it has taken the usual MOBA gameplay, toned it down, tightened it up, and made it a more satisfying mobile, fast-paced experience.

I am no huge MOBA fan; I'll leave that up to the experts. But that's only because it's one of many genres that I haven't as much time for as I'd like. Solstice Arena has shown me that these jump-in games can be pretty cool, though your arm might get tired from holding up your iPad!

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MMObility: Google's new Chromecast shows screen size does not matter

Screenshots, Business Models, Culture, Launches, Opinion, Browser, Miscellaneous, MMObility

Chromecast screenshot
If you missed Google's latest press conference, go check it out here or spy on my own cute self as I attempt to explain what was covered during the event. Either way, it was a nice chance to see how dedicated Google is to the mobile lifestyle. I'd argue that this "mobile" lifestyle that I continue to love will not be referred as "mobile" soon as more and more people adopt portable computers as mainstay devices, but for now we'll keep the moniker.

Despite the fantastic new Nexus 7, the real announcement for me was the unveiling of the Chromecast, a simple HDMI dongle that plugs into your television and allows the wireless broadcast of all sorts of web content. Why is this a cool idea, and how isn't it just something that we're already able to do? I'll give my take on it but would love to hear from my readers as well.

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MMObility: RuneScape, HTML5, and plenty of bacon

Betas, Fantasy, Screenshots, Video, Culture, Opinion, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Browser, Livestream, MMObility, Sandbox, Subscription

RuneScape screenshot
RuneScape, as always, is moving forward with killer new content and additions to the game. I was so excited this week to get a chance to play through the Bringing Home the Bacon questline and scout out the open beta of the HTML5 version. I was initially eager to see just how much better the HTML5 version looked and played, but I didn't want to dive in until any issues had been worked out.

Boy, does it impress. Sure, it might not seem like much to someone who is used to the graphics from games like Guild Wars 2, but this browser game that is over a decade old looks great not only for a browser game but for any type of game. It's still a bit of an acquired taste, but once you try it, you'll be smitten. I also had fun playing through the bacon-flavored quest line that is featured this month.

I'll tell you about both... how's that?

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MMObility: Press your way through Dawn of the Dragons

Business Models, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Hands-On, MMObility, Crafting

Dawn of the Dragons screenshot
If you played along with me the last time I covered Dawn of the Dragons, you won't be surprised by what you will read in this column. It's still a pretty fun twist on RPGs and Mafia Wars-styled gaming, but now that it has come to Android devices, I couldn't be happier. The gameplay was nice in the browser, but I found it to be a bit clunky and distracting, especially with the ad-block at the top of the game's main window. Much of the game consists of making a decision and pressing a button or two to see what happens, so it begged for a touchscreen device. Now that has arrived.

Does that mean the game is no longer a pay-to-win, very casual (or hardcore if you want it to be) race-to-the-top? It's still all of those. If you have moral objections to those game styles, then skip Dawn of the Dragons. But if you're like me and don't take games so personally, then you, like reader grutzmek, might find that is is "surprisingly addictive." He told me, "I don't normally enjoy these games, but something is very different about DotD."

I have to agree with him.

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MMObility: Tynon forces players to come to grips with automatic gameplay

Fantasy, Culture, Previews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, MMObility

Tynon screenshot
It's been over a year since I last looked at Tynon, a browser-based pseudo-MMO that has been magically transformed into a much larger and more MMOish MMO. What a difference a year makes! Many of the key gameplay elements remain, meaning that you can still play the entire game (at least I have been able to so far) by clicking one or two buttons, over and over. So much of the game is played for you that it made me wonder -- as it did the first time around -- what the point was. Then it made me wonder just how much the gameplay in Tynon is like many of the more "standard" MMOs I have played, meaning that so many of them are the same one or two button chunks of gameplay, only wrapped in a three-dimensional exterior that features hotbars.

I'm not making excuses for auto-play features, but I'm not making excuses for the mindless clicking that many MMOs feature, either. As with most things, the details matter the most. In Tynon, there are almost too many details to count.

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MMObility: Puzzle Pirates is perfect on the iPad, but Fleck falls

Screenshots, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Miscellaneous, MMObility, Player-Generated Content, Sunsets

Fleck screenshot
It's been a week of ups and downs for me. The mobile MMO market is the often-ignored stepchild of the greater genre, so when a great new MMO comes along, I rejoice. And when a fun, older MMO closes down, I feel like weeping. As the mobile market begins to take over all of creation (and will probably make time travel possible as well), it's so good to see a game like Puzzle Pirates finally make its way to mobile devices. Sure, it's just iPads for now, but an Android version is marked for release this summer. This is a game that has been begging for a mobile release for some time now.

Meanwhile, Fleck is an odd little MMO by Self Aware Games that I have covered in the past but that is soon closing down. I love the look and feel of it, but its real-world-based gameplay might be too odd for many to enjoy. Still, it had issues finding its footing.

Let's talk about both in today's MMObility column.

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