I'm always on the lookout for interesting mobile games, especially ones that take advantage of the uniqueness of the platform. The most well known of these is probably Pokemon Go, which adds real-world elements to the game's monster-catching cachet.
I recently discovered "Orna," which occupies a similar niche, but using old-school, turn-based, role-playing game-play. There's really not much in the way of an actual story or lore for "Orna." There are snippets here and there, but it's not a major part of the RPG game-play. Instead, the focus is really on the game-play itself and the grind to constantly improve.
"Orna" uses the open-source OpenStreetMap and your phone's GPS capability to show the game world. Your character's sprite will be in the center, and around your sprite, monsters will populate. These monsters can be killed, dropping gold, orns (an important game currency) and other items, including weapons, armor and potions.
At game start, you'll choose from either a warrior, mage or thief -- this will determine starting skills and what equipment can be used. Killing monsters will give you experience to level up, and higher tier classes unlock at certain levels.
Some things you'll notice right away: Your local streets are overlaid onto the game world, and there are big circles all over the place, denoting various regions. These regions, known as dukedoms, can be explored (accomplished by beating a guardian monster) and then claimed (by beating the avatar of whatever other player had claimed the region). Claimed regions give rewards daily and likely will often trade hands, depending on how many players are active in your region.
With the "Orna" app open, the map will move as you move. Player sprites have a certain view-distance around them, and as you travel, new regions come into view. Some features found by exploring are quest-giving nonplayer characters and also buildings, such as blacksmiths smithies, shops, inns and dungeons.
Dungeons are of particular interest — in dungeons, players challenge a series of at least 10 consecutive monsters, some of which will be boss-level monsters with bigger rewards. Dungeons have a cool down that ranges from hours to days, but they're a great source of important rewards.
One aspect of "Orna" that I really like is it genuinely rewards getting outside, walking around and exploring your area. You can play the game from one location — monsters will continually spawn in any location as fast as you beat them — but players will progress much faster (and have a better time) by getting out and about.
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The rewards for being active and walking around are significant — and the game is astute at noticing when you're in a car and not actually walking, so don't try to fool it.
Your real-world location also matters in other ways — if you're in a forested region in real life, the game will spawn different kinds of monsters, and likewise if you're near bodies of water such as rivers, lakes and oceans. There's also a fishing game that can give rewards, but it only works when the game detects you as being near a body of water.
The game can be played completely solo, but there is also a multiplayer element. Players can join kingdoms, which offer additional content, such as daily player-vs.-player battles and raid bosses. It's also possible to join a party with up to six people, sharing experience and completing various tasks together.
There are also lots of daily quests to accomplish, with tasks such as killing a number of a particular type of monster, collecting materials and walking a certain distance.
The progression in "Orna" starts off quickly, but eventually there's a pretty substantial grind to unlock the next tier of class. There's no real reason to rush, though — as long as you're having fun, you can play at your own pace, taking as long as you want. One of the unique leveling aspects of "Orna" is that you're not limited to the skills of your class but can use the skills of any class you've unlocked, allowing a lot of character customization.
There's an impressive amount of content in "Orna," which was created entirely by one developer over the past several years, and the game is still in development, with major features in the pipeline. Its creator recently founded a studio, bringing more people on board, with the goal of a major overhaul that will add live player-vs.-player matches and real-time party combat.
"Orna" is a free game but with a few real-money options (such as some special classes, character sprites and in-game items) but nothing that would resemble a "pay-to-win" option. You can play when you want, put it down when you want. Plus, similar to Pokemon Go, it actually motivates people to get up, go outside and take a walk, and rewards them for doing so. What's not to love about that?