Richard Aihoshi's Free Zone: Two Upcoming MMOs of Interest
This week, Richard profiles two upcoming F2P MMOs headed to North American audiences: Allods Online and Prius Online.
Anything new has the potential to be different and thus interesting, so I always try to keep alert to free to play titles that are in development or at least not yet released in this part of the world. Of course, it has gotten much harder to remain decently informed over the years since the number of projects has grown immensely over the past decade or so, and also because most of the studios are located halfway around the world.
It's only natural that my interest is higher for some upcoming titles than the rest, and also that the list changes on an evolving basis. So, here are some thoughts on two that have been able to attract larger than average shares of my interest at this time. Just to be clear, the opinions presented here are completely personal, and are based solely on my particular gaming preferences. I'm also not recommending in any way. Even if I were prone to do that, which I'm not since I believe people should make their own informed choices, I couldn't because I have yet to play either for even a single minute. Given I've never been big on numerical rankings, they're just in alphabetical order. And there are definitely others I could talk about too. Maybe in future columns.
Russia is a major PC game market where the online segment is currently experiencing rapid growth. Nival Online (Astrum Nival as of earlier this month) is a branch of arguably the country's foremost developer, and also has experience operating imported F2P titles. Allods, which long-time observers here may remember as Rage of Mages, is a major property there, and Allods Online is said to be the Russian industry's biggest project ever, with a stated budget of $12 million. Based on factors such as these, my curiosity was piqued some time ago.
Since then, information has come out, albeit not as quickly as I'd have liked, about some elements I find particularly interesting. One is that the play includes adventuring on land and exploration of a constantly changing space called the Astral, where crew-based ship to ship battles with boarding take place. The Gibberling race is unusual in that the characters you control are triplets. I also like the art style; while basically western, it attains a degree of distinctiveness by incorporating regional influences we likely wouldn't see from a North American team.
Allods Online has been licensed to Gala-Net for North America and an associated company, Gala Networks for western Europe. There isn't any readily visible information on the former's website yet. The latter's has a fair bit more, including race and class overviews as well as lore. The currently stated launch target for both regions is this fall. My level of confidence will rise when I see actual dates.
While my knowledge of this one is still relatively limited, it intrigues me primarily because of its Anima system, including both what I do and don't know about it. According to developer and publisher CJ Internet, one of Korea's "big five" game companies despite its very low profile here, this feature's foundation is an emotional one that grows and evolves as you progress together and experience the world. As this happens, she apparently regains forgotten memories, and as you become closer, she is also able to access more powerful skills.
At first glance, this may seem like just another take on pets. Maybe it is, although your Anima is a female humanoid rather than an animal. Frankly, I don't know enough to form a solid opinion as to whether this scheme actually has significant differences or if the less than specific information I've seen so far is mostly marketing hype. I'm generally an optimist at heart, which means I'm hopeful. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. (Pet peeve alert: the more often seen "the proof is in the pudding" is a corruption of the original saying.) So, I expect I won't be able to evaluate this element until I've been able to play the game.
When this will be is unclear. CJ Internet recently launched a global version of its portal site, Netmarble. Prius Online does appear there, with a page of information that offers little detail. The game reportedly took off when the Korean open beta began last year, quickly becoming the market leader as measured by concurrent users, although it was soon surpassed when Aion became available only weeks later.
For unknown reasons, Netmarble's launch title is something called Mini Fighter. I'd have thought either Prius or Ys Online, but obviously, I'd have been incorrect. Right now, I'm guessing I won't get my hands on Prius to see how the Anima system really functions until at least Q4. But I won't object if CJ Internet proved me wrong again by making it available earlier. Remember, I said I'm an optimist.