The Next-Generation of Online Gaming

There are few games that can make technical breakthroughs and hope to challenge World of Warcraft. But these highly anticipated releases are up to the task: the top 10 upcoming MMORPGs of 2010-2012 for consoles and PC. Let’s cut to the content and analyze how their gameplay makes them part of the next-generation we’re all waiting for.

Star Wars: The Old Republic (PC) – Release Date: Q1-Q2 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic has been anticipated by MMORPG gamers since its announcement in late 2008. Bioware has a superb track record in RPGs, and it was no surprise that it wanted The Old Republic universe to become the interactive online game. SW:TOR seems to be a well-polished juggernaut, with the promise of being one of the company’s largest projects to date with a budget of over $300 million. Will it be able to dethrone World of Warcraft, or more realistically, rival it?

Star Wars TOR

Let’s look at the facts. Star Wars: The Old Republic will be the first MMORPG to have cover mechanics and fully voiced NPCs in history. There are currently eight classes announced, restricted to either the Sith or Republic factions. Classes like the Sith Warrior excel in raw lightsaber melee combat, whereas the Republic Trooper class is pure destruction from range. There will be advanced class specializations; for example, Smugglers can specialize as gung-ho Gunslingers or choose the Han Solo-esque Scoundrel path (watch the video here). Imperial Agents are effective on the battlefield and a great asset to any party. Players will be able to use Companions (NPC party members) and the decisions they make in quest dialogue with NPCs and what they do in the scope of the war will determine the very fate of their characters. “Re-rolling” with a new class would never give the same gameplay experience. Expect a deeply engrossing storyline and reappearances from legendary characters such as Darth Revan – as was hinted in this new trailer.

There will be dozens of planets. There will be space combat, as was revealed in Gamescom 2010. The variety of race and class choices ensures that the gameplay will go beyond the familiar tank-dps-healer approach as seen in other MMORPGs. Some people believe the game is simply WoW with Star Wars skins, but it looks like it will improve mainstream online mechanics and offer something new. The confirmation of PvP Warzones such as in Alderaan is exciting. And with future expansions and features, there’s no doubt why this is the most-anticipated MMORPG of 2011. It is set to release in Q1-Q2 2011.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm (PC) – Release Date: Dec. 7, 2010

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will be the third expansion of this unstoppable MMORPG franchise. There are some haters out there, but no can deny this series’ level of polish, longevity, and flexibility to remain at the top for a long time to come. Each expansion has received critical acclaim and record-breaking sales, and this one will likely break the previous record for the fastest-selling computer game of all time (2.8 million on day one, held by Wrath of the Lich King). The epic new cinematic trailer says enough.

Let’s cut to the content. Deathwing is the new antagonist and he looks to be more sinister than any previous endgame boss in WoW, as it should be. The level cap is now 85 and there will be six new high-level zones. For the two brand new races, the Goblin (Horde) and Worgen (Alliance), there will be new starting level zones – Bilgewater Cartel and Gilneas, respectively. New race-class combinations will be possible now, with the disturbing and inevitable existence of Tauren Paladins.

Deathwing

Cataclysm will completely revamp the environment and quests in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdom. As expected, there will be new dungeons and raids (heroic and normal versions), a PvP-instanced dungeon named Baradin Hold, two arena-style rated battlegrounds, and even heroic revamps of classic dungeons (Shadowfang Keep and Deadmines). The talent system has received an overhaul. There will be a Guild Achievement system, the Archaeology profession, and many features that have not yet been described in detail (such as underwater gameplay). Cataclysm is the most-wanted upcoming MMORPG expansion to date and its release date has finally been announced – Dec. 7, 2010 (digital sale).

Guild Wars 2 (PC) – Release Date: TBA 2011

Guild Wars 2 has been in development since its announcement in 2007. The first Guild Wars remains one of the highest-rated MMORPGs to date, and doesn’t charge a monthly subscription. For the PvP-centric player who emphasizes better skills over using superior loot to beat opponents, it’s the perfect online game.

