Well, it looks like yet another big name developer is getting in on Facebook. This time around it is Sony Online Entertainment, as the game developer brings its popular turn-based strategy game, PoxNora, with a stated 2.5 million registered accounts, to the social network.
Despite a few hang-ups trying to use the game in Internet Explorer (text wouldn’t display properly), we were thankfully able to take a look using Firefox.The game actually proved to be extremely fun.
Okay, it’s fun once you get through the tutorial — which is terribly boring, by the way. Essentially, there are two players on a map, each with their own shrine. The objective of the game is to destroy that target. Of course, it’s hardly that simple. Each turn, the user is granted a resource called “Nora” – a sort of magic – which determines what they can deploy.
The deployed items cost X amount Nora, based on their power; as the game goes on, more powerful units become available, and are dubbed “runes.” These runes range from basic champions, to spells, to relics, and so on. Each has its own special abilities, and there are a lot of different runes, so the game gets strategic, fast. Some champions can only attack – some melee, some ranged – others can block incoming attacks, others heal, and so on.
The spells and relics also cost Nora but obviously do not always remain on the battle field. Relics, as an example, might give your champions extra health or damage so long as it survives, while a spell might heal, do area of effect damage, or hinder enemy movement.
This is where the next level of strategy appears. Each rune can only be deployed near your shrine – sans spells which can also be deployed near any friendly unit – or near a Nora Font. Each unit gains a set number of action points each turn and can move a certain distance on a grid based on those points. One grid space is one action point. However, these points are also needed to perform most attacks and special abilities a champion has, so budgeting them becomes very wise.
The Nora Fonts, or fountains, around the map are controlled by having only your faction adjacent to them. If there are no enemies near it, it will provided the controlling player extra Nora per turn. So, these are highly strategic locations to control.
Of course, PoxNora wouldn’t be much of a Facebook game without social capabilities. The game does allow for automatic feed postings, but it is actually turned off by default — an unusual move for an app. Furthermore, it doesn’t spam the player with “post this,” “share this,” etc. Actually, most of the social elements are within the game world itself.
Players are actually able to play synchronous multiplayer with one another. Even better than this, they can play in ranked ladder matches, unranked casual matches, unranked casual matches for those ranked under level 25, or just chat in “The Bazaar.” Moreover, if they just want to hone their skills, they can just play single player campaigns as well.
One issue, however, is that most of the biggest social games rely on asynchronous features. The point isn’t to have an immersive experience, but to do something simple — like watering a strawberry patch in FarmVille — a couple times a day, and communicate about it with friends. Many social game players don’t even think of themselves as playing a “game,” per se.
Regardless, virtual goods do a good job of complementing other features. In addition to just social play, users can also log on to the “Rune Trader,” and make requests to trade for runes they want or need. Consider it virtual card trading.
As a matter of fact, the game is even more like trading cards in that you can actually purchase packs of runes for Sony’s Station Cash (SC) virtual currency. The currency can be used to buy entire boxes of runes (around 3000 SC), new avatars, single player campaigns, and so on.
Artistically, PoxNora is a pretty nice treat as well. The artwork on the runes is fantastic and everything looks crisp and clean. That said, however, the movement and attacks of the champions in the actually battlefield look a bit uninspired by comparison. Nonetheless, this is just picking nits at this point.
PoxNora is certainly an in depth game, and one of the most strategic strategy game on Facebook that we have seen. It looks good, it plays good, and if you like strategy – and especially competition – then this is a game you will most certainly love. Additionally, Sony say that this title is only the first of many it has planned for the social network.