Brace yourselves; this one is going to be big. We’re going to pick the MMO games that you should keep an eye out for during 2015 and 2016, and while we’re probably leaving a few behind because we’re still unsure about them, there’s plenty to look at in this list. Instead of our usual top 10s, what we’re doing here is listing our most anticipated free-to-play games by genre and in no specific order. If it’s here, then we want it!
We also want you to note that while most of them are confirmed free-to-play, a few are still undisclosed at the time, but they’re likely to be free too. And finally, a bunch of them still don’t have an official announcement for the west, so keep that in mind.
Let’s all take a deep breath and begin with the best upcoming free MMO games for 2015 and 2016.
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Let’s begin with the big one, the game that got the entire planet learning Korean – Black Desert. Possibly the most anticipated free MMORPG of the past couple of years, Pearl Abyss’ debut title takes the action combat of C9 and pushes it a bit further, making it spectacular and rewarding. It’s a high quality MMORPG offering one of the deepest character creation systems ever seen, impressive characters (six at the time and more to come), and so much stuff to see and do in a beautiful medieval European open world that will keep you busy for months on end. With a western release confirmed, this is a great time to be alive!
The Lost Ark announcement was something of a shock. Out of nowhere, we were introduced to the most ambitious isometric hack and slash MMORPG we’ve ever seen – we like to call it the Diablo MMORPG that we ever wanted, just for the sake of it. But while we always approach these announcements with a grain of salt, further info and trailers proved that this wasn’t a mistake and that the game reeks of potential. With a team of over 150 working on it, 18 classes planned, a tripod system to customize your combos and plenty to do besides combat, Lost Ark has quickly risen to the top of the most anticipated MMO games. Even combat looks impressive and extremely varied according to the class you pick. This was love at first sight and it’s bound to last even after the official launch, especially since the global version is pretty much a reality.
Peria Chronicles is Korea’s response to Everquest Next, we might say. But instead of going with the usual fantasy look, developer Thingsoft chose an anime aesthetic that is breathtaking. We’ve talked a lot about the potential of this game, which allows you to shape the terrain, create houses, entire towns and mechanisms aplenty – you can even create your own games, such as a full-functioning giant Tetris machine. It’s as sandbox a game as they come, but this isn’t just about building and watching – there’s an intricate combat system that all Pokémon fans will approve, with creatures to be found and collected – the Kirana – and then used in what is shaping up to be fast-paced and weighty combat. Peria Chronicles is probably one of the most ambitious MMOs of late and we demand a global release.
LINEAGE ETERNAL: TWILIGHT RESISTANCE
NCsoft is taking a quite a while with Lineage Eternal: Twilight Resistance, but the 2014 resurfacing reminded us why we want this game to actually launch globally – and this is expected to happen in 2016, but 2017 sounds more likely. Lineage Eternal is an open world MMORPG that includes a randomized dungeon system which will probably be a lot of fun for those looking for ever-changing challenges, and the skill activation system using mouse gestures will at least make for a nice change. The dynamic event quests similar to Guild Wars 2 and the hundreds of players in some areas sealed the deal to us.
EverQuest Next is a completely unexpected reboot for one of the most popular series of MMORPGs ever made. It’s not just the ambitious sandbox approach, or the somewhat cartoonish look of things. Sure, it’s not exactly Crash Bandicoot but the art style is very different from the previous episodes. We have to be honest though – we like it and think that it can work very well with the building aspect of the game. So, this is going to be EverQuest meets Minecraft with a few more highlights, such as destructibility, a Norrath that is in constant change, as well as choices that have some influence in your character’s destiny. Landmark is the tool that is already sort of out there for those who want to shape the reality of EverQuest Next, but we still have one gripe with all of this: splitting EverQuest in two different, yet interconnected games maybe, just maybe, wasn’t the best choice. But that’s us.
So you want to be a god? Good for you, there’s a game approaching where you can do just that. Skyforge is an ambitious MMORPG coming from an unexpected duo: Allods Team, the makers of Allods Online, and Obsidian Entertainment, masters of storytelling – and of a few buggy releases, some might add. There’s a lot of potential in this game, just as much as there’s no dedicated healer class. The hybrid combat looks fun, some of the locations give us a Star Wars kind of vibe and the ability to become a God, gathering a group of loyal followers and smiting opponents is something that we want to experience.
It’s great to have Otherland back, after it was prematurely canceled in 2012. It was probably too ambitious and led to the developer closing its doors. Now with a new developer and a renewed focus, Otherland is smoothly going places… virtual places. This MMORPG is based on the books by Tad Williams and mixes medieval fantasy, sci-fi, and cyberpunk virtual worlds in a way that very few MMOs have attempted to. The idea of beginning the adventure as a blank slate of an avatar, later defining the abilities, is also a clever gimmick, but the thing that should be highlighted is the eDNA, something that allows you to collect pieces of code and create your own worlds. At the very least, Otherland has a setting of its own.
