Saturday, January 10, 2015

Upcoming MMOs and Online Games in 2015!

                Following the Upcoming RPGs article, in this one I will talk about the online games and MMOs that are going to be released in 2015. This year is looking great for online gaming and there are loads of titles fit for everybody’s taste.
This list doesn’t contain the online only FPS games as they will be featured in an article dedicated for the genre.
                Without further ado, here are some of the most anticipated and interesting online titles which will be launched this year (before postpones and cancellations):

Heroes of the Storm
Release Date: TBA, CBT January 13

                Blizzard Entertainment is embracing the free to play business model quite well and takes full advantage of their huge fanbase.
The Heroes of the Storm is a much more casual approach to the MOBA genre whose greatest feature is the fact that it combines the three Blizzard franchises in one title. The game is offering the chance to play with many of the known characters from Blizzard’s lore including Zeratul, Kerrigan, Arthas and even Diablo.
                Heroes of the Storm tries to change the current “meta” design of the MOBA games by focusing more on objective play rather than the typical lanes grind of the most popular titles of the genre. The changes made to the gameplay resulted in shorter matches which don’t require the same insane amount of concentration and effort as matches in standard MOBA games.
But despite being a game for the casual playerbase of the genre, Blizzard will support competitive gameplay for Heroes of the Storm as we are used to from their previous titles. The game already features a ladder with a proper matchmaking system which allows players to prove their worth against other equally skilled players.
                There are currently over thirty heroes available to choose from and three different maps with more of both to be added in the future.
The in-game cash shop only allows for skin purchases to maintain the game as fair as possible for everyone.
                The future of this title looks promising and knowing Blizzard’s standard for quality and their dedicated fans it might be a guaranteed success. Still, it remains to be seen how many players can Heroes of the Storm steal from its more hardcore competitors Dota 2 and League of Legends.

Release Date: TBA, Early Access January 15

                After the DayZ Stand Alone hype, more and more zombie survival games have spawned out of nowhere. Sony Entertainment have been cooking in silence for a while, using their capable Forgelight engine (Planetside 2) and last year they announced a new MMO, oddly named H1Z1.
The game is a zombie apocalypse survival MMO set in a huge sandbox world which will allow thousands of players simultaneously.
                There are various activities that can be done in this game, besides the popular scavenging and banditry there will be the option to build, hunt, farm and craft items.
The world of H1Z1 will be full of challenges like trying not to die from starvation while constantly running from dangerous zombies and avoiding bandits. The game promises a good and immersive online survival experience and this is something that gamers have been waiting for a while (a polished version of this).
                DayZ has been a road opener for a new genre that has tremendously increased in popularity over the last couple of years. By taking inspiration from various games and using Sony’s huge resources, H1Z1 has the chance to take the zombie apocalypse survival to the next level.

