It’s 2016 and once again we’re excited about what this year has in store for us. Despite a few recent disappointments, mostly Black Desert Online and Albion Online deciding they wouldn’t be free-to-play, there are still many great free games coming in a year or two. You don’t believe us? Well, if you’re not excited for Paragon, Lost Ark, Unreal Tournament, Tree of Savior or any of the games that were about to tell you, then we don’t know what to say. Obviously, this isn’t an extensive listing, it just includes some of our most anticipated games, but there are many more coming, and you can bet your life that others will be announced in the following months. Grab some popcorn, make yourself comfortable – this one is going to be big! Enjoy the video!
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Near the end of 2015 we finally heard something from Lost Ark, or as a lot of you like to call it, the MMO that everyone is waiting for. A very short focus group test was held in Korea and there are talks of a closed beta during the first half of 2016, so it looks like this one is actually moving, for a change. China is already set to get this game and while North America and Europe are very likely to get it according to the initial talk, there’s still a good way to go.
Anyway, in case you haven’t been around, what is it that makes Lost Ark so interesting? Well, it looks like it’s the perfect Diablo-like MMO, with varied classes, exciting action combat, a crazy combo system, actual decision-making, cinematic dungeons with huge bosses, clever puzzles and a lot of small activities to spend time. It also helps that it looks and moves perfectly, thanks to the huge budget and team at Smilegate. I guess all that money thrown into CrossFire is actually being used for something.
After several years and countless “the hype is dead” comments, Blade & Soul has finally launched in North America and Europe. Is it any good, you ask? Definitely. It has a lot going for it and while under the hood it may be somewhat familiar, there are so much highlights that make it one of the big names of 2016. First of all, you just can’t escape the eye candy, with one of the most original art styles ever created for an MMO. Even if a small percentage of players may not like the overly oiled design and the exceptionally long legs on female characters, it’s a testament to the game that the graphics have stood the test of time so well.
The focus on the story is another one of the highlight, with plenty of high quality cutscenes to get you into the spirit of this martial arts epic. Combat can also be exciting and flashy, but don’t expect any sort of revolution in the control scheme.
Blade & Soul is more than a simple MMORPG; it’s a playground for creative minds, as you can see by the amount of stunning music videos that are made using the game. Our very own editor Rendermax, in particular, has created some impressive pieces that will definitely titillate – and we use the word in a broad sense – any fan of the game.
HeroWarz is making an unexpected stop in North America and Europe and we’re very glad that it’s doing so. This is one little gem of a game, a cartoonish action RPG with compelling characters and over the top action. HeroWarz is polished, frantic, sometimes a bit too chaotic to see what is actually happening onscreen, and it’s what we would call the perfect game to take a break from other more demanding MMO experiences. It’s also… what is the word… oh, yeah: fun! It’s fun to play, something that most online games seem to forget about nowadays.
Tree of Savior is the spiritual successor to Ragnarok Online and there’s a lot of promise to this game, an old-school kind of RPG that looks stunning and proves that there’s still plenty of life in 2D if you have a skilled art team. IMC Games is doing a lot of things in the right way, such as the early announcement of a global English version, which made many players jump around like little kids on Christmas. They’re also listening to the community and working on the feedback, such as including a much requested mouse control. Sure, it’s not all perfect, as there’s already been a few hiccups along the way, one of the biggest being the cash shop prices seen in the Korean version – $25 dollars for a hairstyle, really? I can go out and get a real haircut for cheaper than that!
Lineage is still one of the most profitable franchises for NCsoft so it’s only normal that the studio wants and needs to follow up on that. With Lineage Eternal: Twilight Resistance they are trying to add some fresh blood to the series, going for a clear Diablo approach and more action-based gameplay. One of the highlights is the mouse gesture system, with which you can perform some skills by moving the mouse. As for the rest, it’s shaping up to be pure hack and slash goodness with parties of 20 players, massive battles and a dynamic dungeon system that will randomize dungeons, monsters and quests. This will probably be a hit in the Korean market but with heavy competition from Lost Ark, we’ll have to see which game will earn the player’s favor.
