The Soapbox: These three MMOs deserve a do-over

    
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The Soapbox: These three MMOs deserve a do-over

Wouldn’t it be cool if every MMORPG that failed to reach its potential were granted some sort of do-over? We’ve seen it happen once, with 2013’s hugely successful A Realm Reborn reboot rising from the ashes of 2010’s Final Fantasy XIV farce.

That’s most definitely an isolated incident that owes a lot to Square’s deep pockets, though, and there are plenty of additional MMORPGs that started off as great ideas and ended up in desperate need of a retool.

20130320013644Age of Wushu

On paper, Age of Wushu seemed like a slam dunk. It was a big, beautiful sandbox MMO that broke from fantasy convention and transported players to a Wuxia-drenched recreation of medieval China. It featured a robust combat system that took its visual cues from films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and challenged players to master parries, feints, and a complex series of action MMO maneuvers designed to emulate the feel of meatspace martial arts. The game’s school-based advancement system also allowed players to fight for various real-world sects including the famous Shaolin and Wudang groups while partaking of spy and counterspy events that stepped pretty far outside the usual MMO PvP box.

age-of-wushu-wulin-51Age of Wushu also boasted a high degree of skill-based player customization, unique non-combat systems including life skills as well as traditional crafting minigames, and an odd duck of a system that enabled your character to interact with the game world while you were offline, often as the victim of a kidnapping and sometimes as the companion of an active player.

Developer Snail Games even allowed players to become boss mobs on occasion, and unlike the PvP-focused EVE Online from which Snail drew a fair bit of metagame inspiration, Age of Wushu featured significant amounts of PvE content to go along with its guild-vs.-guild foundation.

Sadly, all of these slick-sounding features and dozens of others were wasted on account of Snail’s unfortunate timing and a horrific localization effort. The game was daunting enough on its own merits thanks to systems that many western MMO players simply hadn’t seen before. Adding insult to injury was a beta and press preview period that arrived in late 2012 during what was arguably the zenith for casual MMORPGs. Guild Wars 2 was fresh off its summer launch and roping in millions of MMOers with its unwavering accessibility, while World of Warcraft’s Mists of Pandaria expansion dropped a couple of months later and effectively blotted out the sun for Age of Wushu and every other late 2012 and early 2013 MMO release.

On top of the poor timing, Snail simply didn’t bother with a professional translation job, as some of AoW’s UI elements were unreadable after being converted to English, and those that were readable were in many cases so ham-handedly localized that the descriptions confused more players than they helped. Finally, there was that cash shop, and frankly, the less said about that, the better.

While Age of Wushu likely never would have been a breakout hit in the West due to its sandbox mechanics, its PvP, and the depth and breadth of its learning curve, it’s one of those titles that could have and should have found a niche in these parts if a bit more care had been taken with its presentation.

dd43df95-416c-4f30-a910-90fb5591dee4Vanguard

This one’s liable to be contentious because mentioning the name Brad McQuaid on an MMO website invariably brings out the armchair businessmen who love to post about parking lot firings and cocaine. If we’re lucky, there might also be a few people with the courage required to admit that Vanguard was actually fun more often than not.

Yes, it was a launch-day trainwreck and — much like Age of Wushu — it was inexorably hamstrung by a debut date perilously close to one of WoW’s juggernaut expansion drops (in this case, 2007’s The Burning Crusade), but Vanguard nonetheless managed to out-EQII EQII for a lot of old-school EverQuest fans. For the rest of us, it provided a massive, seamless game world with some nifty quests, some lore that was actually original, and some associated writing that far outshone the genre standard. I didn’t care much for the diplomacy card game gimmick, but the Dread Knight was and is my favorite themepark class of all time, so there’s that.

SOE kept Vanguard on life-support far longer than anyone could have expected, which allowed for its tiny but dedicated community to enjoy over seven years of gameplay in the world of Telon. Oh, and there’s an emulator in the works, too, though you’ll have to discover that one for yourself!

darkfall2Darkfall

Of all the titles I thought about including in today’s column, Darkfall was an absolute no-brainer. Ironically it’s already had a couple of do-overs, though none of them has managed to capture the rambunctious spirit of 2009’s bug-ridden but strangely endearing gankbox. Aventurine’s constant tinkering and indecision has left the current version of its fantasy title languishing somewhere between laughingstock and player-free wasteland, but there was a time when even I — the warmest and fuzziest carebear you’ll ever meet — preferred playing Darkfall to any other MMORPG.

