Ingress: A Review of the Beta of Google’s Location-Based MMO Game

Ingress: A Review of the Beta of Google’s Location-Based MMO Game

Nov 26, 2012

Just a short while ago, we were all wondering about Ingress. Now, thanks to an early beta invite, we had an opportunity review it in-depth.

Ingress is the secretive brainchild of Google’s Niantic Labs, and debuts as an augmented reality thriller. A world-wide conspiracy is at the center, and I could choose to decide what side of the battle lines I wanted to be in.

Quick summary: The National Intelligence Agency has created the Niantic Project to prepare for the arrival of Shapers, who, we assume may or may not do something bad to humans. Two factions form: the Enlightened, that aligns with the NIA, and the opposing Resistance, that looks to sabotage these plans. Ingress’s charm is its admirable attempt to meld the real life with the game; in other words, you had to use your reality to supplement the developer’s imagination.

After getting the emailed beta invite, I was prompted to download the accompanying app from the Play Store to turn my phone into a Scanner. Upon starting the app and inputting the activation code, I got to the tutorial. The dialogue was terse, and the action sequences even terser. It did seem a bit mind-boggling at first blush, but I did obtain a good idea of what to expect by working through the simulated scenarios. The app (which relied heavily on GPS) also contained Communications, (adjustable for distance and faction) and an Ops tab. The Ops tab had my Intel, collected Items, Missions and more. The interactive map was impressively detailed, and the graphic zooming animation was eye-catching.

Gameplay consisted of finding and claiming portals in the real world. Monuments, buildings, landmarks… they had hidden qualities which I had to claim for my faction. I was able to tag unclaimed ones, and could attempt to attack and reclaim those of the opposing faction, which the phone-based app had labeled appropriately (SPOILER: the object of the game is to accumulate as much real-world real estate by claiming, upgrading and connecting portals; the faction with the most eventually wins).

The app had a futuristic feel. Call me easily amused, but I did feel like a covert operative. I did find some glitchiness with regards to sign-ins, but in my limited forays, the app worked well in the wild. Sound effects were great, but I would prefer better sound notifications when in the vicinity of the ever-important portals. Also, tighter integration with Google Maps (a drive-to function perhaps) would encourage movement.

Overall, I thought the creativity far outweighed the glitches and the temporary but pertinent inability to invite people at this juncture. Ingress seems slated for some very great things.

Ingress: A Review of the Beta of Google’s Location-Based MMO Game Rundown

Graphics/Sounds - Great sounds, futuristic graphics
Controls - Easy taps and scrolls.
Gameplay - Marketing, real-world element and software make this very, very fun.
Replay Value - There's a lot of reasons to keep coming back.
Overall - Excellent idea, very good implementation thus far.

App available on the Google Play Store »

Tre Lawrence
Tech fiend that isn't too cool for ramen noodles...
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  • Tre Lawrence

    Something else to consider: Niantic’s other app, Field Trip, just added some Ingress functionality.