This review referred to the version 1.3. Version 2.0 and 2.1 have been released that make the game even better (and address most of my issues with it). Go check them out.
Own This World is a location based game for the iPhone by Big Nerds in Disguise a company in Calgary, Alberta. I discovered the program via yycapps and purchased it to try it and support a fellow Calgarian company. After a week of playing it solidly I wanted to share my opinions.
The game itself is an odd (but extremely neat) cross between Risk and real life ("a geo-dependant online game" - yycapps), pitting different users against each other in their own backyards by spending time accumulating troops in territories in order to accumulate more resources and hopefully rule the world (by actually travelling the world).
It's a very intriguing and novel idea but suffers from some design flaws that takes the diminishes the fun of the game.
The application design is very straight forward, giving you a map of your current location overlaid with the territories used in game. The application performance is relatively decent, moving around on the map and it starts up in only 10 seconds on my iPhone 3G. The best part is that the opening 10 seconds or so counts down meaning the time waiting for the application to finish starting up counts towards gaining troops. It's a little touch that makes the experience as a casual game much more pleasant.
The game itself is not a fast moving game, in many ways it feels like a day based turn based online game of old. OTW however makes it very interesting (read: addictive) once you get involved with other players, either through attacks or simply taking over a territory. The activity and frequency of "violence" means that the troop counts (at least in Calgary) haven't become insurmountable leaving the game approachable by new users; especially in the more heavily populated (by users) regions of the city.
OTW promotes getting out and investigating the city, and even enjoying heavy traffic in order to spend more time in zones you normally only pass through - so you can rack up troops in hopes of being able eventually overthrow the leader. It also requires that the user be in the territory that they actually want to attack and have at least 1 troop giving attacks a new tangible cost - especially if wanting to strike back at someone who has several other territories. It drops the sniping and requires the player to be more active within the game.
OTW also offers (via in game purchase) the ability to create your own world so that you can play the game with just friends and ignore the rest of the public. It will carry over your current troops in different territories - it'd be a great way to turn some of the bits of the game I really dislike (see below) into advantages.
The largest downsides to the game is that leaving the game on all the time chews through your battery like no tomorrow as it opens a new network connection every 30 seconds to talk to the server. Turning off the screen I found didn't help as it would often mean that the application would not record your time accurately (instead of 1 troop every 30 seconds, it seemed to be 5 or 6 every 10 minutes or just stop once I let the screen turn off). The slow pace of the game and the requirement to actively go check your status in the game can be a bit tedious at times.
The UI of the game itself for the most part is straight forward and intuitive but several bits just don't feel like they "fit" (subjective warning) with the iPhone. The sliding information bar below the map in the Conquest view just doesn't feel right. Maybe it's the ALL CAPS, or the font choice but it looks very out of place. Especially if you have a double width status bar (eg. Internet Tethering, on a call, etc.)
By far however the worst part of the UI design is the user selected colours; from the RGB selection sliders in the User Info (functional but not very friendly) right through to using the user's selected colour everywhere their name appears in the game. Black on black does not easy reading make.
In terms of attacks, there is no defence against attacks. If your hours of work establishing troops is blown away by someone driving by who has several hundred territories or purchased resources your only recourse is to rebuild. After all it's a game like Risk where territories are won and lost frequently. Don't bet on making a stronghold aim for gaining lots and lots of territories if you want to last - and so if your job isn't conducive to road trips outside the city, consider making time on the weekends.
The ugly bits are by far the largest reason I'm uninstalling the game from my iPhone. The first is the ease of being able to track a person in real life - by using the User search I can see where someone last checked in and if I really care enough it's quite easy to know the areas of town where a person is likely to live and/or work. I find that the tracking information is too easily discernible and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth - however it's not a fault of the game itself but a downside of the concept. My best recommendation is that unless you're playing in your own world with friends, be aware of mixing your game identity and your personal identity. The odd part is that you can't find out any other details about the users - how many territories they have or other details unless they are on the leaderboard.
The other bit that really rubs me the wrong way is the $0.99 micro transaction that allows users to buy 100 of each resource, and once I had been on the end of where a person was just throwing money at the problem to attack my territory if only because it's insanely more economical for the player when dealing with more than a couple hundred troop difference. It doesn't actually level the playing field in any respect, it means those who feel like pissing away a loonie or 4 away can take someone from 12000 troops (~100 hours of having the app running on your phone) to nothing (as seen in downtown Calgary). It's infinitely faster than building up your resources and/or fighting within the city for territories. It harms the game balance that exists. I can understand the reasoning behind such an option - it's something I find takes away from the game in it's current form.
It was a lot more fun than I expected but honestly not worth the time investment and/or the sheer battery life drain. It was intriguing and reasonably well done but has too many flaws to give it more than the 3/5 stars I rated it on the App Store. I know I couldn't have made an app that well, it's definitely not an app I'd recommend buying but definitely worth looking at as an example of where gaming on a smartphone opens up new interesting challenges.