Armored Warfare
Release Date: TBA, CBT Q1

                Who would have thought that one day Obsidian Entertainment a studio formed by ex-Black Isle and Interplay developers specialized in RPGs will start making online games. I for one never even imagined this, but the surprise was as pleasant as the new title they announced last year.
Armored Warfare is a free to play online skirmish game about tank battles powered by the latest generation of CryEngine.
                Considering their background, Obsidian even creates a story for such a game to set up the action and not force any world powers fighting each other. The action takes place in a close future with private army corporations spreading throughout the world and taking combat missions all over the globe, some sort of mercenaries using armored vehicles to get the job done.
The players will be part of such a corporation and on top of taking care of their armored vehicles, they will have an entire base to manage and control, which is an interesting feature that might add a bit more complexity to this type of games and maybe some RPG elements as well, after all Obsidian are known for this.
                Armored Warfare will guide the players through the entire progression of modern tanks and armored vehicles, since the start of the Korean War to the present day. This is a great thing for enthusiasts (like me), as they will have the chance not only to see over sixty years of technological and warfare progression, but test it out step by step.
The game looks quite amazing with big maps that take the player in varied places, but not to any specific locations.
The tech part of the game looks great with particle effects realistically simulating high caliber guns firing and all kind of enhanced visual effects that add on immersivity. The game features advanced physics not only for the vehicles and projectile ballistics, but also destructible terrain and buildings, which can lead to different tactics and approaches for each map.
                The unlocking system for vehicles will be slightly different from games like World of Tanks and War Thunder. There will be set tasks and achievements that will unlock new vehicles or upgrades for them when accomplished.
The upgrade system is quite fascinating, not only will it have a statistical and visual effect on the vehicles, but many upgrades are useable in battle by the player. The vehicles will have access to all kind of armor improvements including ERA and electronic countermeasures. There will be smoke launchers to be used, manually guided anti-tank missiles and so much more and all these cool game mechanics will work as realistically as possible.
                Vehicles are designed to the last rivet and will behave on par with their real life counterpart. Balancing these armored vehicles to behave as realistically as possible while serving their designated role in a PvP game is a huge undertaking and one that hopefully Obsidian will pull off.
                For those that aren’t big fans of competitive play and the aggressive community of online games (sad but true), Armored Warfare comes with a solution, the PvE mode. This mode will allow players to team up against the AIs and complete various objective, primary and secondary, that will lead to mission completion and certain rewards, there is even a subtle story to every PvE (and PvP) map in the game.
                Armored Warfare attempts to find the line between simulator and arcade game in order to offer a simulator-like experience while being fun to play and not tedious.

Release Date: Summer

                Dreadnought is an upcoming free to play online skirmish game featuring gigantic space ships fighting in the atmosphere of planets (either powerful vertical thrusters or low gravity?!). The game is made by Yager Development, the studio currently behind Dead Island 2, and is powered by the brand new and powerful Unreal Engine 4.
                Players will take control of a large spacecraft chosen between five classes of ships, each with multiple ships to pick from, and will take part in a 5v5 (possibly even bigger) team battle which require coordination and tactics as well as a good use of the ship in accordance with its role.
                Dreadnought is for a summer release (Early Access?!) with more details about the spacecrafts, game mechanics and other features of the game to be presented in the future.

Tom Clancy’s The Division
Release Date: Q4

                It’s been quite a while since I was excited by an MMO and for good reasons, the genre has been stagnating for years and lacks the innovation that should push it forward, maybe that is why I’m anxiously waiting for this game.
                Tom Clancy’s The Division was announced at E3 in 2013 and was one of the big hits of the video gaming convention. The game is an online open world third person shooter with RPG elements developed by the great guys from Massive using the Snowdrop engine.
The game was originally announced for the next-gen consoles only, but after a petition was signed by over one hundred and thirty thousand people, Massive changed their mind (brilliant marketing) and the game will be launched on PC as well.
                The action takes place in New York after a disease spread and infested the entire city during the Black Friday causing the collapse of the United States in no more than five days.
The player is part of The Division, an adhoc formed organization to combat the threat posed by this spreading disease and save what is left.
                The game features a huge but instanced New York where players can group up and complete missions against challenging AI and backtrack what happened in the city with the help of a technology that can simulate and recreate events that happened in an area based on the digital prints left by those involved (cameras, phones, etc.).
There will be a hub area where players can meet and instanced PvP matches which will put one team against another in a competitive play.
                The Division takes place a little further in the future giving developers the liberty to create some cool and useful devices that can be used by the player in combat situations. Target seeking bombs, turrets and player controlled drones (from tablets) are just a few examples of some of the skills available.
                The technology is where this game shines the most (at least before downgrades), with high quality graphics, spectacular lighting and one of the best physics ever seen in a video game which allows a detailed interaction with the surroundings. This game is a true feast for the eye.
                Massive has a great record with games like the Ground Control series or World in Conflict which revolutionized their genres at the time and from previews The Division seems another one of those games that comes to change things that have been circling for too long.