And suddenly, 2016 got a little bit better with the announcement of one game that we thought we would never get to play in a proper English version. Riders of Icarus is the new name of Icarus Online and it uses the CryEngine 3 to deliver some good visuals that serve the familiar but interesting gameplay as best as they can. Think of Riders of Icarus as a new take on the gotta catch’em all formula, or as an improved Dragon’s Prophet where the highlight is the hundreds of mounts that you can collect, tame and use, in land and air. There’s aerial combat too, and it looks fairly exciting. While it won’t light the world on fire, Riders of Icarus should be one of those MMOs that are fairly enjoyable and the mount collecting is definitely a big plus in this game.
Bless is a big name but it’s not going through a smooth development. With a lukewarm reception to the betas and straight-out indefinite delays that didn’t change much about the bland combat system, Bless: Embers in the Storm needs to step up its game if it wants to be more than a stunning visual showcase. No problems there – it looks amazing, the character detail is very good but the architectural touch is out of this world, with the obvious inspiration coming from European countries such as Italy. Bless clearly has potential to be so much more than what the open beta phase is hinting at, so let’s hope that with time it gets better, even if we’re pretty sure that it won’t be much more than a beautiful MMORPG with familiar mechanics.
SkySaga: Infinite Isles is the cute cousin of Trove. It’s also one more son of the eternal Minecraft, so you should know what to expect: voxels, voxels everywhere. However, SkySaga looks good, great even, with a color palette that give it a unique style and characters that manage to have quite an identity for someone without arms or legs. But what stood out during the extensive alpha was the array of creative community builds that make this game a truly infinite one, with so many original isles to explore and challenges to master. As for the rest, it’s a genuinely fun mix of crafting, building and fighting that while it still needs polishing, is already showing a lot of promise and makes this one rank high in our Minecraft-like MMO wanted list.
Gloria Victis has all the elements of a game that tries to do something different and will probably be a pain in the butt to get into for players who aren’t willing of giving it plenty of their time. It’s shaping up to be a niche game but one that we’re betting will prove to be extremely rewarding for those who persevere. It’s going for an original low fantasy medieval setting, which means you shouldn’t expect dragons or fireballs. With a massive open world without loading screens and dynamic weather that plays an important role, you should have plenty of space to build your castle and fight for territory control. You also get non-target action combat, open PvP and battles with hundreds of players. We have this feeling that such ambition will end up in a compelling, original MMORPG with quite a few bugs to squash along the way, but that seems like a decent price to pay for a nice change of the usual fantasy MMOs.
Starbreak is one little project from one of the developers of Realm of the Mad God. It’s not your usual MMO either; this is one MetroidVania kind of game, a side-scrolling platform shooter with nice hand-drawn graphics and frantic boss battles. Perfect for a change of pace and especially for those who are looking for some kind of throwback to the age of Commodore Amiga and Super Nintendo, Starbreak is planned as a game with no level grinding, instead focusing on player skill and cooperation. For what we’ve played, it looks pretty much like it and you’ll need your best reflexes do dodge all those bullets and land on those tricky moving platforms. Sometimes you’ll think you’re in a bullet hell shooter and not in a simple MMO, and rightly so.
We weren’t quite sure about getting Landmark in here: after all, it’s been in early access for nearly two years and it’s still getting quite some bashing and for all the worst reasons: pay-to-win, bad optimization and a slooooow development are the main reasons a lot of players are feeling a bit cheated. On the other hand, there is so much you can do in Landmark, so many beautiful things to look at and places to explore, it’s like Landmark is shaping up to be the greatest game that everyone seems to hate. Our advice right now would be to hold on to your money until Landmark actually improves quite a bit or even better, launches as free-to-play so you can decide if you want to support it or not without spending a dime. We love Landmark’s concept, but we hate just how the development has turned out.