The best PC games of 2014
Releasing a big-budget MMO with a subscription fee is a huge risk in today's market. A good MMO takes many years to make, and games like The Elder Scrolls Online have seen the waxing and waning of the traditional subs model during its production cycle. Are TESO and its ilk the tail end of a dwindling phenomenon, or will they gather loyal audiences and prove that the traditional MMO is still alive and kicking? Whatever happens, World of Warcraft will keep on keeping on.
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
Release date: 2014
Link:Warlords of Draenor site
The monolithic World of Warcraft may well be entering its twilight years, but millions of players still log in every month. The fifth expansion, Warlords of Draenor, will raise the level cap to 100, give the player character models a much-needed revamp, add player-run garrisons and start a new war. Thanks to a wobbly time-portal plot device, fan favourites like Grom Hellscream return in a pointed shift away from the colourful, happy. huggy Mists of Pandaria expansion. Whether or not the next Xpack wows WoW’s most loyal fans, World of Warcraft is here to stay, for another few years at least.
For everything there is to know about Warlords of Draenor, check out our article, World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor - everything there is to know.
Release date: TBA
Don’t let the Saturday morning cartoon vibe fool you, there are some veteran developers behind this cheerful MMO from Carbine. Magic and technology are both viable weapons on the sci-fi planet Nexus, home to a long-dead (OR ARE THEY?) race called the Eldan, and warred over by two playable factions, dark intergalactic empire, The Dominion, and a bunch of wisecracking renegades called The Exiles. The bright and varied classes vary from dual-wielding interdimensional space cowboys to Espers, which can summon magical weaponry to do their fighting for them. Select players are just starting to explore its vibrant world in the first Wildstar beta. Everyone else will hopefully get a go later this year. The biggest challenge for Wildstar and big budget competitors like The Elder Scrolls Online will be convincing players to buy the game and then put up a monthly subscription fee. Wildstar at least offers an alternative in the form of CREDD, a month of play time that can be bought with in-game gold for players who have enough time to amass the required fortune.
Wildstar looks bright and fresh, but it’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, as Leif discovered when he played for our preview.
The Elder Scrolls: Online
Developer: Zenimax Online Studios
Release date: Spring 2014
The Elder Scrolls online has weathered a mixed reception since its announcement. On one hand, it's the largest Elder Scrolls game ever made - and the first to allow players to explore the entire continent of Tamriel. On the other, there are those who argue that an MMO of the traditional sort can't do the series justice - after all, Skyrim's just as famous for its basket-based emergent tomfoolery as it is for its actual RPG mechanics. The real reason to watch The Elder Scrolls Online is the talent behind it - the ex-Mythic developers responsible for the innovative Warhammer: Age of Reckoning and, before that, Dark Age of Camelot. We’re excited about the potential of the unseen but documented PvP element - don't write off the old-school MMO just yet.
We went hands-on with Elder Scrolls Online back in May. Read what we thought of it here.
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
Link:Everquest Next site
Not to be confused with the player-driven build-a-thon Everquest Next: Landmark, this is the MMO proper, with characters, classes, quests and levelling. The world won’t be quite as malleable as Landmark, though we can expect to see lots of destructibility, and a big part of the game will involve mining down through various layers of procedurally generated substrate to uncover new dungeons. Terrain above ground is destructible, too, so it’ll be interesting to see how SOE go about regenerating destroyed lands, before players mine the world into nothing. One thing’s for sure, this is an ambitious and exciting new take on the MMO.
EverQuest Next: Landmark
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
Release Date: Early 2014
Link:SOE's EverQuest Next page
What's next for EverQuest? Well, EverQuest Next. But before that is Landmark, a massively multiplayer voxel-based building game that will let you explore a giant world and develop or destroy it to your heart's content. The best player creations will eventually be implemented into EverQuest Next proper – so you may have to spruce up your crude, penis-shaped tavern if you want SOE to consider including it in their MMO. The frankly gorgeous Landmark will be released free-to-play early in 2014. Soon after, SOE will expand the toolset with AI, combat and DM tools. MMORPGs don't tend to be known for their innovative qualities, but EverQuest Next is properly exciting stuff.
Marvel at our building skills in our EverQuest Next: Landmark hands-on preview.
Blade & Soul
Developer: Team Bloodlust
Link:Blade & Soul site
The hugely popular Korean MMO will get an international release in 2014, exposing everyone to the violently colourful continents of the Stratus Empire, and the martial arts wars that rage across its territories. There’s a combo system to spice up combat, but much of Blade & Soul’s appeal lies in its vibrant aesthetic and pretty zones. NCSoft are working on the port, which will mean some design tweaks. “What players in Korea consider fun and balanced might not be as well-received in Europe and America”, they say.
World Of Darkness
Release date: TBC
CCP are promising a faithful take on White Wolf's pen and paper vampire RPG, so expect to spend more time talking to the monsters than slaying them. There's talk of a complicated political system that'll allow players to make power plays and betray one another by the rules of the Masquerade, the vampire code of conduct. 15 members of the team were laid off just before Christmas 2013, however, a worrying sign for this ambitious and lengthy project.
World of Diving
Developer: Vertigo Games
Release date: TBA
Link:World of Diving site
A relaxed, massively multiplayer diving sim designed for use with the Oculus Rift (though it is not required), World of Diving offers peaceful stretches of oceanic exploration in procedurally generated seabeds inspired by fine diving spots from around the world. There are also sharks, as the above image attests, but World of Diving is largely exploratory in nature. Keep an eye out for underground caverns, sunken World War 2 submarines and more. World of Diving is currently in early alpha, and it’s not yet clear how the massively multiplayer angle will play just yet, but it’s a fine prospect for those who want a bit of a respite from guns ‘n death.
Lego Minifigures Online
Release date: Second half of 2014
Link:Lego Minifigures Online site
Doubtless inspired by Skylanders’ success, Funcom’s Lego Minifigures Online is a free to play co-operative MMO that ties in with Lego’s range of physical minifigures. The characters are drawn from all corners of the Lego universe, and each has its own bombastic combat abilities - expect pirates to fight alongside princesses and futuristic space cadets. From hub locations players can neet and team up to take on dungeons, action-RPG style, looting crates to unlock new characters. Once the MMO is up and running, physical Lego Minifigure mystery bags will include codes that instantly unlock a playable version of each included minifigure in the game. If it captures kids’ imaginations, it could be huge.
Developer: Red 5 Studios
Publisher: Red 5 Studios
Release Date: Out now
Firefall mixes acrobatic Tribes-style shooting with an MMORPG structure to form something (relatively) unique. Our review will tell you more, but while there's potential in Firefall's free-to-play grinding and roleplaying and shooting at stuff, it doesn't seem have come close to achieving it yet. The state of the game will likely change over the next few months and years, however, so be sure to keep an eye on it if the concept appeals.
Click here for all our Firefall coverage.