Albion Online
Release Date: TBA, Winter Alpha Test January 26

                Albion Online is an upcoming isometric medieval MMOROPG developed by Sandbox Interactive whose access to the various testing stages of the game can be acquired by purchasing Founder’s Packs.
The game will be free to play at release and will be a true cross platform MMO being available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android (scary).
                Albion Online follows in the footsteps of some of the older MMORPGs, being much focused on PvP and with many hardcore features that will greatly enhance this experience.
Guilds vs Guilds battles is one of the core mechanics in the game, as guilds can establish bases on the world map and conquer territories from other guilds to expand their dominion. Through the guild territories cities can be built with each guild member having their own customizable house.
                The game puts an emphasis on crafting with no equipable loot from PvE monsters and everything being manually crafted by the player. There will be multiple tiers of items which will require materials from the most common to the most rare that can be found only in the most dangerous places.
The crafting system goes hand in hand with the classless system of the game which allows players to customize a character and equip it the way they want. Albion Online has a similar skills system with Path of Exile, with abilities being bound to items, this will result in a multitude of unique builds of abilities and equipment that will suit each player’s style.
                There are many other interesting ideas that make Albion Online worth following through its development, but one of the most interesting things about this game is its hardcore nature.
A player’s death will result in dropping all the gear on the ground to be looted by other players and GvG battles can end up badly for one side with the loss territories and buildings. The game focuses on group work with guilds having a tremendous value and might not be the safest place for lone wolves.
                Albion Online attempts to combine old and new to revitalize the PvP mechanics of MMORPGs. The idea of cross platform between computers and tablets might be scary and could have a negative effect on the game complexity, but if done right can open up new doors for future games.

Everquest Next and Landmark
Release Date: TBA, Landmark currently in CBT

                Everquest Next and Landmark is an ambitious project by Sony Entertainment of combining the standard MMORPG world of Everquest Next with the creative ideas and designs of the players from the sub segment of the game designed to be a world building tool called Landmark.
The developers promised that the most brilliant creations of the players will be brought to the MMORPG world of Everquest Next.
                The game is the successor of Everquest and Everquest II, but is neither a prequel nor a sequel to those games, instead takes place in a parallel world with some familiar faces and locations but portraying different events.
                Besides the innovative world building tool, Everquest Next comes with new features that promise to change the shape of the world (and maybe the genre) forever. The game has an advanced physics system implemented which allows the players to constantly modify the world by destroying its terrain or buildings. This is combined with an ever shifting system of politics and even religion based on events of whose outcome is decided by the player’s choices, so that the world of Everquest Next doesn’t look the same from one day to another.
                The class system in the game allows for all kinds of combinations that will result in the craziest builds, with rogues being able to teleport and barbarians to backstab.
                Everquest Next and Landmark is a game for change and as its world won’t look the same from one day to another MMORPGs might not look the same after its release. Hopefully Sony Entertainment will manage to pull of this great project and lead the MMOs to further innovations and changes for the better.

Arena of Fate
Release Date: TBA, currently in CBT

                Arena of Fate is Crytek’s take on the MOBAs, the game features 5v5 tactical matches and uses similar mechanics to most of the games of the genre. The map is split in three lanes, each lane having its own towers and advancing creeps spawning at a set time on each lane.
                The difference between Arena of Fate and the common MOBAs is its emphasis on casual gameplay. Crytek tries to remove the long and tedious games that can take up to an hour to finish by having a time limit of twenty minutes with the hope that this will result in faster paced and more intense matches.
The classical items builds have been removed in favor of traits, which can be acquired with the gold earned throughout a match. Each trait will add a specific passive bonus to a hero, enhancing its combat capabilities. This idea is part of the favoring of casual gameplay, by limiting and concentrating the amount of builds available.
                The game’s heroes are taken from history or legend, with characters like Robin Hood, Joan of Arc, Tesla or Little Red Riding Hood (that’s right!) being playable.
                Arena of Fate with its fast matches and a little less complexity might suit those players that are enjoying this genre, but don’t have that match time to spend with a MOBA. The game will have to compete this year with Heroes of the Storm from Blizzard Entertainment which is based on the same idea of casual fast and fun gameplay.

