It’s surprising that more games haven’t tried to ride the wave of interest that ‘Pokemon GO’ generated in geo-tagging games. To date there have been few serious attempts to do something new with the idea, which has remained largely unchanged since the launch of ‘Ingress’. Orna is a small, Indie team that’s taken on this challenge and for the most part they have risen to it spectacularly, adding some novel concepts that bring a lot of interest to the game. There’s precious little in the way of hand-holding too, with players effectively dropped into the world and given the onus to get on with things one turn-based battle at a time.
Graphically, Orna makes use of the same purchased sprite assets as several recent releases in the Indie RPG market. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it’s enabled a small team with no spriting experience to produce a high quality game without the hindrance of allowing for finding an artist, but it does prevent the game from building its own visual identity to a degree. Sprites are 2D, pixel art and based around a generic high-fantasy environment, with classes such as traditional warriors, thieves and mages as well as monsters in the vein of slimes, spiders, bats and goblins. Interestingly it’s the visual presentation of the menus that allow the game to shine the brightest, with a minimalist design and intuitive touch controls that allow the game to feel very modern in execution whilst having a retro asthetic.
Sound effects are honestly pretty horrible to listen to, we won’t deny it. They have a cheap and dirty feel that’s hugely synthetic and quite grating to hear. The flip side of this is that the games music is pretty good, with a haunting piano piece used at night that really does a great job of setting a tone. The pair together make for an extremely mixed audio package for Orna.
Unfortunately the current build of the game has no story elements included of even any real descriptive text for items and locations. This feels like a missed opportunity because the game encourages players to journey through and conquer a world flooded with monsters and some motivation to do so would really pump up the title. Taking back a conquered world is certainly a scenario that writes itself, but unfortunately the game devs haven’t made this a priority. It damages the games RPG credentials but not the overall enjoyment factor of the gameplay.
Gameplay requires the player to be online at all times in order to globally position the player’s character on a fantasy rendition of googlemaps. As such the player does not control the character directly to traverse the environment, but rather moves through the world in real time with his/her phone in order to reposition the character. It’s important to note that movement whilst playing is not a necessity for this title, and that having a series of static locations that you care take is preferable. In this manner your home, school, place of work, etc become bastions of your influence within the games virtual world. The standard geo-tag gameplay uses the same basic functionality of the google map as other games of this kind. Monsters and items are generated visibly on the map in each location, and clicking bushes, etc can lead to random item drops whilst approaching any monster will lead to combat. Battles are completely turn based and as traditional as they come, giving off a ‘Dragon Warrior’ feel and boiling down to attacking until the other side runs out of Health. Skills and items add tactical depth, and later monsters can be caught and brought into battle to aid you (or the enemy) or players can party with up to six allies and spread the experience accordingly. Where the game feels a little different is in its use of the land itself, with players able to capture and hold territory to provide bonuses to spawn, HP/MP regeneration and drop rates. Whilst battles provide the standard loot, experience and gold, a secondary currency is also used, which when enough of is gathered can be used to buy structures that the player can build on land they own. These structures open up pets, shops, crafting and all manner of additional features that give the player a distinct sense of progress (even if the costs are a little steep at first, leaning into the ‘you really want to buy some currency’ scheme). The title also features a class swapping service and optionally purchasable prestige classes. PVP is employed from the outset and some clever ideas such as using torches to illuminate the map at night give a clever sense of reality.
Overall, Orna is a strong entry into the newly-minted exploration format of RPG that’s yet to reach the heights of its potential. With a little more effort from the developers and some updates this could easily be an amazing title. At this time a strong online community is building around the game, and it’s a lot of fun to play with friends in person as a team. We recommend you download and try it out for yourself, but be aware that you’ll be required to discover the games systems for yourself.