Saturday, September 11, 2021

A field Guide to LBGs: Orna

In the last post of this series for at least a bit I turn to Orna, a game I was extremely excited about when I first heard of it. Orna is a fantasy LBG inspired by 16 bit console RPGs.  A large, or at least visible and enthusiastic, community seems to have sprung up around it.  Message boards are quite active, there is a good wiki, and a lot of you tube videos are already available (though few of them even have 5,000 views).  Of all the GPS based games I have tried so far, Orna perhaps hews closest to being a true MMO-LBG hybrid.


What do you do?  The main thing you do is kill monsters, collect their loot, and level up.  The moment-to-moment gameplay is exactly like an old Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy game, save that instead of monsters attacking you randomly as you walk around they appear on your map and you choose the ones you want to fight.  Battles are menu driven and turn based.  Each turn you have the option to attack with your equipped weapon, to use whatever abilities you have memorized, or to consume items such as healing and mana potions.  The number of skills you can have "memorized" is determined by your current class, and you are completely free to mix and match skills from any class you have unlocked.  However, that is not to say any skill works well with any class.  For example, a physical attack ability is going to do terrible damage if your are currently a mage type class with low strength. 

This is what you will spend 90% of your time doing.  The battles play out almost exactly like an old Dragon Quest game.

Mobs drop a ton of loot for you to dig through.  In addition to gold and consumables, perhaps  2/3 of foes drop one or more a pieces of equipment. On a scale of launch era WoW to Diablo, Orna is probably more than half way to Diablo with respect to loot frequency and variety.  You can also go looking for particular kinds of gear by focusing on the right types of foes.  For example, a Mage or a Witch will often drop a magic staff or wand.  Gear can be upgraded by blacksmiths or can have enchantments added to them by alchemists.  However,  new gear drops so quickly that there seems to be little reason to mess around with these upgrade systems, at least at low to mid-levels. No gear appears to be restricted by level or stats, only class.  

At level 1 you start out as one of three classes, a classic fighter type, rogue type or a mage.  The fighter has good defense, the rogue does high martial damage and has middling defense, the mage does extremely high magic damage and has terrible defense.  However, rather quickly you will earn enough of the game's central currency, called "orns"and for which the game is named, to unlock the other two classes you didn't pick.  You can then swap classes at will.  You have an overall level based on the highest level you have been able to achieve in any class. When you change classes or unlock a new one it automatically increases to match.  Different classes aren't so much alternate advancement paths as alternate combat styles and new groups of abilities that you can add to your loadouts. For example, lately I have been spending a lot of time as an Archmage, mainly focusing on nukes but also with a healing ability I learned when I unlocked the the Paladin class.

You start with three classes to pick from, and are able to unlock more classes and specializations as you go up levels.  All classes are at the same level.  For example, if you hit 50 on a mage you will still be 50 when you switch to fighter.  Abilities can be mixed and matched between classes at will.  All of these Paladin specific abilities seen here can be used by other classes, though classes vary a lot in how many skills they can have "memorized." So far I think the most abilities any class I have unlocked can use is maybe six, and some have as few as two or three slots for skills.

Very early on you will be asked to pick one of four elements: lightning, fire, earth, or water.  This will give you a damage bonus with attacks that utilize that element.  However, it also determines your "team."  These four elemental teams work a lot like the three teams in Pokémon Go (i.e., Instinct, Mystic, and Valor).  You can only join a kingdom that matches your element (below), and kingdoms can only declare war on kingdoms of other elements.  

The other big thing you do is collect loot.  Classes vary a lot in the equipment they can use, so I often find myself changing classes just to see if a new sword or pair of shoes I have found is an upgrade for one of my unlocked classes.

