Being a hardcore console gamer, there are few mobile games that ever catch my attention. It’s an even rarer opportunity for a ‘serious game’ (i.e.: games tasked with achieving a defined purpose other than pure entertainment) to make an impression. Logically, my initial impressions of Ingress ranged from ‘completely skeptical’ to ‘cautiously optimistic’ when I heard that this Augmented Reality-based (AR) mobile game could bring about a new depth of entertainment and education to gamers.
Fast forward about one month later, and my impressions have catapulted to levels of ‘limitless optimism’. With its synergetic and addicting blend of exploration, teamwork, and exercise, Ingress has redefined mobile/serious gaming to be appealing for the masses.
Ingress was created by Niantic Labs (a startup within Google) back in 2012. Being a part of Google (known for their creativity and innovation), one can expect anything associated with this brand to be equally as enticing. The game’s storyline is no exception.
An unknown alien race, called the Shapers, have seeded the Earth with a type of matter called ‘XM’ (or ‘Exotic Matter’). Within the world are two groups (known in-game as ‘factions’) who have motives tied directly to this XM: a.) the Enlightened and b.) the Resistance. Members of the Enlightened have a vision of using XM and working with the Shapers to further the advancement and progression of humanity, while members of the Resistance find these forces as a major threat to the world and will constantly fight to preserve mankind’s current freedom.
Upon downloading the app (available for iOS and Android devices), users will be prompted to create an ‘agent’ account, which will act as your character throughout the game. Before joining the fight, you will also be asked to choose a faction, which are represented by two colors. Green is the color associated with the Enlightened, while blue belongs to the Resistance. Starting out, you are a level 1 agent. You level up by gaining ‘AP’ (or ‘Action Points’), which can be achieved by accomplishing various actions in-game.
The basic premise of the game is simple: collaborate with other agents to help fulfill your chosen faction’s vision listed above. ‘How’ this is achieved is where Ingress starts to get extremely interesting.
Claiming Portals and Control Fields:
As mentioned before, the Shapers have seeded XM all around the world. They have done so through devices called ‘Portals’, which are places of cultural significance in reality (i.e.: churches, historical landmarks, memorials, museums, etc.). As an agent, your goal is to capture these Portals on behalf of your faction. To capture a Portal, you deploy ‘Resonators’, which are items that power up a Portal. Each Portal has eight slots for resonators, giving up to eight different agents the opportunity to power up a Portal. Once a Portal has been slotted with at least one resonator, it will turn into your faction’s color, indicating that it has been successfully captured. Unclaimed Portals are marked with a color of gray.
This is where the ‘exploratory’ and ‘exercise’ benefits of the game come into play. Half the fun of Ingress is to explore as many unique Portals as possible. In order to reach other Portals, you literally need to either walk/drive to it. Some Portals can be found within mere feet, while others can be kilometers away. Some Portals are at major intersections in busy cities, others are off the beaten path in smaller communities.
Once a Portal has been captured, other nearby Portals claimed by your faction can now be ‘linked’ to create ‘Control Fields’, which are essentially giant triangular geographic landmasses and the primary metric of your faction’s success within Ingress. When three Portals are linked together, the resulting Control Field generates a certain number of ‘Mind Units’, which contributes to a faction’s score that is measured worldwide. Mind Units are calculated based on two factors: the Control Field size multiplied by the population density of a given area. As you can assume, each faction has their own separate faction score. The comparison of these two scores determines which faction is currently winning.
In order to link Portals together, you must first obtain ‘Portal Keys’. These keys act as gateways to connect two Portals together, forming a blue or green line on the Ingress map once the linking process has completed. In order to obtain Portal Keys, you must ‘hack’ the Portal for which you are currently within range of. There are several types of ‘hacks’ which you can obtain these keys (which I will go into detail later). Once three Portal Keys have been obtained for the corresponding Portals you’d like to create a Control Field for, the actual linking process can begin.
Simple enough, right? Not quite – let’s now talk about how to attack opponent Portals and Control Fields.
Attacking Enemy Portals and Control Fields:
Much like it is your faction’s main goal to generate as many Mind Units as possible through the creation of Control Fields, it is just as critical for you to prevent your adversaries from doing the same. Attacking an opposing faction’s Control Fields and Portals is at the heart of Ingress gameplay.
To attack an opposing faction’s Portals and Control Fields, you need to deploy ‘XMP Bursters’. These offensive items can also be obtained through the tactic of ‘hacking’ Portals. In order to take out a Control Field, agents must destroy at least one of the Portals linked within the Control Field. Destroying a Portal requires that two or less Resonators to be present, meaning an agent must destroy six Resonators. Taking down the Control Field results in negative Mind Units for the opposing faction, which is subtracted from their global faction score.
The sheer depth of strategy and immersion that Ingress provides has surpassed any of my expectations for a mobile game. In addition to its promotion for exploration and exercise, this game has extremely high replay value. For the reasons above, I am giving this game a 10/10 – you need to go download this as soon as possible!