Guild Wars 2 improves upon its predecessor by using true 3D environments, more powerful animation and graphics, and utilizes the Havok physics system. Like its title implies, it is a completely new game in its own regard, retaining Guild Wars‘ fundamentals but revamping many features. It is being geared toward the next-gen MMORPG crowd. This time, PvP can escalate to world-versus-world battles called The Mists.

Guild Wars 2 Logo

The maximum character level has been raised to 80. There are five races and eight professions, and each profession has three sub-divisions – Scholar (light armor), Adventurers (medium armor), and Soldiers (heavy armor). Underwater areas are in-game to explore and the quest system is based on dynamic events rather than static quests. PvE will be in a persistent area but will also use instanced content to depict the storyline. Combat is expected to be more balanced than before, and crafting and other non-combat activities will play a significant impact in both PvP and PvE. The game stresses player skill over quality of loot in determining who emerges victorious in battles – which is not the case for most online games.

The Guild Wars series is a standout in the MMORPG industry. Any serious gamer looking for competitive online PvP should keep an eye out for this one.

TERA (PC) – Release Date: TBA 2010-2011

TERA (The Exiled Realm of Arborea) is receiving a lot of hype because it breaks traditional MMORPG point-and-click mechanics. The battle system is dynamic and utilizes a third person view in which players can use crosshairs to target enemies rather than using the infamous “auto-attack.” It is being developed by Bluehole Studio and is set to release in South Korea in late 2010 and in Europe and North America in early 2011.

TERA

Six races and eight playable classes have been confirmed. The damage-dealing classes such as the Archer, Berserker, and the Slayer wreak havoc on the battlefield, and there are tanking (Warrior and Lancer) and magic classes (Mystic and Priest) as well. Gamers can highly customize their characters. The visuals are great and the drive away from point-and-click mechanics makes it a game worth checking out.

TERA has a significant community of followers and guilds. The game can even be played on a gamepad, a sure sign that it will be a fast-paced MMOG.

Fallout Online (PC) – Release Date: TBA 2012

Fallout Online was a not a big surprise to gamers when it was officially announced because it was known to exist in rumors (codenamed Project V13) for a long time – as well as a legal dispute between Bethesda Softworks and Interplay over the rights to the license. Very little information is known about this game, but it is part of a well-established RPG series, so there are high expectations.

Fallout Online shot

Players can sign up for the Fallout Online beta registration and newsletter at the main website. The concept art depicts the post-apocalyptic vision to be realized. It is only a matter of waiting now. Interplay will be developing with the same engine as used in Earthrise (by Masthead Studios). Specific details on story and gameplay style is non-existent but will be revealed in the future. The SPECIAL system and the rich lore, characters, races, and combat styles have always made the Fallout series an ideal candidate for an MMORPG. It is expected to be released in 2012.

Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online (PC) – Release Date: TBA

Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online is one hardcore upcoming MMORPG with a heavy emphasis on player versus player gameplay. Fans of the renowned series are going to get what they want: in-depth firefights, player formed squads, and teamwork strategies like cover and flanking mechanics. Vigil Games want to bring forth “battlegrounds of epic proportions.” This isn’t simply WoW with guns and axes. Watch the E3 2010 reveal trailer here.

Warhammer Online

Let’s see what has been announced about this game. Controllable vehicles are key, with the ability to transport multiple players. There are no non-combat classes – this is all war. Customization is extensive (weapons, armor, chains, visual appearance, etc.) and the Warhammer cities, characters, and lore will be portrayed in the grandest sense. There are four playable factions; Imperium, Eldar, Orks, and Chaos. There will be PvE content as well and grouping is not always needed to progress. This upcoming MMORPG is high on the hype list and promises the sci-fi shooting gameplay that gamers really want.

DC Universe Online (PC and PS3) – Release Date: Q1 2011

DC Universe Online is not far from release and is set to be different than most MMORPGs. The idea of Gotham City, Metropolis, and Arkham Asylum as places you can visit and choose as your player’s origin is tempting. Sony Online Entertainment seeks to make the game more immersive while also keeping key elements like endgame progression, raiding, and leveling. Most of the world will be “shared” public space, with neither heroes nor villains owning it as territory. The public space has dynamically generated content that depends on what your allegiance is. If you are a superhero, you have to stop a thug robbing an armored truck. If you chose to be a villain, your job is self-explanatory. Expect many clan wars between disgruntled players.

