When Ingress surfaced some time ago, I wanted in. Not so much because of the usual “I’m there first” reasoning, but more because I had yet to find an ARG that I liked. Geocaching was too physical and slow, while I Love Bees was too virtual and fast. So what would Ingress be? Turns out, it’s something I actually like.
I’m not going to indulge much in the story-aspects of the game (that’s more fun to discover on your own or when you start), but suffice to say there are two sides to the conflict presented in Ingress: the Resistance (RE) and the Enlightened (EN). Whichever side your choose, the game is the same. I’ll give a rundown of what happens in a game, because the provided tutorial is very matter-of-factly and doesn’t really give you much context, resulting in confused attempts to do anything at all.
Spread across the world are Portals. Mainly situated at landmarks, pieces of art and other recognisable hot spots, you can use your Android (yes, it’s an Android exclusive for now) smartphone to track them down through the Ingress app. Once in the vicinity of a Portal you can Hack it. Hacking a Portal earns you in-game items and sometimes intel to progress your knowledge of the story.
Once hacked a Portal is open to be tampered with. The idea is to claim Portals for your side of the conflict by deploying Resonators through the app. As soon as you deploy one it is claimed for your side of the conflict. Portals have eight Resonator slots and filling them all with Resonators, ‘completes’ the Portal and opens it up for Linking.
Linking is creating a field between three ‘complete’ Portals. That hacking I mentioned earlier? It can also give you a Portal Key, With this key you are allowed to Link to that Portal. So to create a Field, you need to deploy eight Resonators at three Portals and hack them often enough to gain the Portal Keys of each (hacking has a cooldown of five minutes after which you can try again and it also earns you more Resonators).
Once that is set up, you can use the app to Link the Portal you are at with the Portal that is ‘complete’ and you have the Portal Key of. Then physically move to the next Portal to Link, and repeat until the triangle is made. Once the triangle is closed you create a Field and you finally earn a score to enter to the tally of your side.
Now the Resonators themselves decay over time, about 10% each day. So a deployed Resonator will be gone if you come back in ten days. If a Portal loses all its Resonators, it becomes neutral and both sides can claim it anew. Any attached Fields will also break down. Luckily, you can recharge the Resonators (also without being nearby) by using picked up energy gained by walking around.
But what if you want a Portal that the opposition controls? Then you can wait for the Resonators to decay, or you can attack the Resonators directly with XMP Bursters. Which the opposition can prevent by deploying Portal Shields. As you can imagine, this generates the actual game. The rest is just upkeep. Co-ordinated attacks to take down Portals and immediately claim them to create Fields, forms the gist of the game as you unravel the backstory.
And thus you scour the maps both in the app and online (there’s a status map at http://www.ingress.com/intel, looking at moves of the opposition and determining which Fields to form and to maintain, while attacking enemy Portals.
It’s all rather involving in that you actually need to be at the locations themselves (making use of GPS and Google’s WiFi location mapping) and do more than just ‘checking in’. It also helps that there are actual items to use; a feature the now defunct Gowalla never capitalised on. Combined with the need to upkeep the Resonator energy levels it constantly tickles the mind.
Travelling somewhere means you’ll automatically check for possible Portal hacks, or for low dwindling Resonators on your own side’s Portals to recharge. And Portals can swap sides pretty quickly as well, sending comments and exclamations throughout the IRC-like chat provided in the app and on the site. It feels a bit EVE Online-ish in that respect.
So in conclusion, yes I like it. A lot. It might just be the thrill of having a new toy at the moment, but I can see this really finding its way and collecting a large following.
The best is yet to come though: once this game is integrated into, say, Project Glass, everyday life will become even more exciting.
Need an invite? Register your email address at ingress.com or keep an eye out for invitation codes.