Just a little touch

Distractions abound

Monday, November 8, 2004 | 12:38 PM | by
There's not much news to post about today. I skipped Nekocon this weekend, and it was the best decision I could have made. I had a great weekend, and I got so much work done I feel like goddamned Superman.

Halo 2 ships today. There was maybe 10% of the audience of this website that didn't know that. So it's not really news.

One thing I can talk about for a moment is the N-Gage QD. A little over a week ago I received a complimentary N-Gage from the good folks at Sega and the Themis Group. The reason for this was not simply my dashing good looks, but rather so that I could take part in a sneek peek tournament of an upcoming game called Pocket Kingdom.

The N-Gage arrived fully charged, assembled and set up with a free cellular account, thanks to the guys at Themis Group. Not a bad first impression at all. Right out of the box I was able to fire up the game and play. Pocket Kingdom is an online tactical squad game. That's the best way I can think to describe it. Basically you accumulate loot and items for the sole purpose of upgrading your Kingdom and Units. You form 4-person squads out of your units, setting one to defend your kingdom from attackers, and using up to 7 other squads to lay waste to surrounding kingdoms, NPC and PC alike.

The crafting system is pretty cool, and an essential portion of the game to learn, if you want to have any chance. You combine any of four things to make an item. You combine a mold (armor, sword, etc) with an ore (copper, chrome, silver, etc) and two of any number of different items such as jewels, potions, spells, etc to create different items with different attributes and effects. You also use the crafting system to create RankUp Emblems, which you apply to your base units to transform them into more powerful creatures.

The unit progression is sort of a tree-based structure. A simple soldier might turn into a Phalanx with one series of emblems, but use a different series of emblems on him, and he becomes a knight, or an undead warrior. You can turn a base noble (magic user) into a priest or a necromancer, depending solely on the type of emblem you upgrade him with. There are a lot of different units.

Once you've assembled a squad, you can set parameters for their combat style. You can tell them whether or not they'll charge head-on into a battle, or play defense, protecting the weakest unit. You set this all up ahead of time, because once a battle starts, you're just along for the ride. The outcome is decided by the computer at the beginning of the fight, based on comparing attributes of the fighting squads. Then you just sit back and watch it play out visually.

The real focus point of the game is on PvP. The game is all about destroying everyone you come across. There are NPC kingdoms which you can attack and spank for loot, but you don't get any Victory Points. For every boss or player that you defeat, you gain 10 Victory Points. Everytime you lose, you lose 10 Victory Points. The game keeps an online scoreboard, and the goal, quite simply, is to get to the top of the scoreboard. Or as high up as you can get. The game is based very heavily around competition, and has a very mocking style to it. Everyone talks in Leetspeak, and the whole idea is to "own" everyone else.

With all of that said, the game is pretty cool, and surprisingly deep. It is also very easily addicting. It's fun playing online with a portable device, knowing that you always have to be watching out for an attack, and there is a lot of strategy involved with choosing the right units, and choosing the right attack patterns. It's just too bad the game is on the N-Gage.

However, the N-Gage QD is a redesigned version of the original. It's got a better shape to it, and you no longer have to talk into the side of it, holding it like a big taco against your head, to quote the official website. You can hold it flat to your ear, which makes it more passable as a phone device, but it still doesn't measure up to an actual cell phone. I would never replace my cell phone with an N-Gage.

It does both the cell phone and the gaming, but it is the master of neither.

However, if you were to look at the N-Gage QD as a portable gaming system that you have to pay a monthly fee for (a cell phone plan) in order to play online with friends (like an MMORPG) and that you could use to send text messages or receive calls with IF YOU NEEDED TO (like if your regular cell phone was charging), then it's actually not a bad little piece of machinery. I just wouldn't suggest approaching the N-Gage like a viable all-in-one device, because it isn't.