Fractured Space
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access

                Survival and space games are the new fashion in the last couple of years (blame DayZ and Star Citizen for that) and a MOBA set in space was bound to happen at some point. This challenging endeavor falls on the shoulders of Edge Case Games with their current work in progress title, Fractured Space.
                Fractured Space is an upcoming online free to play game currently in alpha stage and available through Steam’s Early Access.
The game puts the player in the lead of a capital ship of different classes in a team based combat heavily inspired by MOBA games. The space ships are fully customizable and serve different roles in the game based on their size, stats and useable abilities.
The combat system looks well paced for a space game and tactical, requiring team effort, good planning and good knowledge of each ship’s strengths and weaknesses.
                I’m a huge fan of space games and seeing more and more games set in space can only make me happy. I did give up on MOBAs for various reasons, but I enjoy competitive gameplay and I’m looking forward to see how Fractured Space is going to turn out.

Sleeping Dogs: Triad Wars
Release Date: TBA

                Triad Wars is a spinoff of Sleeping Dogs set in the same universe and designed to be a MMO action game.
The story takes place in the city of Honk Kong and the main goal in the game is to rise to power as a criminal leader in the Triad underworld.
                The game will combine standard action games mechanics like melee fighting, shooting and driving with more strategic maneuvers like money laundering, extortion or hacking in order to give the players the liberty to do things in their own way.
The main idea of being a criminal lord set the players to compete against each other fighting for their own turf.
                Triad Wars might not be a proper sequel to Sleeping Dogs, but could be an interesting online experience for the fans of the singleplayer game. Either way, developers have expressed their desire to make more games set in this universe in the future.

Release Date: TBA

                Skyforge is an upcoming free to play science fantasy MMORPG developed by Allods Team in collaboration with Obsidian Entertainment (surprisingly). The game has been in development for four years and is currently in closed beta testing.
                The players take the roll of an immortal being battling the furious armies of some evil gods and can ascend to godhood themselves.
Skyforge features a prestige format instead of the classic character progression based on leveling. This system allows players to develop their character based on stats and progression and switch between classes at any time, without being bound to the one they picked at the start of the game. It is a very interesting concept giving players the liberty to easily experiment with classes and even reroll easier if they get bored with one.
When the god status is achieved a new progression system is unlocked which allows for a management of the followers the god character has which increases that character’s overall power.
                The game uses an action combat system without crosshair and is based on constant movement, timed attacks and manually avoiding the enemy’s hits.
                Skyforge is one of the biggest MMORPG to be released this year and despite being free to play it has quite some production value behind it. With the help of interesting and new game mechanics, the action combat and a good story (Obsidian) this MMORPG could have a big impact on the market.

Lost Ark
Release Date: TBA

                Following the Asian style video games with gigantic weapons combined with absurd but spectacular spells and abilities, Lost Ark is an isometric Hack & Slash MMO developed by Tripod Studio.
                There will be seven classes available to choose from, each with a very distinct and cool look and enhanced with unique and deadly abilities.
Despite having tank and DPS classes, the game’s challenging fights won’t be monotonous tank and spank battles but will require tactics and synchronization from the players as well as great power of will not to stop and look at the bosses gorgeous animations and deadly attacks.
                When not fighting hordes of enemies, the players can explore the game’s huge world and hunt for treasures and hidden areas. There are varied quests to be completed some even have a choices system incorporated which will change the reward based on the player’s actions.
A big feature of the game is navigating with your personal ship in search for new areas to explore.
                Compared with other similar games, Lost Ark will feature at release a PvP mode including 1v1 and 3v3 fights, but there is no world PvP.
                This game looks amazing and seems quite a change in pace compared with the other titles we had lately either H&S or MMORPG. The biggest question about Lost Ark is when (and if?) it will be released in the western countries?

