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Why Pokémon Go fans should (or shouldn't) play Ingress

Andrew Hayward | July 27, 2016
Niantic's earlier location-based game is an Android favorite, but it doesn't have the same accessible hook.

The dramatic successs of Pokémon Go has taken nearly everybody by surprise—well, maybe not Ingress players. See, Niantic’s location-based gameplay approach wasn’t invented for Nintendo’s franchise, but rather designed and refined first in the fan-favorite Ingress

Launched in beta in late 2012, Ingress tells the story of two warring factions battling it out for the fate of the world. As in Pokémon Go, you play by leaving your home, exploring your surroundings, and interacting with nodes placed upon nearby buildings and landmarks. In fact, the games share a lot of DNA, with the Ingress world map and landmarks updated and repurposed for Pokémon Go.

However, Ingress is a very different game in many respects, from the neon-and-black look to the existence of an ongoing narrative, not to mention the ways in which you interact with the world and try to topple the opposing side. In some ways, it’s a much deeper experience, but it’s also a lot less inviting on the surface. Pokémon Go players seeking a more robust experience might find much to like with Ingress, but it won’t automatically appeal to all Poké-fans.

Curious? Here’s how Ingress and Pokémon Go compare, as well as why you should give it a shot—or why it might not be up your alley.

What is Ingress?

Unlike the cuddly and colorful Pokémon Go, Ingress has a dark science fiction edge to it, dropping players into a fictional world in which scientists have discovered a powerful particle called Exotic Matter (XM). It hails from the mysterious alien Shapers, apparently, but people around the fictional world are divided on whether or not we should mess with it. 

The Enlightened (that’s the green team) believe that the XM will lead to an advancement in human capabilities and trigger our next evolution, and they fight for that vision. Meanwhile, the Resistance (blue team) want nothing to do with the XM, believing the human race will be enslaved and diminished if they embrace the mysterious material. As such, both squads battle to establish control fields around the world by linking together portals on the map.

That’s just the starting point for the story, by the way: through YouTube videos (see above) and other status reports, Niantic has built an ongoing narrative about the war between sides and the hidden motivations behind each. There’s a lot to dig into if you want it, unlike the story-free Pokémon Go—or you can just play Ingress for fun and ignore the rest. 

Niantic also holds big in-game XM Anomaly events from time to time, including the just-concluded Aegis Nova, wherein portals open up in certain worldwide locations and challenge players to control the most of them. Live events are also held during these typically quarterly challenges, and additional story threads usually come out during them.


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