Last week, our staff dished out their best games of 2012. And what kind of New Year’s celebration would it be if we didn’t also include our list of games for 2013 and the year ahead? I’ll be starting things off this week, and just like the 2012 lists we’ve got a few simple rules to follow. The games must be on our Game List here at MMORPG.com, they must not be released already (as much as I’m curious about GW2’s future, it can’t be on the list) and we are limited to just FIVE to pick as our “Games to Watch in 2013.”
Mind you, these are just the games I am looking forward to, and if we were allowing ourselves to stretch the list to ten, it would look a lot different. For instance, I don’t know when Star Citizen is going to come out and it's one I'm watching but there are other sandbox games that intrigue me more this year. Similarly, I expect we’ll see more about Titan, but I could be completely wrong and Blizzard might stay mum this year too. So it’s not included here. We also don’t know when ArcheAge is coming to the US, Lineage: Eternal, Blade & Soul, and so many more. You get the idea. My list could go on forever. But these? These are the games I’m most eager to see unfold this year.
Right up there with Firefall on my “MMO shooters to watch” list, Defiance eeks out Red 5’s game on my personal list because it’s still very much an enigma. But with the game set to launch in April with the SyFy show, things are about to get a lot more interesting with the Ark Hunters as beta weekends begin this month. The mix of traditional RPG staples like loot, character progression, questing, and story combined with the action and vehicles of something like Borderlands could make for a very fun MMO. Definitely one to watch. My worry is whether the game will be too much shooter and not enough RPG. And since presumably, the game is a themepark, whether it will have the sort of features in place to last over the long haul.
Darkfall: Unholy Wars
I'm not including this just so the Darkfall community won't lynch me. But that would be reason enough (wink). Mainly, I'm including it because Tasos and crew are very passionate as always about their world and with the balls to shut down one game and cancel launch at the last minute for true beta testing? Well, how could the second coming of Darkfall not be on my watch list? I hope to get into the beta soon and see how this hardcore PVP sandbox is stacking up to the weighty expectations. And truthfully? I’m anxious to see my stress levels handle full-loot PVP. My main concern is whether the game will be ready for prime time when it arrives. But then, that's what the beta they're going through now is for, right?
I've seen Neverwinter at several shows now... and each time I play it, I'm reminded that Cryptic's got something special on their hands. It's been awhile since the creators of City of Heroes had a hit, but I feel pretty good about Neverwinter. It's sporting a campaign that ties directly into the PnP game's lore for the fabled city, a very capable user-generated content editor that could extend the game's playability for ages if the community picks up on it, and some fantastic TERA-esque combat. The wait and see? There's a lot left to find out: classes, races, monetization (it will be F2P, but we need specifics), PVP specifics and so forth.
I'm weaving back and forth between sandboxes and themeparks here, but if there's one game I'm looking forward to learning more about in the next year? It's definitely EQ Next. Though we'll only likely see it revealed at SOE Live towards the end of the year, SOE's John Smedley is unabashedly hyping it up as the biggest and best sandbox ever created. They've gone back to he drawing board twice with EQ Next, and Smed's awfully confident that when we see the new Norrath we're going to be very happy campers. Given how well they pulled up Planetside 2, I'm inclined to be optimistic towards EQ Next, and I cannot wait to see what it's all about. I look forward to an epic hype-battle between this and whatever Titan winds up being too.
Elder Scrolls Online
And last on my list is Zenimax' upcoming online version of Tamriel. I know around these parts, there's a lot of skepticism. But I've played it for three hours in its very early stages... and it's a lot of fun. Plainly and simply, it's good. It's definitely a themepark MMO, so folks hoping for something akin to Mortal Online (a sandbox that many might compare to the TES series) will be disappointed. But folks who give it a shot, knowing that it's going to be an MMORPG in the Elder Scrolls universe will likely be pleasantly surprised. The combat is great, the progression system is deep and complex, and the three-faction PVP looks to be a lot of fun given the dev-team's pedigree. My main worries are the usual for such high profile games: what will the monetization be? Will it stubbornly veer towards subscription, or will it follow the new order? Will it force folks to chase a carrot on a stick like so many themepark games, or will it give them an endgame that's worth hanging around for?
But for all of the above games, and the many more I didn't get to list: which will be brave enough to innovate and continue to drive the genre forward. In my eyes, 2012 was the beginning of a new golden era for the MMO. Let's hope 2013 continues that course. What about you? What games are you looking forward to seeing more of this year?
Be sure to follow Bill on Twitter @TheBillMurphy