Pocket Kingdom: 0wn The w0rld
Platform: N-Gage
Publisher: Nokia
Developer: Sega
Genre: Strategy RPG
Format: MultiMedia Card
Release: US 11/23/04
Japan 11/23/04
Official Site: English Site

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"Necessary. Like shoes."
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"You're stuck in the new school."
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"Everyone in PK has their own Fabbis."
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John McCarroll
Hands-On Impressions
John McCarroll

A cellular phone/game system hybrid seems one of the most unlikely places for a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) to exist. However, Sega and Nokia will be releasing Pocket Kingdom: 0wn the W0rld for the N-Gage in early December. Pocket Kingdom is not the standard MMORPG, however, as the world is not one of fantasy; the world is a game. The setting is an online game where the three top players have been shown to be griefers--those who make life a living hell for people online--and thus been forced to play offline. Players try to get to the top of the rankings to 0wn the w0rld.

It's very noticeable that the title of the game features a bit of "l33t sp33k," a type of Internet slang popular online in games such as Counter-Strike. As the game is an online realm, the monsters and warriors that battle speak as the players would: some in-character, others not. The world is named Ulgress, named after the original griefer and first participant to be banned from online play. Players are introduced to the world by a fabbis - their guide to Pocket Kingdom. They are given control of a Pocket Kingdom and may purchase item molds and units to create items and upgrades, all of which act as your force in the game.

Players customize their forces with items and can upgrade them to other forms early on in the game. Once assigned, the player can assign a defensive force to protect their Kingdom or send their troops out to scout. None of this is directly controlled -- everything in Pocket Kingdom is menu based. Strategies for specific troops and combat order are also set before battle. This is not a bad thing, however, as it nerfs any and all lag that would exist. After searching, if playing online, gamers find both castles controlled by NPCs and other players in the area. Players will only find NPCs in the offline game, but NPCs are the way to get to new areas. Attackers can then be assigned to scout a castle (in order to determine its defensive value) or just to attack it directly.

At this point combat begins, and players are transported to see the battle arena, losing all control of their forces in the process. Battle is completely based on statistics and is played out for both sides by the computer. A standard battle lasts for thirty seconds, or until a force is annihilated; boss battles can last upwards of ninety-nine seconds. Units will use standard attacks or their special abilities; mages can weaken other units, thieves can backstab, and dragons and imps can do assorted other things. Units can be removed from combat in two ways, "out" and "0wned". A unit that is "out" simply loses its equipped item and can be healed after battle. On the other hand, an "0wned" unit is gone forever, not to be resurrected. There are two online modes, however: Scrimmage, where units cannot be 0wned, but battles are not ranked, and ranked, where units can meet their demise, but where the scoreboard is at large.

Characters animate well during battle, and are detailed for sprites on such a small screen. Attacks are varied between unit archetypes, but units on the same tree all have the same animations. Since the screen is less than 200 pixels wide, it can be scrolled to view the entire battle. Graphics outside of the battle look good; a small portrait of your fabbis often pops up, and it looks good. Maps are of fair quality, graphically, and are often repeated. However, not much time is spent on them, so this shouldn't be much of an issue. The game's audio is not the best, as it is on a cellular platform, but most players will leave the game muted.

Pocket Kingdom is a unique game in the MMORPG market. It eliminates much of the travel and exploration, and puts the genre into a portable format. Gamers will not pay a monthly fee for the service, but they will need an Internet connection to play online. If they do not, they will be limited to offline mode. If the name "Killer App" could be put to a platform's game, this would be the N-Gage's. Pocket Kingdom: 0wn the W0rld is available now for the N-Gage.


© 2004 Nokia, Sega
All Rights Reserved.

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