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State of the Game: 10 MMOs to Watch in 2015

Columns By Shawn Schuster on December 18, 2014

State of the Game: 10 MMOs to Watch in 2015

As we fondly look back at what 2014 had to offer in the realm of online gaming, I'd have to say it was a generally good year. Not only did we have an MMO release from one of the biggest gaming franchises with The Elder Scrolls Online, but we also saw the MOBA genre rise even further after SMITE's official release.

It certainly wasn't a record-breaking year, but it was what I'd like to think of as the calm before the storm. Right around 2011, game developers collectively regrouped, realized that copying World of Warcraft probably isn't the best idea, and took to this new thing called Kickstarter to bypass big, out-of-touch publishers to create what the people actually want.

Enter 2015. This upcoming year will see the fruit of those labors as we've already begun to see this year with successully crowdfunded single-player games like Wasteland 2 and The Banner Saga.

So I wanted to take a good look at not only what I'm most excited about, but what I think you should be most excited about for the new year's MMOs. I've compiled this small list with a few important criteria in mind. First, these are only MMOs. Second, these are games that are pretty much confirmed to release in 2015 in a near-finished state, not just a perpetual open beta.

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Here's a run-down of the games to watch in alphabetical order:

Black Desert

What? Sandbox MMO set in a high fantasy world playing out the conflict between two main rivals: the Republic of Calpheon and the Kingdom of Valencia.

Who? Korean game studio Pearl Abyss has been working on the game since 2010.

Why? Not only does the game feature a large seamless world, but it also features an Assassin's Creed-like parkour movement system; action combat based on aiming, dodging, and combos; a full weather system with typhoons, fog, and other elements to affect gameplay; and full mounted combat with animals you raise and breed yourself.

When? On December 5, the developer confirmed that Black Desert would be coming to the Western market sometime in 2015.

EverQuest Next

What? The latest game in the EverQuest series, EQ Next is said to be set in a parallel world to Norrath. It will not only be available for the PC, but also the PlayStation 4 and the Oculus Rift, hinting at some interesting possibilities with virtual reality.

Who? Sony Online Entertainment has been working on the game presumably since 2009 or earlier.

Why? If you're an EverQuest fan, this one is a must, but the game aims to have a further reach than just dedicated fans. SOE also released a companion sandbox game (EverQuest Landmark) which is said to introduce potential players to how EQ Next will work as "the largest sandbox style MMO ever designed," according to SOE president John Smedley.

When? No concrete release date yet, but with Landmark established, I imagine Next can't be too far behind. I'd bet on summer of 2015.

H1Z1

What? A Zombie MMO made in the same engine as PlanetSide 2 and EverQuest Next. It's set in the rural U.S. and the key is to survive the zombies, the elements, and other players.

Who? Sony Online Entertainment is working on this one, too.

Why? The big thing here is the fact that the game is capitalizing on the wild success of games like DayZ and Rust, but with the support and resources of Sony. It's not meant to be a PvP game that just so happens to have zombies (like DayZ), but centered more on surviving the zombie apocalypse.

When? Steam Early Access starts on January 15, 2015.

Life is Feudal

What? An ambitious sandbox MMO set in a realistic medieval land where you build and craft to your heart's content while always watching your back.

Who? Indie studio Bitbox Ltd.

Why? Full loot, free-for-all PvP, terraforming, complex crafting, large-scale castle sieges, no-target combat... think of it as Wurm Online meets Mount & Blade.

When? According to the website, it's expected to release in Fall/Winter 2015. It's currently available in Steam Early Access as an alpha.

Shards Online

What? A fantasy game that teases "so much more," including mythology and technology. The idea is that your character steps through gateways that will allows play in several different settings.

Who? Citadel Studios is made up of a team of veterans, including Ultima Online's Derek Brinkmann, Bruce Bonnick, Tim Cotten, and Mike Moore.

Why? Forget levels, classes, and rules. Shards Online aims to take what you know about MMO worlds and turn them upside down. The game's FAQ says it best: "Imagine learning to craft ancient alien technology in our terminus shard and bringing those items with you to the fantasy world!"

When? No official word, but the rumors say 2015.

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