By now the dust is pretty much settled on this year’s E3. As previously noted, it was my first. During which I had the opportunity to take in far too many sights and sounds and also a fair share of promising upcoming games. While I could go into great detail all over again about the many cool looking console and handheld games I saw at the show, what I really was impressed with were some of the non-traditional titles on hand in MMO form. Some might argue that there was nothing quite “awe-inspiring” from the show this year, but I left Los Angeles pretty stoked about the games on the horizon.
These aren’t MMORPG.com’s “Official Best of E3 Awards”, and instead merely reflect my own personal impressions from the show floor. There were games I didn’t play (The Old Republic was one for example, The Agency another) and there were some I just got to watch. Regardless, the following are my games to keep an eye on from E3 2010. Discuss!
Most Purdy – Rift: Planes of Telara
Trion Worlds has some serious talent in their bullpen. The team behind Rift is one filled with people of the industry that have been making these games for nearly as long as they’ve been around, and I’m certain the studio is gunning for the Big Boys with the creation of its first MMORPG. But what’s also certain is that the publisher/developer is not slacking off in the art department. They want their game to play well, absolutely, but they also apparently want it to make your jaw drop.
Rift is one pretty looking game. Looks may not be everything and all that, but I don’t think I am entirely alone in saying that Rift looks so nice part of me wants to play it just because of the artistry and the world they’re creating. Sure it could wind up being a muddled mess of a title, but if the amount of care the studio is putting into the visuals is any indication, I highly doubt it.
Most Promising – Jumpgate: Evolution
NetDevil’s Jumpgate: Evolution recently saw a total overhaul of its game systems, so I was curious just what I’d get to see at E3 this year when I heard that the title was going to receive a re-unveiling after about a year’s worth of radio silence. I wasn’t disappointed. While I don’t know too much about the character progression, economy, and other frills of the upcoming Wing Commander-esque MMO I did get some good hands-on time behind the controls of my own ship for the first time. I got to experience the objective-driven missions of the newbie experience and was treated to a lengthy demo of the game’s take on the now MMO staple “Public Quest” system.
The controls of the ship I piloted were tight and natural, giving me the impression that flying around in JGE would be easy to learn but difficult to master. Dogfighting felt visceral and addictive, even against the somewhat “dumbed down” enemies in the newbie experience. The visuals were extremely solid and I was told the game could run even on the most modest of machines. But what was perhaps most intriguing was the implications the three-faction warfare has on the overall experience of the game, given that many of the game’s sectors will be fought over continually for control. The team’s mission content ties directly into the ongoing war and I got a distinct (and incredibly good) feeling of déjà vu from the notion that players from different nations might band together to take out the more powerful threat. JGE is taking NetDevil’s expertise in spaceflight simulations, adding in a healthy dose of shooter-action and directed mission content, and tying it all into a war that is reminiscent of Dark Age of Camelot’s glory days. It’s definitely a title to watch.
Best F2P Game – Vindictus
Vindictus. Ah, Vindictus. I had talked to our own Garrett Fuller before the show since he’d had a chance to play the game previously, and he cautioned me to not get too addicted lest I miss some of my other appointments. I don’t know how deep the rabbit hole goes on this one, but I do know that the production values and general fun quotient have never been so high on a F2P title. There are unknowns. We haven’t seen much of the character customization, or just how much more to the game there is aside from combat and dungeon-crawling. But what Vindictus does have is a sense of fun and excitement that is sorely lacking in a lot of MMOGs, which is largely because of the game’s intuitive third-person action combat and physics engine.
Combat runs the risk of becoming a click-fest if you focus solely on swinging your weapons, but once you gain a handle on the intricacies involved in smashing the environment to your advantage, hurling spears at enemies from afar, kicking downed foes, and of course the value of grabbing an enemy by his scruff and tossing him off of a cliff or performing grappling moves on them… well, that’s where the fun comes in. There was a point during the demo where I actually jumped, took a sharp inhale, and pulled my hand off the mouse because I was caught so off guard when a booby-trap took out my character. I tripped a wire and a large log swung down to whack me square in the face, breaking my helmet, causing the screen to flash red, and leaving me dead on the ground waiting to be revived.
It’s a good sign when a moment like that happens during a game. My most fond gaming memories are made up of a bunch of “Oh, sh*t!” moments like my first play-through of the original Left 4 Dead campaign for example, and Vindictus seems ripe for plenty of those. Let’s just hope it has layers on top of the engrossing combat.
Biggest Surprise – DC Universe Online
I’m not going to lie. I have always had a soft spot for superhero MMOs. I still play both Champions Online and City Of on and off again. I love the notion of the superhero MMORPG, but when compared to single-player affairs like Infamous, Prototype, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, et al the superhero MMO never really works at making you feel heroic for me. I love the games all the same, but I always feel less heroic, in part I’m sure to the nature of MMORPGs being so massively populated and also because of the limitations of technology.
DCUO is different. I only played a PvP match, but in that time I scaled buildings like Spider-Man, glided through the air like Batman, and the combat itself felt very “action-y” to the point where it felt like I was playing a console action game more than an MMORPG. While I’m sure some might call that damning praise, what’s worth noting is that the pacing and controls of my character ended up making me feel more super-heroic than I previously have in other comic-book themed MMOs.
I’m not yet convinced that the game will have enough legs to be a truly satisfying MMO, but I do think that SOE’s nailed the action, and considering you’ll likely spend most of your time beating up baddies and other players, that’s a promising sign. I went into the show not expecting much from DCUO and came away drooling for the November release.