Perfect Ten: New MMOs to watch in 2015
As I’ve done for 2013 and 2014, I’m going to use the turn of the year as an excuse to look ahead at what MMO releases we may have to look forward to enjoying in the next 12 months. As always, it’s a mixture of research, guesswork, and weeks of anguished ranking to come up with 10 titles that I think will define the new year.
After the huge launch year we had in 2014, 2015 will most definitely be a smaller year for big-name releases. That doesn’t mean it will be a complete write-off, but perhaps it will challenge us to look beyond the heavy hitters to find more diamonds in the rough.
A couple of notes before we launch into the list, if you please! First of all, I limited this list to MMOs that at least have a shot of launching in 2015; games that are popular but are definitely not going to make it this year had to be excluded. Second, I am expanding the “honorable mentions” section this year to include more upcoming MMOs and my brief thoughts on them. So you are really getting 50 games for the effort of reading 10! You are welcome.
What is The Division: An “online, open-world RPG” in which players assume the roles of a special task force assigned to investigate and combat a deadly outbreak in modern-day New York City. While it’s primarily a co-op shooter, it will have elements of post-apocalyptic horror, sci-fi secret agent, and contemporary adventure as well.
Why it’s worth watching: The Tom Clancy IP is still strong despite the author’s passing, and the contemporary setting has been criminally underused for MMOs. The Division will have a multi-platform release, including PC, and will even integrate smart phones and tablets as alternate ways to interact with the game. I see it occupying the same quasi-MMO role as Destiny does by introducing more persistent world elements to the popular shooter genre. (Plus, the E3 trailer is pretty amazing!)
Chances of releasing in 2015: It was delayed into 2015, so while there’s a chance it could be delayed further, I’d say there’s a 75% probability that it’ll come out before the year’s end.
What is Landmark: An ultra-sandy sandbox that will allow players to create virtually anything they like want on their own claims, explore sever community-shaped worlds, fight, loot, craft, and grapple hook. Landmark’s been in alpha for most of 2014 without an NDA, and its features and some player creations will feed into EverQuest Next.
Why it’s worth watching: Landmark’s feature set has been growing by leaps and bounds lately, and the devs have promised that this will be a full-fledged MMO. Some will be interested in it just to get a preview of EQN, but there is a sizable crowd that just wants to build and explore in a high-polished game. It’ll also be free-to-play. Make sure you follow MJ’s Norrathian Notebook to keep up on Landmark’s development!
Chances of releasing in 2015: Very, very good. We’ll most likely hit open beta early on in the year, and I’d wager that at least a non-wipe soft launch will occur by summer.
What is Shroud of the Avatar: The spiritual successor in all but name to Richard Garriott’s famous Ultima franchise. It kicked butt in crowdfunding and will offer a sandbox world with immersive RPG elements, a slot machine-like combat system, a single-player mode, and housing. Lots and lots of housing.
Why it’s worth watching: This is the type of MMO that old-school RPG players may be desperate to see again, especially with the Garriott magic at work. The focus on immersion, details, and a virtual world that invites you to live in instead of kill everything in sight is a major plus for those sick of murder simulators.
Chances of releasing in 2015: It’s looking promising, although I fear the beta has a ways to go. The website still lists spring 2015 as a launch window, and even if that gets delayed, Shroud of the Avatar is already playable for backers and through Steam Early Access.
What is Skysaga: A colorful “sandvox” that’s the lovechild of LEGO and Minecraft and promises an evolving online world with tons and tons of exploration.
Why it’s worth watching: Considering that this is probably the most recently announced title on this list and a game that we’ve heard little about, I wouldn’t blame you for raising an eyebrow at its inclusion. However, the team is stating a summer 2015 release, and that Minecraft sandbox stuff is hot, hot, hot, so I didn’t want to overlook it. Plus, it does look pretty fantastic if you like the voxel aesthetic.
Chances of releasing in 2015: Strong, although I’d be more comfortable saying so if we heard more about it over the winter.
What is H1Z1: A zombie survival sandbox like DayZ, only in a more persistent and larger online world. It’s also got the shortest-to-spell-but-longest-to-properly-say MMO name ever.
Why it’s worth watching: SOE has a known passion for sandboxes and is attempting to pour in a heavy amount of crafting and base-building to fill the space between pulse-pounding zombie incursions. Despite an overabundance of zombies and survival horror sandboxes, H1Z1 will be the first major stab at taking these elements and putting them into an MMO.
Chances of releasing in 2015: Despite being in alpha, H1Z1 will be releasing to Steam Early Access in January. Will it progress through beta and a full release in 2015? I’m putting the odds at that happening as pretty low, but it will be playable for most of the year no matter what.
