If you have an iPhone or iPad, it is worth checking out the ground-breaking, location-based game Shadow Cities.
Shadow Cities is a massively multiplayer online role playing game or MMORPG. I have seen it referred to several times as an ARG, but the only alternate reality it involves is its location-based playing field. There is no through story line or character interactions outside of chat with your teammates, who obviously are not fictional. Therefore I don’t consider it an ARG.
Like most games, you’re kinda thrown into the thick of things and bumble about, learning how it all works. The first few levels teach you several spells and assign you missions, so you as a new player or ‘mage’ gain vital experience. You learn to attack the floating spirits around you, build dominators, heal yourself and others, and warp from place to place via beacons. At some point, you realize there is an ongoing campaign running and any energy you harvest contributes to your team’s score. I chose the side of the orange Architects, which have lost every round since I joined! What is very intimidating to a newbie are the high-level mages, whom I have seen chastise lower level mages in the chat room for interfering with their game play. Makes you hesitant about friending fellow players. I literally ran away from the first few friendly mages I met in the game! But I now try to friend those I meet as I warp about the game space.
Having played the game for the past month, I can say it is addicting yet restricted by the boundaries of physical location. I get up in the morning and log in to harvest my energy dominators & check the local conditions. Once I logged in to only find myself in the middle of a large battle in my neighborhood. Dominators become ready for harvest 30 to 45 minutes, so I’ll often log back in to get more energy to help out my team in whatever campaign is currently playing. If I travel to a new location, I have to check in and see what’s out there. A couple of weeks ago, when I was meeting friends but arrived early, I realized I had arrived in the thick of an enemy stronghold. For 30 minutes, I attacked their ward and then took out half a dozen very powerful dominators, until the owner mage finally showed up and immediately banished (‘killed’) me. However, when I recently traveled to rural Texas for the holidays, I realized there was little going on out in the country. I placed a few dominators and attacked an enemy’s, but never saw another mage nearby during my stay. So game play seems to be best in larger cities.
While the game can be played for free, parts — such as buying realms — are tailored to almost require the purchase of in-game mana potions. I normally just hang around and let my current mana and health regenerate before tackling the next task. Makes for a much slower gaming experience, but as a casual gamer, I’ve not yet come to terms with paying to play. And the potions seem quite expensive – 7 for 99 cents, 125 for $14.99, etc. For an idea of what this translates to in the Shadow Cities world, owning one of the realms near my home location would cost me 50 potions. I currently have 10 potions just from game play.
Overall, I find it a fun diversion that’s easy to jump in and out of when I have time to play. If you want to try it out, click here so I get a credit for recruitment. And while you have free will, I highly suggest you join the Architects. We need more good people on our side! To read more about Shadow Cities, here’s a review from the New York Times.