Origins of Order is the latest browser-based offering from Gamebox. It is a free-to-play MMO game that combines RPG elements with trading cards, deckbuilding, and strategic, lane-based tower defense (somewhat like Plants vs Zombies). Players can progress through a single-player campaign, engage each other head-to-head, or team up to take on waves of enemies as a group.
Sounds pretty normal for a browser MMORPG, it might even be fun. It’s weird though, because that opening paragraph is basically identical to the one in our review of Ancient Summoner, another Gamebox title that hit last August — a game that’s still running today. While the two games have different (but similar) settings and nearly all of the art in Origins is new, the gameplay is exactly the same. So much the same that you could just read our old review of Ancient Summoner and apply it to Origins or Order. If you’ve got to pick between two of them, Origins of Order stands above thanks to superior artwork.
Origins of Order is fun, and pretty successfully combines the elements of a dime-a-dozen browser-based MMORPG with some actual strategy. Most of the game pits your hero against an enemy hero. On each turn, you will draw one card from your deck, play any of your cards that have cooled down, and end your turn to let your creatures automatically advance and attack. The enemy hero then takes a turn of his own. Creatures on the battlefield can attack each other as well as the opposing hero. When a hero’s health reaches zero, he is defeated and the surviving hero is the victor.
The deck you use in battle is totally up to you to build from your own card collection. Progressing through the game unlocks all kinds of cards, as well as resources you can spend either on singles or randomized packs of cards. The vast majority of cards represent units you can summon to the battlefield. Each unit has a cooldown, race, Attack, and Health. Most units have at least one special ability too. A card’s cooldown indicates how many turns it must spend in your hand before you can summon it. Once a cooldown reaches 0, you can play that card without any further cost.
The strategy of the game is packed into how you build your deck and how you play your cards. Once cards are on the battlefield, they are autonomous, automatically advancing each turn and attacking any enemies within their attack range. By default, each creature moves two spaces per turn, and can attack up to two spaces in front of them. Special abilities often modify these numbers however, so soldiers on horseback might move three or four spaces per turn, and archers can shoot up to three or four spaces away.
Not every card is a warrior, though. Walls are extremely tough barricades you can put out into the battlefield, but they don’t move and most don’t attack. Skill cards represent your hero’s own contributions to the battle (besides summoning an army). Early in the story, you will be given the option to choose your hero’s name and gender. A few matches later, and you can choose their alliance (there are two alliances, and each has its own story). A couple matches after that, and you get to choose your hero’s class. The class determines which skill cards populate your deck. Warriors, Hunters, Wizards, and Priests each have their own play style, but the skills basically amount to dealing direct damage to enemy creatures, buffing your own creatures, or healing your creatures.
On top of amassing a library of cards, building decks, and advancing through the battles offered by the main storyline, Origins of Order offers RPG and city-building elements. Your hero will gain experience and level up, which increases your maximum deck size. Your hero can also equip items that slightly boost the performance of your units on the battlefield. Finally, as you use cards from a certain race or class, your reputation with that race or class grow. Certain reputation levels unlock various rewards like silver, new cards, or special items. The city spans 10 buildings that each serve a unique function. The central building can tax your citizens for silver and crystals, and you can upgrade it to improve its income. The Arena offers 1v1 and 2v2 PvP combat. You can gain levels and ranking in the Arena, with prizes being awarded to the top-ranking players each season.
Origins of Order has plenty of depth and lots to keep you busy. Like so many browser MMORPGs out there, Origins lets you automate most of the gameplay. You can automate the deck-building and the combat, but I’m okay with that because it’s not the optimal way to play. When the computer builds a deck for you, it’s looking for raw power and not considering the way that cards might interact with each other (for instance, many creatures benefit when other creatures of the same race are in play). Likewise, the computer is capable of playing the game and winning matches, but it will definitely lose more often than you will if you’ve any sense of strategy at all. Playing optimally means you consider when and where to summon your creatures, based on their abilities, but also taking the enemy creature’s abilities into consideration. The computer isn’t so good at looking at the battlefield as a whole, considering how your creatures might interact with each other and the opposing creatures.
I have a hard time understanding why Gamebox would release a second game that’s so similar to one of its existing offerings, but they’ve got more experience publishing webgames than I do. The older game, Ancient Summoner, is also nearly identical to other titles supported by other publishers. Origins of Order is so similar that if you’ve put any time into Ancient Summoner, Rise of Mythos, or Kings and Legends, you should probably just stick with the game you’re invested in. That said, if you’re new to all of these games, Origins of Order should be your pick. Besides being newer so you can be on a more even playing field with the other players, it also features totally revamped artwork that is generally better than the art of the older games.
Origins of Order is pretty shallow when you compare it directly to other tactical combat games, deck-building card games, or even city-builders, but it mixes these things together in a way that is unique (aside from the games it is cloned from) and works really well as a browser-based game. Check it out if you’re interested in a laid-back RPG and deck-building game that actually requires a bit of strategy.