An iPhone-based Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game is the kind of idea that would sound absolutely lovely if only it seemed as if it were able to be pulled off in any significant way. Any World of Warcraft player will tell you that one of the things they wish for most is the ability to play World of Warcraft wherever they are, whenever they happen to have downtime. An alternate version of ourselves that fits in your pocket, ready at all times to complete quests, kill monsters and level up is simply an idea that’s so good it may not ever die in the imaginations of gamers and developers alike.
And thankfully so. As a result, we have ambitious developers devoting themselves to projects such as Yslandia. A simplified, overhead-view MMORPG, Yslandia was recently released in the wake of much anticipation, and the results are mixed, but promising. The first thing you’ll notice going in is the huge amount of variety that is present right from the beginning when you’re choosing your character’s faction, race and class. There are more choices here than one will ever need, and the ability to maintain up to three characters at once guarantees constant variety for those who like to experiment.
When you enter the game, you’ll discover a rather large initial island with plenty of quests to complete and non-player characters to chat with. They are indeed rather simple fetch-quests, but this doesn’t grate nearly as much when the game is played as sporadically as most iPhone games are. At least in the beginning stages, the quests become even more interesting when you find yourself bumping into familiar faces that represent actual people playing at the same time. Once you join a guild, the game allows you to help one another with your quests, teach one another spells, and chat with one another from across the map. It’s this element that gives the somewhat average time-killing game-play style a sense of meaningfulness. Even if you never talk to or quest with these other players, you begin to feel a sense of camaraderie and familiarity. It begins to feel like home.
Unfortunately, it’s this social aspect of the game which also has the most room for improvement at the moment. The game never really does anything to encourage you to join a guild, and once you joined, you are presented primarily with the opportunity to undertake a series of relatively frustrating and confusing tasks together. Trying to help one another complete a dungeon requires a lot of waiting around, typing strategy into the chat box, and general clumsiness that is only aggravated by the platform the game is played on. The best way to play with others in Yslandia, is haphazardly. Anything intentional is quickly met with frustration.
Despite these problems, and a fairly basic combat system, Yslandia remains a fascinating foray into an as of yet unperfected iPhone genre. If you’re interested in an RPG with a social element that’s not too deep, Yslandia’s clever writing and expansive islands will keep you entertained. Even more noteworthy is the promise inherent in the game. This will certainly be something to watch as the developers continue to expand and improve on this already stand-out iPhone experience.