Deepworld (iOS) review

Deepworld is a new iOS game from Bytebin. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store. It’s also available for Mac, with Windows and Android versions set to follow soon. All versions feature “cross-play” compatibility, meaning that players on different devices can play together — and one player can start playing on one device and pick up later on another.

Deepworld

Deepworld describes itself as a “massively-multiplayer crafting adventure.” If this calls to mind images of Mojang’s popular title Minecraft, that wouldn’t be an inaccurate comparison, though Deepworld distinguishes itself from the indie darling by adopting a steampunk aesthetic rather than the heavily-pixelated visuals of Minecraft. Deepworld is also two-dimensional as opposed to adopting the first-person perspective of Minecraft, so the two titles are actually rather distinct experiences.

Starting Deepworld for the first time requires the player to create an account, as the game must be played online. The player is then taken through an initial tutorial in which they are introduced to controlling and customizing their character, using various tools and exploring the world. Upon completing the tutorial they are thrust into the game world proper, which they share with other players.

Controlling Deepworld on mobile devices is a matter of using a touchscreen control system that is a little too cramped to be comfortable on the small screen of the iPhone. A floating virtual joystick on the left side of the screen allows players to move around (including flying for a short period using their steam-powered jetpack) while a similar floating virtual joystick on the right side of the screen allows for actions to be performed in any direction around the character. This is most commonly used for digging and mining using various tools, though the player also has the option of simply tapping on objects they would like to interact with rather than using the joystick. Unfortunately, this system can sometimes lead to seemingly-unresponsive controls as the game assumes the player is tapping on something when in fact they want to bring up the joystick.

Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 10.21.53 AMThe flow of gameplay in Deepworld is much like Minecraft, in that there isn’t any real set “goal” to complete. Players can collect various items through scavenging and mining, and then use these items to craft other things through a simple interface in the menu. There’s no need to remember “recipes” or arrangements of ingredients as in Mojang’s title — the player needs simply to collect the appropriate components and simply tap the item to be produced in the crafting menu, and everything else is taken care of. It’s worth noting that tapping on an item to craft immediately deducts the ingredients from the user’s inventory rather than asking for confirmation — this potentially provides the opportunity for the loss of valuable items if something is accidentally crafted.

Like Minecraft, players may reshape the world as they see fit by digging in the ground and using blocks of various materials to construct buildings, platforms and other elements of scenery. The post-apocalyptic world setting of the game is a hazardous place, so it is in the player’s interest to construct shelter to protect them from environmental threats such as acid rain as well as attacks by monsters. As with other games of this type, it is a satisfying and fun experience to have a tangible impact on the game world — doubly so since other players will see your creations, too. Progress through the game is measured by various achievements, the acquisition of which allows players to upgrade their character’s abilities in various ways.

The game’s social features include the ability to chat in real-time with other players in the same area, and the ability to “follow” users and keep track of what they are up to, making it easier to collaborate with others. There’s also the facility to make guilds for more organized collaboration. As with many other iOS games, the lack of a static keyboard on screen due to space constraints means that chatting is a somewhat cumbersome experience, but at least the facility is there. The game world is persistent and public, which means that anything constructed by any player can potentially be destroyed and looted by another player — however, it is possible for players to purchase items that protect their creations, allowing for more “permanent” structures to be built.

The game monetizes through in-app purchases of a currency known as “Crowns,” which can also be earned by referring other players to the game. Crowns may be spent on a variety of different packages of items, but the most attractive prospect for many players is that of the “Private World,” a private space exclusive to that particular player and any friends they choose to invite with a special referral code. Players may also acquire a “Premium Upgrade” via in-app purchase, which allows them access to a larger amount of the game’s content and for their character to progress further.

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On the whole, Deepworld is a good, highly creative game that offers a satisfying and fun experience for fans of Minecraft-style freeform adventures. Its Mac and iPad incarnations work very well and are highly playable — the iPhone version, however, suffers somewhat from limited screen real-estate leading to cramped controls and a cluttered, difficult to read interface. It’s still playable and many App Store reviewers seem to be pleased that they can play on their phones, but the experience is clearly far superior on the larger screens of the iPad or Mac.

You can follow Deepworld’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social games and developers.

Play

A quality cross-platform “crafting MMO,” though one that doesn’t work as well on the small screen of the iPhone as on its other platforms.

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