What is Warhammer 40K: Eternal Crusade: A PvP-centric take on the insanely popular Warhammer 40,000 universe. Bulky armor, bloody executions, and high-tech weapons are all par for the course.
Why it’s worth watching: The IP is strong with this one and seems well-suited to throwing players against each other in bloody combat. The team is putting a lot of thought into creating a variety of PvP and siege mechanics, and if PlanetSide 2 is any indication, there’s a demand for these types of persistent online shooters.
Chances of releasing in 2015: I have huge doubts that it will, but the site’s listed “late 2015,” so I suppose it’s a possibility. Its PvP nature may make creating a final product a lot easier than if they had to flesh out a PvE world.
What is Black Desert: In a phrase, “ridiculously good-looking.” This Korean fantasy MMO has been wowing us with beautiful detailed graphics for over a year now, and it looks as though we might actually be getting to see it here in the West.
Why it’s worth watching: Black Desert has an impressive range of sandbox features that rival ArcheAge’s. From crafting to large-scale sieges to housing to clay pigeon shooting (yes, clay pigeon shooting), it could offer a little bit of everything to players starved for richer, fuller experiences.
Chances of releasing in 2015: We’ve heard some noise about a possible 2015 import to North America and Europe. However, I’d put the odds of that happening at maybe 25%, with a much safer bet that localization and testing will push its release into 2016.
What is Skyforge: A sci-fi theme park coming to you by the combined efforts of the Allods Online team and Obsidian Entertainment.
Why it’s worth watching: The mix-and-match class system looks awesome, as does the high-tech world environments, follower system, and the over-the-top combat. Plus, it has a good developer pedigree and seems to be trying to impress an audience based on substance rather than hype. This could be a good little sleeper hit in the making.
Chances of releasing in 2015: Skyforge is currently in closed beta, so for a 2015 to pass by without release is hard (but not impossible!) to imagine. I feel really good about it coming out at least by fall 2015, so I’ll put that here and let time make a fool of me.
What is Trove: An MMO-lite that combines building, crafting, and PvE combat with a colorful voxel environment. Yes, it’s Minecraft, but also no, it’s not.
Why it’s worth watching: It seems that while a lot of folks have written this game off for various reasons, it’s started to earn grudging respect by those who have tried out the alpha and beta tests. Instead of going huge and revving the hype machine, Trove has been building up a fun — if shallow — title with a hefty dose of community involvement (players can even design weapons and armor to submit for official inclusion!).
Chances of releasing in 2015: Trove has already soft-launched with a no-wipe open beta, so a 2015 official launch is as sure of a thing in the MMO genre as you could ask for.
What is The Repopulation: An incredibly ambitious sci-fi sandbox from an indie studio.
Why it’s worth watching: The sheer depth and breadth of features have led many to dub this as a spiritual successor to Star Wars Galaxies. It does seem like it has everything and the kitchen sink (which you were able to craft yourself from scrap), although it might be a little rough around the edges for those used to only big-budget titles.
Chances of releasing in 2015: The official FAQ lists a “mid-to-late 2015” launch window with the caveat “when it’s done.”
Of course, the MMO industry can surprise us, so some of those titles may indeed fail to release in 2015 while a few of the following could sneak in. In any case, I wanted to list several other noteworthy titles that hopefully will be arriving during the next few years.
EverQuest Next: One of the most anticipated big-budget MMOs out there right now with sandpark goodness. MJ thinks it may be coming sooner than we think (but probably in 2015). Read Norrathian Notebook for more previews!
Star Citizen: It’s promising the galaxy and more, and with all of the money it’s raked it, Star Citizen may deliver. There will be module releases in 2015, but the full game launch won’t happen this year. Read Stick and Rudder to keep abreast of this game!
Lost Ark: This Diablo-clone looks visually amazing and promises plenty of MMO features, although we don’t have a clue when it might arrive.
State of Decay MMO: We know there’s one coming, and I would wager that we’ll see the official announcement in 2015 but not the game itself.
Shards Online: It just exited a successful crowdfunding campaign, so this sandbox is a while off, but I love the focus on letting the players create server rulesets.
Shadowrun Online: This MMO has been playable on Steam Early Access since mid-2014, and according to the site, it should be hitting both beta and launch next year.
Gloria Victis: This is still in the pre-alpha stage, so we’ve got a while yet to go.
Otherland: Otherland was knocked down for the count a while back, but is now up under new management. I’m so very cautious about its future, but I admit that I like the source material.
Lineage Eternal: The next step for the Lineage franchise is “2016 or later,” although it’s worth tracking since these games make NCsoft oh-so-much money.
