Upcoming MMOs for 2014
by Tyler Edwards, February 1, 2014
Most would agree that 2013 wasn't a banner year for MMOs. Compared to the previous year, there weren't that many big name releases, and many MMO fans ended the year with a certain sense of disappointment.
2014 is shaping up to be a different story. There are many massive titles soon to be unleashed on the MMO world. Some offer major innovations that threaten to shake up the industry in a big way. Others are a little less ground breaking but make up for it with things like high polish, a big brand name, or a very complete features list. No matter your taste, there's bound to be a game coming down the pipe that tickles your fancy.
Not all of these have release dates yet, so one or two might not make a 2014 release, but their fans certainly hope they do.
In a nutshell: A cartoony space western that combines magic and futuristic technology in a colorful world full of humor and adventure.
What's cool: WildStar has a lot going for it. Its larger than life style and quirky sense of humor have already won it many fans, and its developers seem determined to include something for everyone. They have planned significant endgame content and progression even for solo players, an oft neglected niche in MMOs, but they also promise to bring back the days of hardcore raiding with brutally difficult forty man instances.
It also offers some more uncommon features like an extensive and functional player housing system and a combat system focused on telepgraphed abilities and careful aim.
What's not: WildStar sent tongues wagging when it announced it would launch with a subscription business model, despite the fact that free to play now boasts near total dominance over the MMO genre. Even if you're a fan of the subscription model, the fact is that hardly any games can make it work these days, and you may be in for a rough ride if WildStar can't pull it off.
WildStar's goofy style can also be a double-edged sword. Many people appreciate its bright style and lighthearted tone, but just as many are put off by a game that often comes across more as a Saturday morning kids' show than a serious sci-fi epic.
In a nutshell: An extensively featured sandbox with stellar graphics hailing from Korea.
What's cool: ArcheAge is a game to set true sandbox fans drooling. It features a massive open world that is completely seamless, lacking distinct zones. It places an emphasis on crafting, exploration, PvP, and the ability to tame the land.
Want to be a virtual farmer? ArcheAge has extensive systems to support that. You can even farm underwater. Want to be a craftsman? Plenty of options for that. Hungry to build your virtual dream home? Plant your claim and get building – no instanced housing here. Want to be an outlaw, robbing and murdering your fellow players? That's an option, too – though you risk being branded a criminal and imprisoned.
The world of ArcheAge can also be extensively explored in all three dimensions with the aid of a variety of vehicles, mounts, gliders, ships, and more.
What's not: Asian imports have not traditionally done well in the West. Gaming tastes just differ too greatly between the two cultures. Even with extensive localization, some Western gamers can still be turned off by mechanics that are more welcome in the East.
ArcheAge's Western release has also been delayed far longer than anyone expected it to be. It's been out for some time in Korea, but the North American version has barely started alpha testing. After such a long wait, much of the enthusiasm for the game has already started to burn out.
In a nutshell: A post-apocalyptic sci-fi shooter from the developers of Halo.
What's cool: When the creators of Halo launch a new game, heads turn. Halo remains one of the most popular and successful shooter franchises in history, and one has to think Bungie's next offering in the same genre will be an experience worth noting.
Despite the hype around it, the details of Destiny's gameplay are a bit fuzzy. We know cooperative play will be very important at endgame, we know Destiny will take players across our solar system in their own personal space ships, and we know players will be able to utilize a variety of weapons and magic like powers.
We also know that Bungie is aiming for a very immersive experience, based on a “mythic” sci-fi backstory. Players take on the roles of the last remnants of the human race following the collapse of humanity's interstellar empire, pressed on all sides by hostile aliens and other threats.
What's not: Despite sharing many traits with them, it's debatable whether Destiny is actually an MMO. It features a persistent world, places a high level of importance on player interaction, and must be played online, but Bungie insists it isn't an MMO, and it won't have players gathered together on traditional servers, instead seamlessly matching them with smaller groups of people as they play.
It feels like an MMO, but it's definitely not like traditional entries in the genre. This puts them at risk of entering a “worst of both worlds” middle ground where it's too much an MMO for single player fans and not enough of an MMO for MMO players.
Destiny is also currently planned to only release on consoles, which has earned the unending ire of PC gamers everywhere. This further serves to alienate traditional MMO fans, who mainly favor PCs.
Elder Scrolls Online:
In a nutshell: A massively multiplayer adaptation of the acclaimed Elder Scrolls game franchise.
What's cool: The Elder Scrolls is one of the most venerable and beloved franchises in the RPG world. The most recent installment, Skyrim, was a massive hit and earned universal acclaim from gamers and critics alike. The idea of being able to inhabit the world of The Elder Scrolls along with thousands of other players already has many fans practically drooling with anticipation.
Even if you're not a hardcore Elder Scrolls fan, Elder Scrolls Online has a fair few interesting ideas to set itself apart from the pack. Its class system is incredibly flexible, allowing people to customize their character not only through traditional builds but also through their choices of gear. A mage need not be a cloth wearing glass cannon; you could outfit yours in plate and turn them into a melee juggernaut.
Add to that three faction persistent PvP battles, huge potential for exploration, an unusually organic quest system, and the option to become a vampire, a werewolf, or even emperor, and you've got a very compelling MMO.
What's not: The weight of expectation always hangs heavy on a new MMO, and Elder Scrolls Online has this problem worse than most. The passion of Elder Scrolls fandom could be as much a curse as a blessing, as much of the Elder Scrolls formula has had to change to work in an MMO setting. No matter how well they pull it off, a lot of people will be disappointed, and if they stumble at all, the reaction from fans will be swift and brutal.
Like WildStar, Elder Scrolls Online has also opted to launch with a subscription business model, and that's a big risk in this market. If that gamble doesn't pay off, it could do irreparable damage to the game. Just ask Star Wars: The Old Republic.
EverQuest Next: Landmark:
In a nutshell: A sandbox exploration and construction game similar to Minecraft that will tie in to EverQuest Next.
What's cool: EverQuest Next: Landmark is a strange beast. In some ways, it's an MMO. In some ways, it's a toolkit. In some ways, it's a crowdsourced game development project. In some ways, it's a testbed for the systems of EverQuest Next.
At its heart, Landmark is about building. It's about allowing players to let their imagination run wild and build the fantasy homes, fortresses, and cities of their dreams. It's about allowing them to leave their mark on EverQuest Next as their best creations become permanent fixtures of the following game's world.
But it's more than just Minecraft on steroids. It is also an MMO, featuring many of the same systems as EverQuest Next, such as its adaptive AI and combat mechanics. It's also about exploring the world and trading with other players to find the materials to complete your digital construction projects.
For a certain type of sandbox fan, Landmark is a dream come true.
What's not: Doing something different is always a risk, and Landmark is one of the most unusual entries in the MMO space in recent memory. It's hard to even find the terminology to describe what kind of game it is. Devout members of the MMO community understand it, but more casual gamers may be more confused than enticed by Landmark's unusual nature.
Then there's the risk that it just flat out won't work very well. Experiments don't always succeed. Landmark is a fascinating idea, but will it be a good game?
Finally, this is another game with a lot of expectation riding on its shoulders. Such big name games always face the risk of a massive backlash if they don't perfectly measure up to expectations.