Orna developers are working on Hero of Aethric, a pixel-art open-world mobile MMO

Orna developers are working on Hero of Aethric, a pixel-art open-world mobile MMO

Have you ever enjoyed the lore and systems of a game but thought it might be even better if it were a different genre? Well, Northern Forge Studios, the studio behind location-based mobile MMO Orna: The GPS RPG, may have done just that with Hero of Aethrica mobile MMO that’s more like a pixel-art Guild Wars MMO than Orna’s MMOARG but still shares plenty in common with the original, including content updates.

Orna players need not fear, though, as the next update for both games, Towers of Olympia, is nearly the same content. Northern Forge Studios PR told us that anything Northern Forge does in Aethric will be reworked for Orna as well, as long as it can ensure that Orna players’ privacy and safety remain intact. So while Orna players will at least need to do some walking to find the new content, they won’t have to be walking in any dungeons in real life.

While Orna’s always had a strong non-walking game, you’ve always had to walk to move closer to in-game objects, territories, and so forth. Inside the towers, which you’ll initially have to walk to in meatspace in order to discover them, your character can move through the dungeon by tapping the in-game locations. Rewards include new weapons, classes, and yes, the ability to make your own towers. And that’s in both games.

Since learning about Hero of AethricI’ve been testing it out, and while I’m still a lowbie, it does really feels like a point-and-click MMORPG that has just about everything you have in Orna: same classes, stats, skills, bosses, the elemental factions, even loot. There’s not much new to learn so far aside from spawn locations and the new map system, which as in most mobile MMOs includes auto-walking to far-away locations on your map.

The difference is that HoA is not restrained by the GPS play and the safety concerns associated with Orna, though it also means there’s less motivation to physically socialize or go outside. It does make your experience a little easier to control than in Ornaace Orna forces you to explore to get the right kinds of mobs for quests, which also should mean progressing through Aethric may be easier (especially on your legs or gas budget). I’ve been blasting through levels, especially while using the buy-to-play Wanderer class (though, to be fair, the passive walking XP bonus from Orna doesn’t seem active in HoA but it’s being looked into).

That knowledge should make the developer’s 2023 roadmap for both games easier to understand and easier for players to decide where to spend their time. The actual post is a bit confusing about what updates go to which game and how, but PR cleared a few things up for us while also giving us further details:

  • Deep dungeons, pristine weapons, action-based abilities, farming, and the chat overhaul are set for both games.
  • The Daily Missions overhaul will be too, but we were told that “certain bonuses will be specific to each game, such as movement speed in Aethric vs. view distance in Orna.”
  • The kingdom (like factions Edit: guilds) overhauls will be in both games, but in terms of faction housing, the studio is still testing out concepts. One idea is that Orna players will get to “move around via tap inside their kingdom hall,” though it’s unclear how it will work, perhaps through free wayvessels or menus.
  • Live Events are only for Aethricat least for now. Orna players have Other Realms events, but Northern Forge is going to be experimenting with new tech in this area, so once it has a grasp on it for Aethricit is “fairly certain [it] will work it into Orna in one way or another.”

The biggest surprise to me, though, is the mount situation: Northern Forge wants the feature in both games! The team is trying to “enable mounts in Orna by having them move you in a set direction for a short distance (without having to move in real life),” but it’s “highly experimental so might be vastly different by launch.” That wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine in my mind, as Jurassic World Alive has a similar feature with its drones, and I’ve noted that Pokemon GO could be doing more with the series’ Poké Ride/mount system but has thus far missed the boat on this. Seeing an indie dev do things we’ve asked of “AAA” devs for ages is welcome indeed.


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