Wednesday, July 03, 2013

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5 New (Or Renewed) MMOs You Should Try Out This Summer

Ffxiv 2013-06-23 02-05-18-74
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Summer is a great time to sit back and relax. For me, that's often with a game, but unfortunately summer can also be a bit slow when it comes to game releases. That makes it an excellent time to try out a new MMO, or revisit an old favorite that may have undergone a facelift since you last played.

There are a lot of really excellent massively multiplayer experiences on the table right now, so here are five that you should definitely put at the top of your list:

Neverwinter (Free to Play)

Neverwinter beta 6

Neverwinter launched last month, and after playing it a fair bit during the beta period it left me with an overall pleasant impression (even though I initially had pretty low expectations). While Neverwinter isn't exempt from a lot of the things that can be grating about MMOs (kill 10 x, fetch 3 y...) the dungeons have a lot of personality. Additionally systems like companions/pets, comprehensive character customization, as well as user-made quests mean that there's a lot more to this game than first meets the eye.

If you're looking to give this game a shot I would recommend starting with a Rogue or a Wizard, which are by far the most engaging classes to play in my experience. Both have flashy effects, fun powers, and they make combat feel like much more than mashing skill buttons on a hotbar.

Aion (Free to Play)

 

Aion is the oldest game on this list, and though it started off as a subscription-based game it's since gone free to play. Aion's highly anticipated 4.0 update recently dropped, which includes new areas as well as two awesome looking new classes, the bard (above) and the gunner. I'm eager to test out both of these classes, especially because Aion's character customization, equipment, and world are all exceptionally beautiful.

Phantasy Star Online 2 (Free to Play)

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Phantasy Star Online 2 came out a year ago in Japan, and though there were promises it would be localized for America there's still no reliable ETA to satisfy fans. Thankfully for those of us interested in playing adorable cybernetically-enhanced mages and badass mechanical marksmen, this game's fans aren't terribly patient and have created numerous English language patches and guides to help English-speaking players try the game for themselves.

PSO2 relies on instanced battles and kickass robots for a rather unique experience, so if the same old fantasy worlds aren't your style you may want to give this one a shot instead.

Rift (Free to Play)

 

Rift is another previously pay-to-play game that's recently become free to play. Though it didn't impress me at launch, Rift has since implemented a player housing system called Dimensions, which allows players to design and build up their own little slice of space. The decorating tools are so flexible that a community has sprugn up around carefully styled Dimensions, a lot like carefully curated regions in more open-ended virtual worlds like Second Life. If you'd like to see more, a quick search on Youtube reveals the incredible variety that Dimensions makes possible.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (Purchase and Subscription Required)

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I desperately want to love the reboot of Final Fantasy XIV, an MMO that floundered during its initial release (for a variety of reasons) and has been redone from the ground up. Having played both, I'm comfortable saying that A Realm Reborn is significantly better than its previous incarnation. Character customization is robust, the UI and gameplay has been refined, the world is lush and detailed, equipment is unique and appealing... It's even one of the few MMOs where the jewelry on your character is actually visible on the avatar itself.

Even though nearly all of my friends are enjoying it, I'm still fairly neutral. I don't have much fondness for the Final Fantasy franchise, so its possible that this game just may not be for me. There aren't many nostalgic Final Fantasy feelings in the back of my mind for it to tap into, and that might be keeping me from enjoying it on the same level that they are. If you're a fan of Final Fantasy (or even just a rabid virtual fashionista) you should absolutely make this game a priority, even though it has yet to really hook me. Personally, I'll be giving it a few more chances before I decide how I feel about it one way or the other.

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Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.

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CronoCloud Creeggan

Oooh! Aion's F2P! I always wanted to try that. When I first saw it I wondered why they didn't do a PS3 version since it looks very Final Fantasy-ish. That Bard there looks VERY magical girl-ish and is adorable ...and the gunner fellow reminds me of Vincent from FF7.

As for FFIV... sigh. I "want" to play it, but FFXI was a massive grindfest filled with overly conformist Japanese players who would refuse to group with you if you tried to play your class any other way than the "prescribed" way. For example, you had to play your White Mage healer as a "staff chick cowering in the back" even if the class could equip some heavier armor and wield hammers battle cleric style and had skills that worked best when played as such!

Also FFIV is not F2P, and only comes out on the PS3 this year when the PS4 comes out this fall/early winter. Thanks a lot Square. They should have just given the races the FFXI names anyway, Hume, Elvaan, TaruTaru, Galka, Mithra.

I really don't have time to devote to MMO's, I can only play casually so end-game stuff is often out of reach for me and I'm a console gamer at heart. And I run Linux which is a whole nother kettle of fish.

Ciaran Laval

Downloaded Neverwinter the other day, haven't had time to play it yet but I was a big fan of Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights when I was a lad and just seeing the place names on the map was entertaining.

As an aside, when I first joined Second Life and saw people posting comments about NWN, I wondered what Neverwinter Nights had to do with Second Life, then I found this blog and it all fell into place!

Arcadia Codesmith

Wildstar is an MMO in beta that has some community-building aspects I find intriguing. I might give that one a shot.

MMOs have gotten so very casual-friendly in recent years that they bear little resemblence to the grind-fests of yesteryear. From my perspective, that was the wrong lesson entirely.

Yes, casual players ought to get fast, accessible, rewarding play. But you can't sacrifice depth and complexity. You need layers of play, so the casuals can be casual without the deep players getting bored and quitting.

Still waiting for an MMO that can adapt to the playstyle of the player, rather than forcing the player to adapt to the MMO.

Veritable Magic

I agree with Arcadia. And the customization on NWN really isnt that great since you barely see the results as you play. Plus all the items look pretty much the same. I played for 52 levels and the weapons always looked the same. And I was able to level up about 7 levels just by logging in and clicking one button every few hours. No joke. I got bored doing it. The game is good for quick action for about 20min but gets boring fast. The Foundry is its one trick pony. And dont get me started on those lockboxes you can only open with a key you have to spend rl money on.

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