As we wind down the year and turn our attention toward the next, I want to review some of the MMOs I think we should be watching in 2019. Please note that I am not saying that this is a list of what comes out, or a list of what I think will be the best games. These are simply games worth watching, and my reasons for putting them on this this are below.
Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen
Pantheon continues to gain momentum as they inch closer and closer to a release date. Brad and the development team are creating a very true-to-form recreation of the pseudo-open-world-sandbox-feel that EverQuest provided us nearly 20 years ago. They're aiming for the right motif and chanting our beloved mantra, but will they execute a game that is 'technically' sound and a joy to play? That's my concern.
On the other end of the spectrum from Pantheon is the up and coming -- yes, still coming -- Camelot Unchained. CU is poised to usher back in the RvR (read: superior version of PvP) gameplay we've missed these past 13-15 years. Every once in a while some images, streams, and commentary are sprinkled in giving us a glimpse of what we can expect. Everything points to an epic result, but once again my concerns are with the execution. Every time I see something of Camelot Unchained I cringe just a little bit -- whether it's animations, graphics, or how it's presented, it still looks so rough. Let's definitely watch and see where this last bastion of RvR/PvP hope ends up in 2019.
Set in North America during the colonization era, New World aims to provide a quasi-fantasy, quasi-real life experience with real seasons, fantastic beasts, and cooperative play to survive. As Amazon Studios first MMO, and where some bigger names in the industry have landed, my eyes are fixed on where this one goes. My concerns here are with whether or not it's going to be a real MMO given the statements I've read about "supporting up to 500 players at once."
Ashes of Creation
I'm not holding out much hope for Ashes of Creation right now as far as long-lasting and immersive MMOs are concerned. I think the gameplay I've seen so far is rather uninspiring and overly fixated on combat visuals. So far this is the definition of 'flash in the pan'. However, recently a lot of talent in the industry has moved to Intrepid Studios -- particularly from Daybreak and former SOE fame. Even some of the lead designers are from older EQ projects. My hope here is that they're going to abandon the over-saturated combat flash of an eastern experience and adopt more of an immersive world-driven MMORPG befitting on their talent. As their timelines have alluded, we may have a release date by the end of 2019. This is one to watch for sure as we see which direction they take all of their potential.
Legends of Aria
As you've seen this past month, Legends of Aria is already a very playable game in early access. Legends of Aria is to Ultima Online as Stardew Valley is to Harvest Moon. It pulls so much of what made its spiritual predecessor and adds its own slight spin on the experience. I think LoA is worth watching in 2019 because of where they'll be taking the game now that the meat and potatoes of its design are done. They've already proven there's a game worth playing here, now they can wow us with adding in the community-run servers, connecting them all with the "player god" experiences, and providing us that true next iterative step up from Ultima Online we've wanted for decades.
Which MMOs are on your must-watch list? Did I miss nay?
Torchlight Frontiers is looking promising.
I think it’ll be a dungeon crawler worth trying, but it’s not an MMO in my opinion. I’m also more than skeptical about Perfect World Entertainment being there and the original Torchlight team being gone.
The first two are fifteen years too late. The last is twenty. New World will be an interesting pvp survival game but no kind of MMORPG and barely an MMO. Ashes of Creation is the nearest to a relevant, modern MMO(RPG) but even that one is going to feel five to seven years off the zeitgeist by the time it launches.
Which isn’t to say these games won’t have some moderate success or find an audience. Just that it will have to be a very specific audience, one that is, in all cases, somewhat elderly. I’d love to see a breakdown of the demographics of all those games by age when (if) they eventually release. It’s a fact that gaming is no longer the province of children and adolescents but everything that matters is still the province of the under-29s, as it has been for centuries – probably millennia.
Wherever the future of online gaming for large numbers playing the same thing at the same time lies, it’s not with any of the above, or with anything that looks like any of them. Still, old people need their entertainment, too.
MMORPGs are a geriatric business! 😉 Love it.
I truly believe that no MMO will ever again attain a status of “the game people are playing.” Those days are so long gone. My recent chant has been that developers should design to the niche and stay there. I think Pantheon, Legends of Aria, and Camelot Unchained are all certainly in that realm.
As for ‘too late’, I think that’s also a concept we have to abandon if you subscribe to the idea that MMOs are now and should be niche gaming in order to evolve. If you believe that any MMO releasing today should compete with wide-audience appeal, then sure most if not all the MMOs currently known to be in development are way too late.
I don’t understand why Crowfall isn’t on your radar, imo the one game on the horizon showing the most promise and with developers that are extremely transparent giving us constant updates on the status of the project and even glimpses into how decisions are made and how the game is being made.
Crowfall doesn’t really have a persistent world, and perhaps that’s why. That’s why I’ve more or less put it on the back-burner myself, despite being a high-level backer.
Lethality nailed it for me. It’s not persistent, and it’s more about a “one and out” experience. The more I watch, the more I question if it’s a real MMO and not some hybrid experience that will lack depth. I’ll still watch how it develops, though.
Not entirely true though, it has “Eternal Kingdoms” which is a persistent world where you can build your castle or town, it can be set to private or public and there are benefits to going public with it.
The most popular public Eternal Kingdoms should become hubs for trading among other things.
Now I agree that this isn’t identical to a persistent open world in other MMOs, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, we’ll just have to wait and see how these pan out once design is complete and players gets their hands on them.
The non persistent campaigns is one of the benefits of Crowfall as I see it, if you join a campaign and your team starts loosing bigtime, you know there’s an end to it where you get to start over fresh in another campaign and hopefully end up on the winning side of things instead. This fixes some of the lopsided faction problems seen in other PvP focused games. It also allows you to ACTUALLY have an impact on the game world, without ruining it for players who start playing the game months after you did, something no other MMO has pulled off to my knowledge.
As materials and loot to build on your Eternal Kingdom are only found in these campaigns, and only given to you once the campaign ends, there’s incentive to keep at it even if you are on the loosing side in a campaign to maximise what you get to bring home from it.
All of this is just plans and ideas still, and as we know players will always choose the path of least resistance, so only time will tell if ArtCraft can pull off systems that keep players on the “right path” or if players end up just throwing in the towel to loose as fast as possible hoping they’ll win the next campaign instead.
I’ve been burnt by many MMOs over the years, setting my expectations too high (or having the game under deliver on promises?), so these days I don’t really get excited about potential MMO launches, I rather wait till it’s out and try it if it seems remotely interesting, and most of the time I find that I made the right choice not getting hyped about it before release. That was my stance on Crowfall from the get go too, but as time went on and I caught up with the updates from ArtCraft, I’ve slowly become more optimistic about it’s prospect as a game.
I still think Camelot Unchained has some promise, but I sadly think it’s not going to be for me.
I’m a backer of CU, but not Crowfall, just for the record.
Chronicles of Elyria is the one to watch… New World is also a good pick for a breakout 🙂
Chronicles of Elyria is a good one to add. I think the combat looks a tad clunky, though. I haven’t seen more more than “world roamer” videos. Definitely one to watch in 2019.
You missed one! Project Gorgon. its in steam early access with very positive reviews. its the spiritual successor to ahseron’s call