DC Universe flying

The story is the highlight of this saga in the DC Universe. The new cinematic trailer “Who Do You Trust?” introduces gamers to the fateful events that put the world’s fate in jeopardy. There is no doubt this MMO is going to be dark and uncompromising. The sheer number of iconic superheroes and villains involved is enough to want to know what will happen. Earth’s enemy is Brainiac, shown in the cinematic to have destroyed the planet in the future, an event that must be prevented at all costs.

DC Universe Online will be released for both PC and the Playstation 3 in Q1 2011.

Jumpgate Evolution (PC) – Release Date: TBA

Jumpgate Evolution is the sequel to Jumpgate: The Reconstruction Initiative. NetDevil designed a new graphics engine and gave it higher accessibility. The industry needs more space action MMORPGs and this one looks promising with the prospect of twitch-based combat gameplay. There is both PvP and PvE oriented content, and players will choose one of the three playable nations upon starting. The player versus player component will have a variety of risk and reward scenarios, which is excellent for those wanting a hardcore PvP experience with harsher penalties for dying.

Jumpgate Evolution sketch

Jumpgate Evolution was originally scheduled for release in June 2009 but has been delayed. The release date is yet to be announced.

Dust 514 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) – Release Date: TBA

CCP Game’s upcoming MMOFPS, Dust 514, is a wild concept in the MMORPG industry. Not only is it a first-person shooter, but it will be intricately tied to the EVE Online universe, which has an entirely different style of gameplay. Best of all, the game is upcoming for consoles – PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii. Watch the trailer here and all will be explained – the gameplay footage is un-rendered. The game received the Unreal Engine 3 license on March, 10th, 2010.

Dust 514

In EVE Online, player owned corporations and alliances wage war in the depths of space but Dust 514 will bring the fights onto planets. Players in Dust can be hired as mercenaries and “assist” EVE players in taking over territory, and this relationship goes much deeper than what can be seen on the surface. The sandbox will be more explosive than ever. Though there are few details announced, the possibilities are endless. Confirmed features like customizable vehicles, a form of player housing, and the position of Commander (who gets an RTS view) make it clear that the game will be huge. There are no classes, but instead specialization depends on the choices players make. The game will use a microtransaction model rather than a monthly based subscription like in EVE.

EVE Online: Incarna (PC) – Release Date: Summer 2011

EVE Online’s expansions have always been free and have implemented vast changes to gameplay over the years. The Incarna expansion (the 15th expansion), scheduled to release sometime in the summer of 2011, will follow up on the Incursion expansion (November 2010). Incarna represents what CCP Games has been working on for a long time – walking in stations (Ambulation), a 3D Tactical Map of the universe, the ability to run shops inside stations, and even meetings that players can hold with new recruits and diplomats. There will be new mini-games such as gambling, player-made clothing, and in-depth customization of character avatars. No more will the EVE universe only be limited to control of spaceships.

Incarna

Incursion (14th), the next expansion, will introduce the long-awaited character creator and improvements to the planetary interaction mode. It’s clear the developers are keen on integrating Dust 514 into the game as soon as possible and they are adding many graphical and performance enhancements as well. As a whole it is a great step forward for the franchise and for the MMORPG industry. Creative director Torfi Frans Olafsson stated, “Essentially, it’s the transition from EVE being ‘the space game’ to EVE becoming ‘the ultimate sci-fi world’.”

Honorable Mention

Blizzard’s Top Secret Next-Gen MMORPG

Technically, Blizzard’s top secret MMORPG has no official title. What we do know is that it exists and it will be a brand new IP. That means it’s not a Starcraft or Diablo MMOG as most people would think. Activision Blizzard has gained much experience and revenue with World of Warcraft, which has already pushed past 12 million subscribers. Wouldn’t another MMOG split the userbase? Ironically, it may be the WoW-killer the world has been waiting for.

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