MMORPGs have become quite popular over the years, and some, like World of Warcraft have found a place in popular culture. However, that's the now and they won't last forever. We mentioned a fortnight ago, five of the biggest MMORPGs at the moment, but what's around the corner that will be able to dethrone those currently flying high? Should Blizzard be concerned about some of the upcoming titles?
Most of the titles up for discussion in this article are in the late stages of development and are running their beta testing phases. There are quite a few of notable merit and a fair few that are targeting specific niches, for example fanatical sci-fi groups. This is our top ten -- in no particular order -- of the titles we expect to make quite a bit of noise amongst gamers when they finally surface and that MMORPG players should definitely keep on their radar.
Champions Online (Cryptic Studios)
Developed by Cryptic Studios and Published by Atari, Champions Online continues to focus on the super hero theme initially displayed in their previous two titles, City of Heroes and City of Villains. The game is currently undergoing its beta testing phase and is set to appear on the Xbox 360 as well as the PC. The game claims to be offering many firsts, such as the ability to not only create how a player will look, but how their hero will move. Along with that, the player will also get to choose how their character's powers manifest and they will get to create their arch-nemesis. Like Final Fantasy XI, Champions Online will allow for cross-platform play, as both Xbox 360 users and PC users will be able to play together. User generated content has been given the OK by Microsoft for the Xbox 360 version, something which has been an issue in the past for developers.
The game itself will have a level 40 cap, and plenty of end game content. Equipped items will appear on the character visually, although this feature can be turned off should the player want. Every character can use every skill or power, which will allow for a varied class system, as there are no specific rules or sets of skills a player can stick to. It also uses a similar system to World of Warcraft, whereby when a player dies their experience points doesn't take a hit and only their equipment is harmed. It has also been confirmed that there is more than one way to get around the game at speed, from tunneling, to swinging, to flying.
The game is due for launch in September, 2009.
Dragonica (Barunson Interactive)
Being developed by Barunson Interactive, Dragonica is unlike most other MMORPGs due to its side-scrolling nature. The game is scheduled to be "free-to-play" and currently has numerous different betas in progress. There are going to be four classes to initially choose from, with each having various routes through which it can progress.
Star Wars: The Old Republic (BioWare)
Although many people thought it would be Knights of the Old Republic 3, BioWare have decided to adapt their skills and take Star Wars online. Although this isn't the first Star Wars MMO, with Star Wars: Galaxies coming before it, The Old Republic will be in direct canon to Knights of the Old Republic. Players will be able to choose whether to side with the Galactic Republic or the Sith Empire and the story itself will take place 300 years after the events that took place in Knights of the Old Republic. Many of the famous planets and cities seen through previous Star Wars encounters will be visitable, and the story is said to have much more content than any of their previous titles put together.
It's been confirmed that there will be a class system, but only two have been announced so far. The Bounty Hunter class will represent the Sith Empire, while the Trooper class will fight for the Galactic Republic. It is said that each class will have its own role to play in the story, but overall the main path remains the same. There is also scope for having NPC companions and like in previous titles, spending time with the same NPCs will help to make the story more involving. Sadly for console owners there are no plans for a release on anything other than the PC.
Lineage III (NCSoft)
Lineage II is one of the most successful MMORPGs of all-time, and while Lineage III has been in development since the 1st of January, 2008, NCSoft don't expect to release any public details about this title until at least 2011. It looks like Lineage II still has quite a few years to run until its successor is released, that's for sure.
DC Universe Online (Sony Online Austin)
DC Universe Online is being developed by Sony Online Austin and as the name suggests, is set in the DC Universe. The game allows players to pick which city their character hails from, although only two have been confirmed thus far as being Metropolis and Gotham. They then choose whether to be a hero or a villain. There is a definite message that the developers want to make the game more interactive that most MMORPGs, but they also wanted to keep core elements, such as leveling and inventories.
Being able to play as both heroes and villains enables lots of different routes to be taken, and this can cause some elements to conflict, as both sides try to undertake an objective at the same time. Not a great deal is known about the actual gameplay as of yet, but with a release looking to be towards the end of this year and early 2010, hopefully more info will surface in the near future. It is currently being produced for the PlayStation 3 and PC platforms..
Hero's Journey (Simutronics)
Hero's Journey made a name for itself at E3 in 2005 and 2006, with it winning numerous awards, but since then very little has been heard. The game hopes to create a world where the players decisions affect the overall gameplay, such as allowing for specific nemesis. It also incorporates the use of multi classing from the very start. The game is being developed using the HeroEngine and takes place in the world of Elanthia. However, there is no release date, or estimated period of release for this PC game.
Star Trek Online (Cryptic Studios)
Star Wars Online is another MMO being developed by Cryptic Studios. The title was originally being developed by Perpetual Entertainment, but they sadly went bankrupt and Cryptic picked the project up. The game is due to be set 30 years after Star Trek: Nemesis, and will be the first Star Trek MMORPG. The gameplay is said to encompass everything that a Star Trek fan would want, from boarding enemy vessels to owning their own ship and beaming down onto planet surfaces.
Each player will captain their own ship, which will have a crew of NPCs. At the moment, it's known that they can choose to be from the Federation or Klingon. More races in the works, including the possibility of making entirely new races. There are due to be two combat systems; away team missions will consist of more traditional combat, while space combat will be much more tactically orientated. The scope for this game could be quite awe inspiring, but theres very little to go on in the current stages.
Alganon (Quest Online)
Alganon is under the radar for most hardcore MMORPG players, as Quest Online are attempting to make the game much more accessible to casual gamers. However, there is still going to be plenty of depth for hardcore players who want to invest the time. The game does feature quite a few unique ideas, such as a family system which assigns players into a group of people upon creating their character.
Alganon is currently in its alpha stage, with the beta set to start soon and the developers are hoping for a release in 2009.
Stargate Worlds (Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment)
Stargate has a huge cult following, and with Stargate SG-1 now cancelled, Stargate Worlds hopes to give fans something to look forward to. The game is due to feature a class system which removes the need for a healer type, as every class is capable of being a medic. There are seven classes mentioned at present and these are Commando, Soldier, Jaffa, Goa'uld, Scientist, Archaelogist and Asgard. Each class will have three specific skill trees they can advance along.
There was initially optimism about space combat being included, but Cheyenne have deemed it slightly impractical to implement. They have stated though that it could be considered in an expansion. There is hope that missions will involve the ability to explore the ships themselves, but currently not a great deal is known. Despite this, there have already been discussions about expansions regarding Stargate: Atlantis. A beta registration is currently in the works, with current signs indicating towards a release at the end of the year.
Ragnarok Online 2 (Gravity Corp.)
It's been a while since there has been any news regarding Ragnarok Online 2 and it's now been in development for at least 4 years. While there are various betas ongoing at the moment, reception hasn't been overly enthusiastic. Various problems and delays in the beta in other territories have begun to raise suspicions about the game's future.
The future is certainly bright for MMORPGs and this list highlights that there are a lot of good quality MMORPGs on the horizon. However, it's by no means exhaustive and there are other titles such as The Agency which have been omitted, due to it being more of an MMOFPS.
Be sure to check back in a fortnight to get the scoop on the future of the MMO genre, and a look at many of the unnamed MMORPGs which are known to be in development.
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