When Windows Phone launched with Xbox-branded games, many Xbox 360 fans picked up the platform in hopes of Xbox 360/XBLA-style experiences. Well, there are several Xbox Windows Phone games worthy of being released on consoles, but for the most part, they tend to be pick-up-and-play casual games.
It wasn’t until the advent of Windows Phone 8 and Gameloft’s increased support for it that we started getting more serious and complex games in the mobile Xbox lineup. The largest and most fully featured of those games is undoubtedly Order & Chaos Online. Can a massively multiplayer online RPG (MMORPG) like this work on less than massive smartphones? Read on to find out.
Take on an alter ego
You can have up to three separate characters (or five with an In-App Purchase), though even just a single character will take countless hours to “max out.” Choose from five races and four classes, each of which can specialize in two subclasses. The two most important types for completing dungeons are Warrior “Tanks” and Monk “Healers.” Learn a bit more about races and classes here.
After creating a character you’ll run through a brief tutorial and then set out to explore a massive online world. Role-playing games typically have intricate stories, but MMOs necessarily reduce the focus on narrative. Order & Chaos’s story comes via text delivered mostly before and after completing quests. Each new city or area you visit will have its own tales that unfold. You don’t get an overarching story, but there’s no real need when you’re supposed to be partying up and socializing with friends and new people.
Now, you COULD play through everything except for high-level dungeons all by your lonesome; you’ll have an experience very similar to Oblivion and Skyrim. But you’d also be missing out on the inherent social appeal of an MMO.
This game is one gigantic shared adventure, and there are many obvious benefits to interacting with your fellow players. Don’t understand how something works? Can’t figure out what to do in a quest? Instead of searching online, it’s often faster and easier just to ask other players. In my experience, the general North American community has been quite helpful. You can always mute anyone who rubs you the wrong way – I’ve only done so twice so far.
Forming a team of 2-4 players also makes things much easier. Escort missions or quests that involve higher level enemies can be tough to survive on your own. Bring a friend along (or recruit someone new in chat) and you should have much less trouble. Teammates share XP from kills and some items dropped as well. Distribution of the more valuable loot depends on the team settings; I tend to let items go to whichever player can actually use them.
Dungeons and dragons
You’ll especially want to party up when taking on instanced dungeons. The first dungeon (Knahswahs Prison) becomes available around level 20. Dungeons contain packs of high-level monsters and multiple bosses to battle. Without a balanced group of four party members, you’re certain to be overwhelmed by the enemies.
Given the steep challenge of the dungeons, it’s super satisfying when your team finally clears one. But I found that by the time my character was actually strong enough to be a real help in the Prison (closer to level 30 than 20), the gear I could get from the dungeon’s loot was no longer of use. Taking a dungeon on at a low level could be profitable though, provided you have one or more higher level players to get the team through.
Dungeons are also held back slightly by the game’s experience system. You don’t gain XP from killing enemies that are more than 5 levels below your own, much to my chagrin. So running dungeons for XP isn’t practical either. Still, people are constantly looking for dungeon help in the global chat. I bet they do it for the challenge and the shared goal more than anything.
Chatting it up
Order & Chaos offers a global chat channel in which anyone can converse, ask for help, or form a team. You can also switch your chat messages to local (just the map you occupy), team, or guild, as well as sending whispers (private messages). Chatting via touch screen keyboard (though not as convenient as voice chat) is such a breath of fresh air given how most multiplayer Xbox Windows Phone games like UNO & Friends and Asphalt 7 don’t offer any way for players to communicate.
That said, Order & Chaos’s chat feature could be better. Type a long message and the text goes off-screen so that you can’t see much of what you’re typing. And tapping anywhere outside of the keyboard sends the message as-is, often in an incomplete state. The game really should allow users to resume a message without sending it.
Speaking of chat and community, Order & Chaos players will probably want to join a guild. This game’s guilds don’t involve much of an energy investment; there’s no guild bank, guild wars, or things like that. Being part of a guild just gives you access to the guild’s private chat channel. Stick with a guild and you can get to know the other members, ask them for help, and help them when they need it.
WPCentral actually has its own guild made up of loyal readers and newcomers alike. Visit our official forum thread for instructions on joining up.
Big, beautiful, and buggy
Considering what a large game this is, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it suffers from a fair number of bugs. The most frustrating kind is when certain quests glitch and become impossible for anyone to complete. And in fact the second dungeon Relic’s Key (pictured above) is currently bugged. One of the bosses causes the game to crash for the entire party, making the dungeon unbeatable. The game also just crashes at random times. Hopefully Gameloft fixes these problems in an update.
Speaking of bugs, Gameloft games on Windows Phone often suffer from broken Achievements. Thankfully Order & Chaos’s Achievements all work just fine. They’re also quite reasonable in difficulty, though time consuming. Naturally.
Surprisingly, there are no Achievements for completing dungeons. A few involve finding loot of high rarity – I still haven’t come across an epic level item at level 30. The game awards an Achievement for every 10 experience levels, all the way up to the current maximum level of 60. Getting there will take dozens of hours, though a handful of dedicated players have already accomplished it in just a few short weeks.
Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our Beginner’s Guide for lots of helpful gameplay advice. The guide also describes lots of gameplay aspects like mounts, pets, and crafting that couldn’t fit into this review.
Casual games are a perfect fit for smartphones since you can play them for a few minutes at a time throughout your day. But sometimes you crave a longer, more interesting experience.
Order & Chaos Online is just the right game for when you have 30 minutes or an hour to kill. MMORPGs are time consuming games and typically played on PCs. But because this is a phone game, you have way more opportunities to play it than a PC game. You can literally play it anywhere; that’s the beauty of phone gaming. You’ll have to plug in your charger if you play for very long, but that’s a small price to pay for the fun this game offers.
In this reviewer’s opinion, Order & Chaos Online is the single best game for Windows Phone. Will you fall in love with it as well? The demo lets you play the first seven levels for free, so try it and see!
Order & Chaos Online – Windows Phone 8 with 1 GB RAM – 1012 MB - $6.99 – Store Link