Much like Vanguard’s Telon, Darkfall’s Agon was well and truly ginormous. The sheer scale of the place combined with a pleasing hand-crafted aesthetic lent itself to a lot of immersive exploration, fun group PvP, and boss-killing that didn’t require a loading screen. Plus, Darkfall’s oh-shit-was-that-another-player-I-just-want-to-kill-these-goblins PvE was both thrillingly strategic and sadly missing from other genre titles.

2012’s Unholy Wars reboot punted the original free-form advancement system in favor of prowess and pre-determined roles, and Aventurine’s devs never did manage to wrap their brains around the fact that this game needed local banking (for the economy, stupid) and a simple skill cap in the worst possible way.

And more!

I’m just about out of space today, but don’t think you’re getting off that easy ArcheAge, Fallen Earth, and a couple of other inexplicable failboats that know who they are. I’ll get to you in due time.

Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively OP writers as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews (and not necessarily shared across the staff). Think we’re spot on — or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!

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Wandris
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Wandris

Darkfall has gotten a do-over from me(for the 3rd time XD). They have
done some good things in UW. Some would disagree but I am really liking
the removal of diminishing returns on prowess in PVE activities, the
market, the economy/loot changes, being able to make many different
builds, territory control etc. With the upcoming GUI improvments, alignment, and re-introduction of enchanting I think darkfall is finally going to achieve its original vision. Only time will tell if its going to be enough to reestablish a larger population.

Wandris
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Wandris

Estranged SWTOR is one game I sort of despise. They go so far out of there way to make you sub. At every turn you get screwed over. But I just spent $200 and unlocked everything? Nope you are not aloud to have enough credits to buy half the shit on the AH, you need to spend just as many cartel coins in escrow vouchers as  it takes to buy the legacy unlock outright with cartel coins. Want to object or protest? Sorry you can’t even email customer support nor can you post on the forums. Want to make a complaint outside regular channels? Well expect to be ridiculed and told you don’t matter because you don’t “pay” for the game. Why? Since bioware has gone so far out of its way to marginalize its preferred/F2P customers its sub base has been given the green light to shit all over you. So I will grind my axe and month after month, and year after year I am going to find ways to dissuade people from spending time or money on SWTOR, and one post at a time I will chipp at the foundation until the cost becomes too high for them to ignore.

Observer98
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Observer98

dorn2 
Perhaps the dumbest comment ever.

ZenDadaist
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ZenDadaist

I’d vote for MxO, Fallen Earth and… uh.. well… STO actually.

FlyinDutchman
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FlyinDutchman

GleefulGrognard

I’m not even sure that game is a real MMO. 

It honestly felt like someone just took a bunch of decent MMO systems then bolted them all together. It feels much more like 3 to 4 minigames you play with the same avatar, rather than a living breathing MMO world. 

The systems are all solid, and it’s honestly worth the buy, but there’s something fundamental that just isn’t there.

Estranged
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Estranged

The car feels solid, really well made. I concur.
Never thought of installing one of those on a bike! Brilliant.

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

Estranged   Oh you should. They’ve changed a lot mechanically in the last 10-12 years. It’s a really fun car to drive and rather comfortable for a sports type of car plus the prices on them are reasonable. 

Tomorrow I’m getting the Harley serviced and having a power port put on the handle bars so I can charge up my phone when I’m out on the road. Kept running into low battery issues on the smartphone.

Zuleyus
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Zuleyus

Oleg Chebeneev 
I agree on improving PvE, but not (so much) on acquiring skills. I guess the cash shop sets should be questable or otherwise available through effort, but the whole skill system is part of why AoW has been my main game since Wushu beta (4 months there, playing EU Wulin since closed beta week one for better ping). It has many flaws, but the skills system is the opposite IMO.

dorn2
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dorn2

Hinotori dorn2 paragonlostinspace khrz 
Also I want to be clear I’m not attacking his examples.  I’m not even disagreeing these games could use a do-over.  I’m just saying why did he bring them up over more obvious examples?

As for why I don’t give “better examples” don’t feed me that bullshit.  If I gave a perfect example you’d be in here pulling the usual bullshit “well that’s just your opinion man”.

dorn2
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dorn2

Hinotori
That’s a flaw with English and I can’t do anything about that.  English has no distinction word for “opinions which are not personal in nature”.  It’s just “fact” or “opinion”.  The best I can say is “objective opinion” because there’s no other word that means “attempt to present an opinion unclouded by personal desires”.
For instance you might hire a consultant for some task.  What you want from him is his opinions.  You absolutely do not want him to give opinions based on what his personal desires are. The same is true for op-ed articles.

When the author slants an op-ed toward his personal desires that starts the slippery slope into yellow journalism.