Published on November 9th, 2014 | by Edwin Millheim
Ingress smart phone game app review
Summary: Tower Defense, meets capture the flag, rolled into a grand real world exploration. This is the one to get....Ingress!
The one to get!
Android Phones and iPhones
If you have not been introduced to the newest game crack on the block, your fingers will soon be twitching to download it and play this highly addictive augmented reality game. It’s ”Ingress” , a mix mosh of mapping, GPS geocaching, capture the flag, tower defense, strategy, exploring ACTUAL places in real life…and GASP social gaming.
Ingress is a MMO that depends on smart phones in order to play since it is GPS dependent. The game started on Droid based phones and soon came over to the Apple iPhones. The brain child of Niantic Labs which is a startup within Google itself. They really pour themselves into the game because it also has an ongoing and often complex science fiction back story line that can throw a plot twist with the best of them. So far the game has had continuous Narratives from actors who give mixed performances that are none the less infectious.
Players do not necessarily need this ongoing story line but it does make it more interesting, and for many players something to invoke a vested interest in playing the game. It’s a game that players will be not only investing time in the game itself, but money in gas. Because in Ingress the points or interest that players interact with are real world locations. So you have to move and travel in order to play. Not necessarily great distances. You can just as easily play in your own town or city and leave it at that. But since the game is just about world-wide, you will be collecting key to portals from all over the place.
The basic premise behind the game is that the Earth is in the process of being visited by an Alien race. One that the true purpose may never be known for sure. These Aliens have thus far not ever been seen (Or have they? Are they amongst us pulling the strings of unknowing agents for either faction?)…
The Aliens have seeded the Earth with Exotic Matter (XM) which gives the players scanners (Smart Phones) energy in order to perform different tasks. But before getting to tasks and items in the game, let me talk about the two different factions in the game play.
Players can choose between two factions. There is the Enlightened, who have the belief that the Aliens (The Shapers) are in fact working towards a goal of lifting humanity to the next evolutionary step…or Enlightenment. In game players often have nick names for the Enlightened since they are represented by the color green. They are sometimes called “Greenies”, “Frogs” or sometimes “Toads”.
The Resistance players Believes they are protecting the earth from the Aliens (Shapers) Ingression. Resistance strives to keep the freedom of the human race at all costs. After all, does anyone really know what the Aliens, or Shifters have in mind? The Resistance is represented by the color blue, so they have been called “Blues”, “Smurfs”.
While there are clearly two defined sides, there have been times all over the world where the two sides have at times have reshaped or ignored the games story in the spirit of co-operation and real life game play and event goals. There have been neutral zones and rules of engagement declared in some areas amongst players. Such events while regional around the world have a common theme…players playing a game and have a blast doing it. Even going so far as to join together and create shapes in the game to honor an event or persons by using the three main colors in the game…blue, green, and gray/white. There have also been times where an opposing faction member in appreciation has given over a pie for a player to leave certain portals alone.
In the game app we see a representation of a map of the area the player is actually in, in real life. It shows roads, buildings all in gray with a black back ground. These are all unlabeled…but is an actual Google map of the area.
Now using the games app, all over the world the earth has a large number of portals that are made visible by using the “scanner” in the game app. These portals are colored either one of the faction colors if they have captured it (Blue or Green)…or if it is unclaimed it is a grey/white color. Players can also see any Exotic Matter and or Linked control fields (These are portals linked together from great distances as long as they are under that factions control and the player has a portal key to the portals they wish to link). These portals are often such places as public fountains, and other historic and significant locations…thus facilitating some actual exploration on the player’s part.
In the game app players can also see any dropped items that other players may not have picked up in the game and can claim them in their own inventory of items for use.
The player must physically be near the object on the map in order to interact with it. In the game app the player is represented by an arrow and the area of influence around the player is represented by a circle.
Getting close to the portal the player can “Hack” the portal and often obtain items from it, such as weapons and power cubes and resonators. Power cubes are like health packs to the player, and resonators are used to power portals once a player captures the portal. Hacking an enemy portal yields more points, but also is more dangerous since the portal can defend itself by shooting at the player and causing damage with some sort of energy blast…this looks like an arc of electricity.
Once the player in in range of an enemy portal and its resonators, the player can attack the portal with their own weapons. Not always easy because there are also mods in the game…some of which are shields to aid in protecting the portal and making it at times difficult or even very costly to attack and claim the portal. You can destroy the enemy resonators by firing off your weapons when in range. XMP Bursters or Exotic Matter Pulse Bursters. Depending on the level of the portal, it can take some time and some strategic movement on the player’s part in the physical world. The closer the player is to the resonators, the more damage is dealt out to them.
Once the portals defenses and resonators are destroyed the portal goes Grayish white and the player can claim it for their side by deploying at least one resonator. Though to get it fully powered and able to link to other portals that are in range and linkable….the player must put a full complement of resonators on the portal. (Note a control link from the other faction blocking the lines between the two portals the player wants to link will not allow them to be linked….the only thing that can be done is to find the opposing portals and destroy one of them to bring down the enemy linked portals….then back to one of your own portals and throw your link.) If three portals are linked in a triangle, the result is a control field. Control fields claim all the Mind Units within that fields influence. So destroying the enemy portals and laying claim to them is often paramount.
Once the player has such a collection of portals…represented in their inventory under portal keys…they have to upkeep the portal and the resonators. The resonators power decays over time. If the player has a key to the portal they can remote charge the resonators at the cost of their XM reserve.
It’s a lot of work. Most players have to be very dedicated to bring the level of attention the game demands. You can of course play it casually and only hit portals in certain areas that you visit regularly, but it will take you a very long time to advance in levels.
Most actions in the game reward the player with Access Points (AP). Gaining AP past a certain point will result in the player going up in levels and thus having access to more powerful items.
If you watch any local gaming conventions you may well get to meet some of the characters and representatives from the game. There are even in game events called anomalies. Often at primary anomaly events one can find Niantic Labs employees, more points are sometimes awarded at these events for attendees playing the game.
One thing about the game it is a major battery hog. It can suck the power from your smart phones battery in no time, so one of the things a player may find useful is a backup external battery source.
The flip side of playing the game and it being a phone app is having the discipline to play it safely and responsibly. While there are not many documented injuries or deaths attributed to the game… it can be dangerous if you are paying more attention to the game on the phone rather than your surroundings. We all know texting and driving is dangerous, well that’s even more so with a game that you’re more than juggling and multi-tasking and trying to drive. (One player even quipped in a chat room that they were driving at speed down a highway and in an Ingress chat room at the same time) Your safest bet is to use the app when sitting still and not driving. You can use it like a car GPS device in a minimalistic way…of course… but with great caution. Once you’re near the portal….make sure you’re at a stopped state and in a safe position if you’re playing from your vehicle. Getting out… be aware of your surroundings, you do not want to walk into traffic.
Even walking about with your nose in the phone can be dangerous. A man in Bangladesh was struck by a bus while walking and playing the game. A rep even told a room full of players the merits of playing safely and being aware of your surroundings, they told us of a man that fell into an open grave while checking for a portal in a grave yard. The designers and reps of the game are surprised how the game has metamorphosed into something even more from the players turning it into such a social gaming phenomenon. But the bottom line is, they want everyone to have a safe time with this spectacular game.
Ingress is truly a remarkable phenomenon, and well worth a look. Join up now and you may find yourself addicted to this mobile game world.
Have fun, play games….