It's been a funny old year hasn't it? And by that I mean, it's been a fairly unnerving and depressing one. We've had disasters, Miley Cyrus, deaths, and acts of unimaginable cruelty: and to boot we haven't even had a good showing of MMORPGs. If we were to rate it, this year would be a 4/10.
The biggest names of 2013 have undoubtedly been Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and Cryptic's Neverwinter. Both interesting and yet flawed in equal measure, and neither really promising to set the world on fire but instead setting it to gently simmer away like casual global warming.
Starting with Square's 'do-over' FFXIV has been an interesting MMO for myself. It's a game that has reignited my passion for multiplayer. Enjoying it with a friend has allowed me to rediscover that crucial bit of this genre: socialising. Whether or not this has a bearing on the game, or just because its cross-console abilities allow for a wider player base, I'm still not sure.
Because really, A Realm Reborn isn't perfect with any stretch of the imagination. It's a solid, well made MMORPG, which, coming from their first try at an online sequel, is nothing but the highest praise. I've enjoyed Eorzea and its lands far longer than I expected to, own it across two devices, and still play now-and-again. Surely that's enough to say that I've fairly enjoyed this Final Fantasy instalment.
As for Neverwinter, well, we never really saw eye to eye. I think that Cryptic's online adventure made a mistake with the name. Settling for such a highly regarded IP, not just from the BioWare classic of years gone by, but the seminal MUD it spawned, and the D&D campaign setting. There's just so much history there, and in reality, delivering a fairly standard online experience, albeit with a map editor, just doesn't really cut it.
It's not that this Forgotten Realms inspired game is bad, it's just that it sums up the state of MMO decay. It's a bit standard. A bit ordinary. Too linear. Not enough imagination. Not really up to snuff. Does that all sound a little harsh? Maybe the D20 part of my brain has got the better of me.
So with an honourable mention of the excellent Path of Exile, that really sums up my online experiences of 2013. It's been a year of F2P conversions, spotted updates, but most of all of promises. It's a year where developers invited us to come peek through the curtain and see what is in store for the next year.
The biggest of these tantalising, just beyond the valley, games is EverQuest: Next. An MMO that can send the most ardent of grump-pusses into a little wide smiling. If the guys and gals over at Sony aren't blowing smoke up digital asses ala Peter Molyneux, we're all in for a treat.
I'll make no secret of my utter bias towards Norrath and all things Qeynosian, but this next sliver of EQ does make for good reading. The sound bites coming from the studio sum up a lot of perceived ills with the format, and the fact that the developers seem to be ready to move the stale formula of grind and cap on, means that I'm excited.
Perhaps the biggest announcement they have made was their determination to both get amongst D&D and also leave it behind. The in-game AI will serve as traitorous dungeon master, altering the world on-the-fly and creating a well needed sense of dynamism, all whilst also moving away from the trinity, and electing to flee dice roles and standard classes.
What I'm saying is: it's interesting. And if SOE wants to send me some swag, a free baseball cap, and have me serve as sole QA tester - I'm available guys. Just saying.
Also wandering into the thicket of lofty promises is the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One's new found muscle. Games such as Elder Scrolls Online pledge something of Bethesda's trademark charms, while we also have the incoming joys of Planetside 2 to look forward to on Sony's own system.
It's perhaps this level-up in console technology that promises to give our genre something of a jolt and a growth spurt. Already DC Universe Online is thwacking its way onto the criminal scene of the PlayStation Network - and supporting it with all bells and whistles attached makes the superhero game feel more complete and at home than ever. Not perfect, but a great side-distraction with your new system.
And so all that is left to say is, let's hope 2014 is a good one for everyone. Enjoy what's left of the holiday season, be safe, and harbour that lingering sense of excitement of new MMOs in the coming months.
Happy new year.
Adam Tingle / Adam Tingle is a columnist and general man-about-town for MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and FPSGuru.com. He enjoys toilet humor, EverQuest-themed nostalgia, and pointing out he's British: bother him at @adamtingle
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