In addition to killing random mobs, there are also simple quests like "kill six spiders" or "upgrade six items."  These grant gold, XP and orns when you complete them.  There are story quests, that appear to be mainly a tutorial for game systems, daily quests, weekly quests, and quests that help your kingdom advance.  If that all this sounds pretty complicated, trust me if you have ever played a JRPG it's really not.  The basic gameplay loop is 99% murdering monsters via extremely simple combat and checking to see if a dagger, staff or hat that has been dropped might be an upgrade for the gear you are using on one of your classes. 

The world of Orna, at least on my street.  That shop in the middle of the screen is my entire home village.  When I am near it I get some slight bonuses, and eventually I will be able to expand it by adding more buildings to it. When you claim a village, you get to decide whether the buildings are public or private.  The random monsters, like the slime on the right and the wolfman at the top, I can tap to attack.  

What is the world like?  I am not entirely sure what map it's built on, perhaps Open Street Maps.  It shows roads and a few buildings, but not street names much like Pokemon Go.  Near me it assigns some areas to be forests vs open and populates open areas near roads with random buildings.  Whether it includes additional biomes to forest in other regions I have no idea. The buildings I have seen so far are general stores where you can sell loot and buy potions, a pet shop that sells companions that follow you around and help in battle, blacksmiths for upgrading gear, and dungeons (below).  I have read that there are a wide variety of other types of shops, but I have not yet seen any of them.  

I decided to make the one building in my village public.  I get a tiny bit of income from this shop every day when I log.  Whether I would make a crapton of money if someone came by and bought a bunch of stuff, or what exactly another player would see on entering this shop I'm not sure.

Mobs spawn quickly and randomly around any spot in which you are standing.  In fact mobs spawn so quickly that it's  completely impossible to clear out an area, which means you technically don't have to ever walk anywhere to advance.  As you gain levels, the levels of monsters that randomly spawn around you also gradually increase.  Different monsters spawn in forests vs open areas, and at night vs during the day.  This led to some confusion when I first started playing.  I had a "baby's first level 1 quest" to kill five goblins.  I was baffled at first because the entire first week I played I didn't see a single goblin.  However, I had only played at night and it turned out they only spawn during the day.

 Dungeons, called "gauntlets" provide an interesting challenge.  You can only enter one if you have a gauntlet key.  Once you enter you have a few hours to clear every floor.  There are ten floors, each with progressively tougher monsters (one monster per floor) and better loot.  You can first try one when you hit level 50, but you sure as heck won't be able to clear it at that level.  I ran straight to the nearest dungeon when I hit 50.  While I was able to clear more than half of it, the mobs in the bottom few floors were well over level 100.  You start with one gauntlet key.  After that, as near as I can tell the only way to get more keys is to buy them in the item shop, which is a bit frustrating.  However, there are also gauntlets associated with your kingdom you might be able to participate in for free (more on this on "other players").

The main kingdom menu, which is essentially like a guild in a MMO.  Like many more modern MMOs you can work together to level up your guild.  I believe Kingdoms can hold up to 50 players.

Asynchronous interactions.  The main way you alter the world is by building up your starting village.  When you first start playing, you have a chance to choose one village as your home village.  When near it you get a some minor stat bonuses.  Most villages consist of a single random building.  As you progress through the game there are a wide variety of different types of buildings you can add to it.  However I don't yet know a lot about how this works because after playing for two weeks I am up to level 60 and still nowhere near being able to put up any buildings in my village.  I have about half the material I would need for the simplest building.  You do at least get to decide whether everyone can see and use the buildings in your village, or whether only you have access to them.  I believe that in an open village changes to the inventory of NPCs as players buy and sell items are shared with everyone, a bit like how NPC merchants work in Everquest.

One way you can help advance your guild is by helping to clear gauntlets (dungeons).  Members of the guild have a chance to be assigned to take on the opponent on a random floor each day.  So far I have been left out of this system, presumably because I am too low level to handle the fights on most floors.

