While every gaming genre is being well explored in the domain of smartphone games, the one genre the platform seems ripe for – augmented reality gaming – seems to be underdeveloped. Google seems to be attempting to remedy this with its new augmented reality game, titled Ingress. While the game is in a closed beta right now, you can apply for a beta invite at the Ingress website. Once you are part of the closed beta, you can download the app from Google Play. Google has also released a trailer for the game.
Ingress seems to be going for a dystopian cyberpunk theme with an ancient war between hidden factions thrown in for good measure. The game will have you join one of the two factions – the Resistance or the Enlightened – and go to various landmarks to complete objectives. The game also seems to be completely online with a social aspect, much like a massively multiplayer online game. The game allows you to track the progress of other players from around the world and communicate with them using an Intelligence app. According to the description of the game, players will need to work together to complete objectives. Cooperation across neighbourhoods, cities, and countries is required to achieve victory.
Here is the story of the game according to its description: “A mysterious energy has been unearthed by a team of scientists in Europe. The origin and purpose of this force is unknown, but some researchers believe it is influencing the way we think. We must control it or it will control us.” Players will play as either the Enlightened or the Resistance. The Enlightened want to embrace the power that can be obtained from the energy. The Resistance, on the other hand, aim to defend and protect what's left of our humanity.
Google's attempt at an augmented reality game
The game also has an alternate reality game (ARG) part to it in the form of the website for the Niantic Project. The website contains subtle hints and clues, along with cryptic runes that hint to what will happen in the game next.
The story of the game seems very similar to that of games such as the Assassin's Creed series with its secret war between the Assassins and the Templar. Ingress also has allusions to philosophical questions from Deus Ex: Human Revolution, such as whether it is good to harness the power from the mysterious energy or if it's better to cling to the last vestiges of humanity that we have remaining.
Gameplay-wise, some parallels could be drawn from Zombies, Run!, a game that aims to promote exercise by simulating a zombie apocalypse and giving you objectives to run to and complete before the zombie horde gets you. The game simulates a zombie horde by playing sounds through the phone’s earphones, along with a playlist of your songs.
While Ingress is only available on Android in its closed beta, Google may release the game on other platforms, thus getting a true massively multiplayer augmented reality game.
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