Release Date: TBA

                BattleCry is an online free to play action game developed by Bethesda using the latest version of CryEngine.
                The action takes place in a 20th century world after a terrible World War. With gun powder now banned by the greatest empires, peace gave the world a chance for rapid industrial and technological advancements. But the peace couldn’t last forever and the new technology changed the face of war forever. All conflicts are now sorted out in team battles with warriors bred and trained for this purpose.
                BattleCry is a gory game with visceral combat and fast paced action. Players will have to choose from several types of heroes from different factions. Each hero specialized with certain weapons and with a unique set of abilities that helps them play a certain role in the combat.
The battles are team based and support up to 32 players and will probably feature some competitive ranking system.
Not many details are known about the game mechanics and features or how the cash shop will work at the moment, but there will be a Beta test this year.
                At first glimpse, BattleCry looks like a bloodier and more violent version of Team Fortress with inspiration from other video games. The game is focused mostly on melee combat and has a cel-shaded art style inspired by Dishonored.
It is interesting to see Bethesda trying to get into the free to play business and if BattleCry will be successful it might be safe to assume that we will see more free to play games from this big company in the future(TESO?!).

HEX: Shards of Fate
Release Date: TBA
                Hex: Shards of Fate is a MMO trading card game (yes, even TCGs are becoming MMOs these days) developed by Cryptozoic Entertainment, a studio that has quite some history with TCGs, making many such games for various American television shows and working on Blizzard’s World of Warcraft TCG.
The game is the road opener for MMOTCGs and it was crowdfunded through Kickstarter, raising more than 2,000,000 dollars.
                HEX has all kind of game mechanics similar to those met in MMORPGs like trading, selling items via Auction House, socketing, guilds and even PvE content including dungeons and raids.
Players will be able to create a champion choosing from up to six different classes and eight different races. Each champion can be customized through gear, talents and abilities.
Sadly the problems of TCGs haunt this game as well. Players will have a starter deck of sixty cards and win up to three hundred more through PvE content, but for those tempted to do so, there will be booster packs available for money. As innovative as HEX sounds right now, it still didn’t manage to find a way around the relatively pay to win model of TCGs (some might argue about this), but on brighter note, at least booster packs can be won in tournament battles.
                HEX: Shards of Fate seems like the hardcore TCG that the market direly needs, but never fully get because Ubisoft or Stainless Games didn’t bother to fully support their games and take them to the next level of competitive gaming with innovative features.

Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade
Release Date: TBA
            When Warhammer 40k: Dark Millennium was cancelled following the fall of THQ I was very disappointed, I’ve always been dreaming of an open world MMO placed in the 40k universe.
But hope was restored (more or less) with the announcement of Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade a 3rd person shooter MMO developed by Behaviour Interactive (a studio that made loads of questionable games).
                Eternal Crusade is a limited free to play game which allows the players who didn’t purchase the game to only take control of the Ork Boyz, a basic class of the Orks faction.
The game is focused on PvP gameplay with factions being in a never-ending battle for the planet Arkohna and will allow the players joining one of the four different factions (races): the Space Marines, Orks, Eldar and Chaos Space Marines.
The Tyranids will also be present in the game but only as NPCs, they will act as a balance force against the players focusing mostly on the faction that has conquered the most terrain. The Tyranids will also serve as the enemies for the PvE part of the game which is formed of underground dungeons and Hives.
More races like Tau and Dark Eldars are planned to be added throughout the game lifespan.
                There will be a lot of different classes for each of the four starting factions, each class serving a different role and being designed around the units of the tabletop game.
Vehicles will play a big role expanding the tactical options with overwhelming and powerful assaults on both land and air or strategical artillery barrages covering the infantry advancements. Each vehicle can be customized with weapons and upgrades based on the rulebook of the tabletop game.
                At the first glimpse the game looks like a Planetside version set in Warhammer 40k, with the addition of more factions and PvE content, and this is not bad at all. The idea of having hundreds of players from different factions battling for the same objective in the dark science fantasy setting of 40k’s universe is absolutely thrilling.

                There was never before a year as exciting and full of new MMOs and online games as 2015. The market will be absolutely crowded and developers of the current MMOs will have to put an extra effort so their games are ready for this huge competition, which is always good. One thing is for sure, those who are passionate about online games will certainly find something to play this year.


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