How do you interact with other players?  The main way is by joining a Kingdom.  Kingdoms are basically guilds of up to 50 players.  Like typical MMO guilds there are ranks, a chat window, and often an optional discord server somewhere.  There are also guild quests and guild gauntlets that you can undertake to help level up your guild.  In guild gauntlets, everyone in the guild has a chance to be assigned a random floor and corresponding monster.  If everyone takes out their monster, all players in a guild gets some kind of reward.  Your guild can also pick fights with other guilds, in which case I believe you will be assigned a random player in the opposing guild to challenge to a duel.  Like the whole town system, this seems to be something that you need to be rather high level (100+ is my guess) to really participate in.  At level 60 I am barely qualified to take on a few of the lowest level gauntlet floors so I haven't yet been assigned one at random.  The low level guild quests I can handle also quickly get snatched up by other players. There seems to be some kind of group raid battles, but that is another system I haven't been able to see much of yet because I am too low level.  

You can also undertake quest for your guild.  This is another system I haven't been able to do much with because the low level quests I could handle all get grabbed by other players pretty quickly.

Is it good exercise?  At first I thought Orna was terrible exercise, and a frustratingly simple game.  There were two random stores and a dungeon near my house.  They stores didn't sell anything I care about apart from potions, and even potions I get from mobs frequently enough that I rarely need to restock.  Since mobs re-spawned quickly and in unlimited numbers in my yard, there seemed to be no reason at all to walk anywhere.  I thought the whole game was sitting in my living room grinding until I got high enough level to add some buildings to my feeble starting village.  Though I was mistaken, you can certainly play that way if you want to.

One major difference from Dragon Quest is that the fights aren't really random.  You tap on a monster that you see on the map, and then get this screen explaining what it is where you decide whether or not to attack.

However I soon discovered that there are other building types in my neighborhood.  For example, near where I set up a shelter in Walking Dead: Our World there is a blacksmith.  It takes him about an hour to upgrade a piece of gear, so once per evening I walk out to him,  pick up something he has been working on for me, and drop off something else.  I tell my wife "Ok, I'm off to pick up my hat" (or whatever) before I head out for the evening.  There are also random bosses on the landscape.  These are worth one or two orders of magnitude more XP than regular mobs, are distributed very sparsely, and take a long time to respawn after you kill them.  It's well worth it to head out and look for bosses instead of being happy with whatever happens to show up in your yard.   

Even if the moment-to-moment gameplay generally is exceedingly simple, the game overall has a ton of depth that I have barely plumbed.  For example, I am not at all sure what summoning a raid boss is about.

All that said, due to the "unlimited spawns anywhere you happen to be,"  there is less reason to walk around in Orna than in the other LGB I've played.  Further, if you want to power level it's a lot more efficient to drive around and look for bosses you can handle than to do it on foot.  Within the entire part of my neighborhood I can get to without crossing highways, there are only four or five boss spawn points, and I have never seen more than two I could actually handle up in one evening.  I can see why so many players like the game, but even after two weeks I am very much on the fence about it.

Initial series Wrap up:

That will probably be my last post in the LBG field guide series for the time being, though there are quite a few more of them on my radar.  If you have a suggestion for which you would like for me to try next, let me know in the comments.  Otherworld Heroes which claims to be an honest-to-goodness LBMMORPG  (!) looks interesting.  However, the game has been out for a more than a year and I haven't heard a thing about it, so I am a bit skeptical.


  1. Thanks for the write-up. That one looks like the most interesting to me of the ones you've covered. If I had a phone that didn't have a faulty screen (it looks like an old TV that's not on the channel properly) I might even try it out.

    I looked up Otherworld Heroes and couldn't find a single review that didn't look like a barely-rewritten PR handout. Pity, because the video makes it look quite interesting.

    1. Yeah, that probably will be the next one I check out unless I get a different suggestions. Even it it's a pretty mediocre MMO, it could still in theory be a pretty good GPS game.

      After immersing myself in three of these games, I would describe LBGs as a genre with a lot of untapped potential. Maybe once something like google glass manages to get widely adopted, we will see someone really push the envelop more.