Ah, the feels! The memories of Star Wars Galaxies and how it was a great game that was prematurely shut down. The Repopulation is trying to mix said game with Ultima Online and that is far from an easy task. Science-fiction sandbox MMOs are few and far between, especially as ambitious as this one, so you have to keep an eye out for it. Focusing on player choice – for example, combat or peaceful means –, this game will give you the tools, the skills, the housing, the dynamic content and let you approach the seamless game world the way you see fit. This will be one rough around the edges MMO with average graphics, but the complexity and Star Wars Galaxies comparisons are real.
For some, Albion Online will finally replace RuneScape, while for others this is going to bring plenty of beautiful Ultima Online memories. Aptly-titled developer Sandbox Interactive is making a great job with this game, taking risks and boldly going where few other studios have gone before. First of all, this is a cross-platform MMO, so you can continue your adventure on iOS or Android, with every player joining in the same master server. There are no class restrictions in Albion Online, so you are what you wear. There’s also a player-driven economy, and while we know how risky this can be, hopefully it will serve its purpose. Albion Online could be a huge game.
Tree of Savior is shaping up to be the game that Ragnarok Online 2 should have been. The cute anime visuals look like they were caught in the middle of a time conundrum – they look as retro as can be but at the same time they’re just perfect for today and we wouldn’t change them a bit. With 80 classes, some of them quite hard to get, and over 200 bosses, there’s a lot to do and kill in this old-school MMORPG. And you can jump! Yes, it’s a bit silly to talk about this but how many times have you been able to jump in an MMORPG? It will definitely come in handy in boss fights.
How do you approach the development of a sequel for a 2D game released in 2003? Apparently, by drastically changing the way it looks. MapleStory 2 looks like MySims – remember that one? -, except cuter and with a heck more possibilities. It’s all very chibi, colorful and probably stupid fun for all ages – we’ll probably enjoy the building aspect a lot. The silly mini-games will surely become a fan favorite, and we can’t forget the chibi Diablo hack and slash gameplay with those cute bosses. It’s a game full of potential and we’re just hoping that Nexon won’t place all the cool stuff behind a paywall. You can begin your Nexon hating in 3, 2, 1… go!
Bless Online, or Bless: Embers in the Storm, is a beautiful Korean MMORPG, but it won’t make you change your mind about the gameplay approach of most Eastern studios. It has some ridiculously good character design – and over-sexualized too –, the visual detail can be jaw-dropping at times, but in the end you’ll have to be in it for the grind. But hey, that could be said about 99% of the MMORPGs here, right? Luckily combat can be very satisfying, with the control being different according to the class – some use tab-target, others go for a TERA action-combat style of gameplay.
Echo of Soul, or EOS Online, is incredibly popular in Korea and will finally launch during 2015 in the US. Just as it happens with Bless, this is not the game for you if you’re expecting something out of the ordinary; instead, Echo of Soul is simply put an enjoyable, highly polished MMORPG that is usually compared to TERA. There’s no dedicated healer class, it includes a soul-collecting system and should keep us entertained for quite a while.
Let’s just pretend for a while that Sony Online Entertainment… I mean, Daybreak Game Company, isn’t completely trying to get in the DayZ bandwagon. Now we can continue, hoping that H1Z1 fulfills all the potential that fans of sandbox zombie survival MMOs are expecting of it. Although it’s still early stages for this game, what we played allowed us to imagine just where it could go, and it could go places. The freedom that this sort of game provides will let players create their own stories, hopefully in the same rich way that DayZ is doing, but we’re also expecting something new, something different to justify its existence. We expect this one to be in early development for another year or two, quite frankly.
We just want Gloria Victis to be successful. There’s a big lack of true medieval MMOs (even if it’s actually low-fantasy) and this is a game that is clearly being made with passion, with so many mechanics in place and planned, that it just sounds like the MMORPG version of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. Sure, combat is bound to be more tactical and realistic, but that is precisely something that we want to see. This is shaping up to be a niche MMORPG, one of difficult access, but that’s just the way it should be.
SkySaga is one more attempt to take the Minecraft formula somewhere else, probably somewhere more player-friendly but still offering some great tools for world creation. From what we’ve seen in the alpha, this is a game that is going in the right direction – it’s pretty, moves smoothly and even combat can be somewhat enjoyable. Although Minecraft-like games will continue to spring from under every rock, SkySaga and Creativerse are two of the games that are bound to be the most successful.