Civilization Online: A popular IP, novel genre mashing, and a good dev team could result in a sleeper hit, but who knows when — if ever — this will come to the West?
Salem: This New World-themed hardcore sandbox came under new management this past year but is continuing development at a steady pace.
Albion Online: The isometric cutness of this title may win me over despite its PvP nature. It’s still deep into alpha testing, however, so expect more of that in 2015.
Borderlands Online: China’s getting this retooled-into-an-MMO version of the hit Borderlands games, but will Western audiences? I doubt it, but I wish it would happen!
HEX: Mixing an MMO with a TCG is intruiging, although there’s not much (if any) PvE in the game as of the writing of this column. It’s in beta, so theoretically it could release in 2015 if the devs fleshed out the title’s features.
Phantasy Star Online 2: SEGA’s still trying to decide whether or not to bring this game to the West. Considering how popular the first game (and its spin-offs) was, I sure hope it happens.
Pathfinder Online: This crowdfunded PvP sandbox will almost certainly begin its persistent early enrollment program in 2015, but a full launch? Ain’t gonna happen by next December.
Trials of Ascension: This title’s still in very early development and is gearing up for both a tech demo and a full Kickstarter campaign. Playable dragons!
Camelot Unchained: This team is shaping up an impressive realm vs. realm subscription MMO, but it’s only in pre-alpha with a transition to alpha testing planned for the new year.
World of Warships: This WWII-themed ship MOBA will almost certainly make a splash (ahem) when it launches, and since it’s currently in beta, I would say that this event will occur by mid-2015.
Blade and Soul: Ahahaha… OK, sorry. It’s just that betting on Blade & Soul ever seeing our shores, never mind in 2015, is a long shot at this point. That’s a shame, too; it looks like an attractive, polished title. Curse you, NCsoft!
Tree of Savior: Apart from the terribad name, this is a really, really cute-looking MMO. We’re still waiting to hear about the possibility of a Western release.
TUG: This looks cute too, but it’s both still in alpha and fishing around for a publisher. I’m not holding my breath for it right now.
Global Agenda 2: We were supposed to get a closed beta test for this sequel by now, but that hasn’t happened, and I wouldn’t hold my breath that it’ll ever happen.
Das Tal: I don’t know about you, but I’m digging the isometric look that many of these up-and-coming sandboxes are sporting. Anyway, Das Tal is still in alpha testing, so no 2015 launch for it.
Dungeon Fighter Online: Once canceled, DFO is on its way back with a new team. Who knows? We may be playing it indeed come next year.
Line of Defense: Derek Smart Derek Smart Derek Smart! His sci-fi combat title is making testing strides and even has a spin-off game released, but I don’t think we’ll see the full MMO for a while yet.
Project Gorgon: Project Gorgon’s had two failed Kickstarter campaigns to date, but I’m not giving up on this game. There’s real passion and invention at work here, not to mention that it’s actually playable in alpha form. My advice? Get a better name, stat.
Echo of Soul: Unlike many of the games in the honorable mentions section, Echo of Souls looks like a 2015 certainty as a Korean import. It feels too much like a generic eastern title to get my enthusiasm riled up, but it could surprise me!
Eleven: The Glitch fan resurrection project just began alpha testing, and I wanted to mention it here because I’m rooting hard for its eventual success.
Cabal II: This massive-of-the-massive MMO may not be on your most-anticipated list, but it is actually scheduled for a 2015 release. So. There’s that.
Valiance Online, City of Titans, and Heroes and Villains: I’m lumping these titles together because each one is trying to assume the City of Heroes mantle in its own way. It’s tragic that they can’t join forces and put out one great mid-sized MMO instead of what we’ll probably get, which is one tiny release and two prematurely canceled titles.
Unknown Cryptic Studios project: The “top secret” project on Cryptic’s front page has been tantalizing me for a while now. What could it be?
Unknown ArtCraft project: This new studio with industry vets looks to be making a PvP-style MMO, and we should find out more within a couple of months.
Wander: This non-combat console MMO devoted to exploration and puzzles is so fringe it may not get a lot of players, but it’s good to see someone trying something different.
Ascent the Space Game: I’m cheering this tiny title on, as it has more features than any three MMOs combined. If only it could look like something made this decade, it might actually become a hit.
MapleStory 2: This might not get a lot of respect due to its “cutsie” factor, but I am digging the move to (isometric) 3-D and the variety of features.
Immune: Speaking of isometric, here’s some zombies with some post-apocalyptic fun. Too early to tell if this might be worth it.
Life is Feudal: Ugh, I still can’t get past that horrid name, but it seems to be selling nicely on Steam and might just quench your need for hardcore crafting and surviving.