I talk shop about games a lot here at the Archive and I’ve even reviewed a few, but this will be a first for me. Today, for the first time, we’ll be covering a mobile game.
I made brief mention of Ingress back in my April Fool’s recap, but I really wanted talk about it in detail because it does something that electronic games in my day never did – make the people playing them get outside and explore the world.
As mentioned previously, Ingress (literally meaning entrance for those who had to look it up in a thesaurus like me) is an Augmented Reality game (AR for short) that turns the world around you into the playing field.
There does exist a story in Ingress, but it’s one of the most unobtrusive plots I’ve encountered that one can take or leave at will since Team Fortress 2. The main framing device involves the discovery of “Exotic Matter” or XM that has been linked to a little known and unseen race called the Shapers. The discovery of these two has divided humanity (read: the players) into two factions of agents; the Enlightened who believe that XM and the Shapers can lead humanity into a new age of prosparity and enlightenment and the Resistance who fear a possible Shaper invasion and seek to stem of the flow of XM into the world.
The Gameplay is simple enough; after choosing a side as either Enlightened or Resistance, you must use your GPS-enabled mobile device with the aid of an AI companion to seek out portals where XM is entering the world and claim them for you team. This is done by hacking portals to receive items including resonators to claim portals, resonator mods to reinforce captured portals, XMP (Exotic Matter Pulse) Bursters to attack and destroy enemy resonators and mods, and portal keys that you need in order to link multiple controlled portals together to form control fields.
In order to find portals, you have to explore the world around you. Portals can be anywhere but are most commonly seen at monuments, memorials, parks, and various other places where tourists or recreational groups may be expected to gather. Once you are in range (roughly 35 meters), you can interact with the portal as you need.
I have very few qualms with the game overall. It’s addicting, it forces me out of the house to walk and get fresh air, and it helped me to discover a lot of interesting places that I never notices before. I’ve also been quick to make new friends on both sides (cooperation between factions to build neutral zones and set rules of engagement is surprisingly common).
If I had to criticize anything, which I do for the sake of this article, it’s that the leveling system creates a significant divide among players. Those just starting out will struggle to find any portals they can claim from opposing factions as the more powerful resonators and XMP’s are only available to higher lever players.
On the other hand this does encourage cooperation with other players. By connecting with local players in my region, I was able to coordinate an item drop to restock my supplies and reinforce portals that I lacked gear for at the time.
Overall, if you’re looking for an excuse to get out of the house, I’d happily recommend Ingress. It’s free for Android and Apple devices and easy to get into. Just be prepared to occasionally pull your hair out when you finish securing your neighborhood only to have someone take down that one portal that brings down the entire field you established.