With many of the current titans of the MMO genre losing subscribers by the day (there’s still a rather insistent camp that believes Mists of Pandaria is indicative that WoW has jumped the shark), many folks are looking for other avenues through which they can gain their MMO fix. Thankfully, the industry’s delivered- here’s our list of the top 10 mmo games we’ll all be seeing –and playing – in the very near future.
10. Pathfinder Online
Pathfinder Online’s still in development, but it already sounds like it’s got all the right stuff. The setting might be your fairly standard high fantasy world, with all the typical trappings you’d expect, but the intriguing part about Pathfinder Online is the trading system, which allows players to create items, consumables, fortifications, settlements, and even kingdoms. Player-led kingdoms can grow from the ground up; and war against one another and NPC factions in an attempt to be the dominant force in the world. More than just a game, it feels like the Pathfinder development team is creating a world.
9. Blade & Soul
Blade & Soul might have languished in development hell for several years, but it’s still a very promising MMO. With a freestyle, breakneck-paced combat system and gorgeous graphics built on the Unreal Engine 3, NCsoft looks to be doing a great many things right here – let’s just hope everything holds up when it finally releases.
8. Age of Wushu/Age of Wulin
Here in the Western World, it seems as though many of us have replaced our romanticization of the medieval era with that of ancient Asia. With its beautiful, painstakingly-designed set pieces, Age of Wulin certainly scratches that itch. But that’s not what makes this martial arts action MMO awesome. First, there’s no typical ‘level up’ system. Your character will progress as you learn skills and seek out martial arts masters. Second, the developers emphasize mobility- something which most MMOs seem to fall short on. Third, they’ve gone out of their way to create a realistic world- when you log out, your character remains in-game as an NPC, performing a profession of your choosing or just wandering about. Enemy players and factions can actually kidnap your character while they’re in this state, and it’ll fall to your own faction to rescue you. It’ll be hitting North America in 2012, and best of all? It’s free to play.
Yet another open-ended MMO, the entire idea behind Archeage (which has been in development since 2009) is free will. Developed by the same folks who developed Lineage, the game’s slated to feature a completely player-run economy, city and housing system, and a world that evolves based on what the players do, one which they hope to make truly organic.
6. The Repopulation
Continuing the trend of awesome-looking sandbox MMOs, The Repopulation is completely open-ended. There’s no leveling system, and all gameplay is based on the advancement of any of seventy-five different skills. That said, while there’s faction-based PVP, players are by no means forced to join up with one of the factions and fight. They can choose to explore and craft, develop new technologies, design and construct their own cities (which can be attacked and overrun, and even turn into dungeons), or genetically engineer creatures. Players interested in battle can bring vehicles to the fight, and combat can be toggled between Action Mode (FPS) and RPG Mode (Traditional).
While Wildstar’s art direction might not appeal to everyone, it’s not how this game looks that makes it interesting- it’s how it’s going to play. At character creation, players are going to be able to choose an “archetype” that literally changes how the game is played. Want to wander around the world building stuff? Become a Settler. Feel like doing some research and developing new technology? Scientist is the path for you. Want to trigger armed assaults on enemy fortifications or locales? Choose soldier. We don’t know when Wildstar’s getting released, but one thing we do know is that it looks very, very cool.
4. World of Darkness
The World of Darkness setting’s fairly intriguing on its own, and that’s why it’s so exciting to see that it’s being made into an MMO…particularly given the fact that it’s being done by the developer of Eve Online, Crowd Control Productions – known for their incredibly non-standard MMO design tendencies. One of the most striking features of World of Darkness is going to present players with a staggering amount of freedom, and that whoever manages to become the “Prince” of a city can mark any players they don’t like for permanent death. Hey, it’s World of Darkness – were you expecting it to be forgiving?
3. Lineage Eternal
Another epic free to play title from NCsoft. Lineage Eternal at first glance looks more like a top-down action RPG; a dungeon crawler such as Diablo. That’s only at first glance, though. While it certainly does include many of the standard dungeon crawler tropes (massive groups of enemies to dispatch, fast-paced, chaotic combat) it also features an incredibly unique combat system. Rather than simply clicking about and pressing buttons, it uses mouse input for abilities- for example; spinning the cursor in circles, sweeping it across the screen…you get the idea. They want to make the input from the mouse to actually mean something to the gameplay – and it looks like they might succeed in doing so.
Neverwinter is one MMO that most of us have probably already heard of on several occasions, and there’s a good reason for that- it’s probably going to be the biggest D&D game ever developed, and it’s being designed with fast-paced, action-based combat in mind, and – this is one of the features I’m most excited about – a Dungeon creation tool. If you play just one D&D game this year, make it Neverwinter- it’s set for a Fall 2012 release.
1. The Elder Scrolls Online
It’s what Elder Scrolls fans have been wanting for years now- an Elder Scrolls MMORPG. The combat sounds fresh and interesting (word is, it’ll be similar to what you’d see in Skyrim or Oblivion), the story and world are both intriguing, the quest system is a unique step away from tradition, and the ability for players to war over the throne of Cyrodiil – and select a player from among their faction to put on the throne – is a very, very nice touch.
Thanks for reading out list of the top 10 MMORPGs that we will be seeing in 2013 and beyond!