Last week, we introduced the first part of our guide to the best upcoming, in-development indie MMORPGs — yes, the list was so long that we had to split it lest our CMS explode! So this week we’re back with the other half of our list, a quick and dirty guide to many of the indie MMORPGs in development and some of the key points about each. Hint: We’re not asking whether they are a sandbox with open world PvP because of course they are. As a side note, we won’t be covering most of the survival sandbox and mere multiplayer titles, as that would be too great for the scope of this guide. And if you’re interested in these games, then you’ll definitely want to track our Make My MMO and Betawatch columns.
On with part two!
The brainchild of ex-SOE CEO John Smedley, Hero’s Song is a mash-up of MMO, action RPGs, and customizable worlds that are influenced by which gods are selected to influence them. Pixel art and a 2-D isometric perspective make this stand out visually, and players can run their own servers if they wish. The title is looking at a spring 2017 release with a $20 price point. Listen to our interview with John Smedley about the project!
Land of Britain
Similar to Camelot Unchained and Dark Age of Camelot, Land of Britain is fashioning a mythological version of England inhabited by three player factions. Development of this title has gone quiet since 2015 as the team has been working on a card game to fund the MMO.
Life is Feudal
This game is a medieval sandbox that is building an MMO version on the back of a survival game. Life is Feudal features full-form terraforming, loads of professions (such as horse breeder), a huge seamless world, seasonal changes, politics, and the ability to construct cities and lay siege to others. Announcements regarding beta and launch are coming soon.
Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen
For fans of old-school, hardcore MMORPGs, Pantheon is looking to reclaim those glory days with a tougher approach to its game world that will send players scurrying to each other for mutual protection. Former EverQuest and Vanguard lead Brad McQuaid is behind this project, which he claims to be moving forward with the genre instead of backward. Testing might begin by the end of 2016.
Once the staging ground for great excitement over an MMO version of the popular pen-and-paper RPG system, Pathfinder Online faltered hard after charging subscriptions for an early access product. Financial woes forced the studio to lay off most of its team, with control of the game moved to Paizo in September 2015. While there was talk of finding a new investor, so far nothing much has happened on this front and game development has been incredibly quiet in 2016. Not a good sign.
Project Genom prides itself as being a hands-off, hardcore MMO that requires logical thinking, personal decisions, and a quick trigger finger to survive in an alien world. One interesting feature is that players will be able to swap out their internal organs and even modify their DNA to increase chances of survival. Project Genom is coming to Steam early access in October 2016.
Possibly one of the best MMOs out there with the worst name, Project Gorgon bills itself as an explorer’s greatest fantasy. With a massive skill system (which includes bizarre but useful additions like mycology, flower arrangement, and dying), the ability to become a playable animal (such as a cow or bat), and bosses that will slap you with lasting curses if you die to them, the game is all about unique PvE experiences. It’s been in a public alpha for a long while now, is coming to Steam early access later this year, and will launch by the end of 2017. We interviewed the game’s hard-working developer on the Massively OP Podcast a while back.
It’s not entirely clear whether Sacrament is an MMO or a website in the making. The team keeps posting design documents about this theoretical hardcore fantasy sandpark, but to date we’ve seen very little that convinces us that it’s more than just at the idea stage. Sacrament’s Kickstarter failed and was followed up with an attempt to raise money via Patreon.
Saga of Lucimia
Another title that’s trying to appeal to players who miss the tougher and less accessible days of yore, Saga of Lucimia is being designed from the ground-up to be a highly group-centric fantasy MMORPG. This game world is large, scary, and dangerous, and only fools will venture alone into its wilds. It will feature a mix-and-match skill system, crafting, and housing, although PvP is right out of the question. Alpha testing is currently progressing, with an eye to transition into beta next year and launch by the end of 2017.
Shards Online’s main claim to fame is that it’s giving players “the keys to the universe” by allowing them to modify and run their own server worlds (there will be an official server as well). It’s a much more hardcore sandbox MMO, with permadeath, extensive PvP, animal taming, housing, dungeon diving, and a desire for players to create emergent content in a virtual world. The MMO just moved from pre-alpha to alpha testing.
Shroud of the Avatar
A huge Kickstarter success (at least for an MMORPG), Shroud of the Avatar is Richard Garriott’s spiritual successor to Ultima Online and the Ultima series in general. It takes place in a very instanced world with lots and lots of player housing (some might say too much player housing, especially with the sale of such plots and towns). The game takes a slower approach to MMOs with more of an emphasis on roleplay and clever little touches, such as the ability to play one of Garriott’s first CRPGs in-game. While it’s already moved into a persistent state, the official launch of Episode 1 is slated for Q1 2017. Read our DragonCon interview with Garriott!
How do you even start to describe this game? Star Citizen is a space sim from the mind of Chris Roberts (of Wing Commander fame) which has had mind-blowing success with fundraising. Its scope and development have expanded significantly since its inception, with studios across the world tackling it and its feature set broadened to include first-person ground combat, Newtonian physics, and a single-player spin-off starring Mark Hamill called Squadron 42. The project is lumbering through alpha testing after some delays, and while there was word that it was going to be released by the end of 2016, odds are very good that the full launch and even the persistent state will slip to 2017 or beyond.
Star Wars Galaxies left a void in the industry that several titles have tried to fill, not the least of which is The Repopulation. A wide-ranging sci-fi sandbox, The Repopulation wanted players to have all of the tools to build their own houses and cities while exploring an alien world. Unfortunately, business problems forced the title to go on hiatus in late 2015 while the project reorganized. Soon after, the team released a survival sandbox called Fragmented that used its development in The Repopulation. Presumably, development is moving forward as the team switches the game to a new engine. We have an in-depth interview concerning the crisis and the team’s new approach to The Repopulation’s development.
Tree of Life
Here we have a Korean sandbox that offers players the chance to explore, exploit, and manipulate a huge — and colorful! — fantasy realm. There is a lot more of a focus on gathering, crafting, and building, although combat is still very much a factor in Tree of Life. It recently got a visual overhaul and went into beta testing earlier this year.
Otherwise known as The Untitled Game, TUG is, according to its team, “a particle collider of society, culture, and creativity.” It’s as much a social experiment as a stylized sandbox, with a world that begs to be explored and ideas on how to get people to interact and play together. Also, there might be a brutal Hunger Games-style mod that came out of this, but that’s neither here nor there. Following an announcement that the game secured a chunk of funding and was switching to a new engine earlier this year, development on this front has been incredibly quiet for most of 2016.
Floating islands! Airships! Sky whales! Grappling hooks! Worlds Adrift might be a sleeper hit in the making, with the promise of letting players make their own ships and explore chunks of inexplicably airborne terrain for glory and profit. It received a huge injection of capital in August, with the investor stating that the game had the potential of “completely transforming how we experience multiplayer gaming.” The title is currently in alpha testing, and fans can download an island creator to try their hand at design.
The other spiritual successor to City of Heroes, Valiance Online is currently in early alpha testing and will be headed to Steam this year. The team has occasionally emerged to show off its character creator, animations, and other bits of design. Allegedly there’s no ill will between this and City of Titans — quite the opposite, actually.
The Project Genom team is also working on this post-apocalyptic road warrior MMO in which players will build and drive their own machines of death across the wasteland. The project failed at its Kickstarter campaign, although the team is moving forward with a pre-alpha build sometime this fall.