Sometimes even the most die-hard MMORPG player finds him or herself a little tired of constantly looking at the back of a head and a running butt. We yearn to slip the surly bonds of the world to explore the cosmos in our very own rocket ship to see what is out there. E.T., are you taking house calls? Can we hang for a little while? I brought Reese’s Pieces!
Getting this experience isn’t quite as easy as, say, finding an MMO that caters to the dragon-slaying crowd. It’s well-known that sci-fi MMORPGs are in the minority, and only a fraction of those center around or contain some element of space flight and combat. However, over the years we’ve seen online games here and there allow us to live out our fantasies of being a space jockey, whether in the form of a trader, a fighter pilot, or an explorer.
Today, let’s look at 10 MMOs, past and present, that helped us get our spaceship on!
1. EVE Online
The first stop on our tour is perhaps the most obvious, since you can’t talk about internet spaceships (not to mention widespread ganking and corporate backstabbing) without tossing EVE Online out there. While controlling the game’s ships is more technical than freeform flight, EVE offers unparalleled opportunity to engage in most any of your spaceship desires as you explore, fight, and trade across an enormous galaxy.
Reakktor Media’s shortlived space MMO was only really with us from 2011 to 2012 and obviously failed to make a big impact on the larger community. Still, it offered players a chance to join one of three factions and get busy with fighting in PvP and PvE environments. Pilots could even mix-and-match ship modules to build their ideal craft.
Speaking of another dead space MMO, Earth and Beyond was a once-promising title from EA that ran from 2002 to 2004. It was the first full 3-D space MMO on the market, with hundreds of sectors, three factions, and a whole lotta backstory to parse. While trading and exploring were viable professions, combat was by far the most popular activity (because if you have a cool-looking ship, don’t you want to see it in action?).
While it’s been around just as long as EVE Online, Vendetta has struggled with the perception of being the smaller, more generic-looking sibling of the other MMO for much of its lifespan. However, it’s certainly grown greatly over the years and taken the advantage to jump to almost any platform you can think of, including mobile, VR, and even the lamentable Ouya.
The crowdfunded MMO sequel to the popular hardcore space sim of yesteryear managed to get some lead time on Star Citizen by creating a very large, very empty title that devs have subsequently worked on filling up with actual content. If you like fiddly docking and a primary focus on exploration of our actual galaxy, you might want to take these ships for a test drive. Also, there are now aliens.
If you’re one of those players that can overlook dated graphics and work your way through tax code-level complexity, you might be a candidate for an Ascent pilot. This interstellar sandbox has pretty much everything imaginable for a space game and yet keeps imagining more every month. Our theory is that the lead developer is actually an enlightened alien with a penchant for coding and game design.
The captain’s chair of these starships is not like straight-up sandboxes or transplanted theme park MMOs, but rather an interesting hybrid that focuses more on storytelling, visually engaging space battles, and ground content that many players heartily agree is “adequate but let’s talk more about those space battles, OK?” It’s less about forging your own path in the universe with a ship you built from scratch and more about living the Star Trek fantasy as you do reckless things with Starfleet’s motor pool.
To be honest, I’m not hardcore tracking this upcoming title, but from its name alone, I’m guessing that it’s going to have at least two universes? Maybe more? I definitely know you’ll be able to make your own spaceships, and looking at your professional background, that probably means you’re going to send your test pilot into the vacuum inside a cardboard box while holding a plastic bag with a dwindling air supply. Good luck with that!
9. Star Citizen
Yes, this game will have every feature that any serious gamer could ever want. Yes, it will feature cinematic storytelling that will make this the first video game to sweep the Oscars. And yes, you can already fly around in very sleek, very detailed, and very expensive ships while fiddling your thumbs as you wait for the game to be built around you. Expected ship date: 2512. Now with VR!
When SWG first launched, players were dismayed to realize that they couldn’t actually jump into an X-Wing and start fighting the Death Star. While the common belief was that the space portion hadn’t been built yet, the truth is that these players’ parents contacted SOE and told the devs that they were all very naughty and grounded for a good year before being let outside the stratosphere. In any case, space combat (and then atmospheric flight!) eventually arrived, it was glorious, and nothing bad ever happened to this game ever again. The end.