As with the larger video game market, sequels aren’t unknown in the MMO space. We’ve seen studios take a stab at following up successful earlier efforts with follow-ups (such as Asheron’s Call 2 or EverQuest II), and the modern trend of MMO-lites have produced sequels as well (just see The Division 2 or Destiny 2).
But sometimes it is simply not feasible to create a sequel even when the desire and original team wants to do it, due to licensing and IP ownership. So what do you do when you want to make a follow-up but you legally can’t? You create a “spiritual successor” that is a sequel in all but name.
We have certainly seen many of these emerge over the years, especially in the Kickstarter era when well-known devs capitalize on their popularity to engage in a game that is eerily like what they had done in the past. In today’s list, we’re going to be looking at 10 spiritual successors that attempted (or are attempting) to piggyback on an earlier title’s reputation.
DikuMUD and EverQuest
Despite what some believe, EverQuest did not spring into being out of pure nothing. The 3-D fantasy MMO adapted (some say “stole”) the format and structure of DikuMUD, a popular text-based MMO engine that enjoyed a strong run throughout the 1990s. The combat-centric design of DikuMUD carried over into EverQuest, which skewed far more toward this style of play than was seen a couple of years earlier in Ultima Online. The DNA that was imparted to EverQuest was so significant that such combat theme parks have been referred to as “Dikus” since then.
In 2001, Mark Jacobs and his team at Mythic released a realm vs. realm MMO set in the public domain setting of the Arthurian British Isles. It was modestly successful, and Jacobs was obviously so enamored with the idea that when he launched a new company and Kickstarter in 2013, it was for a realm vs. realm MMO set in the public domain setting of the Arthurian British Isles. With both titles even sharing a common word, it’s hard to see this other than a blatant reboot and spiritual successor (which, when it’s redoing something that worked well in the first place, isn’t a bad thing!).
City of Heroes and, uh, everything
For the past seven years, we’ve witnessed a curious race between games to become the greatest spiritual successor for City of Heroes. That superhero MMO left a large hole in the hearts of fans and developers alike, and titles like Valiance Online, City of Titans, and Ship of Heroes (not to mention other side projects) wouldn’t mind you seeing them as THE game that took the torch from that sunsetted project and held it aloft once again.
Ultima Online and Legends of Aria
With two official sequels to Ultima Online tanked in mid-development, we’ve pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that only an unauthorized knockoff is going to give us the continuation of this style of gameplay. Enter Legends of Aria, which is quick to draw comparisons between itself and UO every chance it gets. As a small indie MMO, Aria needs the boost in visibility and association. Can’t really blame it.
Asheron’s Call and Project Gorgon
It’s pretty telling how influential the first generation of graphical MMOs were that all of them are on this list getting some sort of spiritual successor. As for Asheron’s Call and its ill-fated sequel, who better to craft a game in its likeness than one of its creators? Project Gorgon has much in common with AC, most notably the unorthodox (for today’s standards) skill system and interactive world.
EverQuest, Vanguard, and Pantheon
It’s hard, exactly, to say which of Brad McQuaid’s older MMOs that he’s trying the most to emulate with Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, but I suspect that it’s both EverQuest and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. All of these titles harken back to an older, slightly more hardcore way of portraying PvE, although both of his previous projects have elements that are rearing up once more in Pantheon. So let’s call it a tie?
Star Wars Galaxies and H1Z1
OK, you know I had to toss this on the list, if only to be a sarcastic wise-cracker. So what happened here is that back in 2014, SOE was working on a new game and John Smedley not-so-subtly hinted that this follow-up title would be some sort of spiritual successor to the then-recently-departed Star Wars Galaxies. “We have a new game that I think SWG vets will like,” he tweeted. Other quotes from him mentioned that this would be “a game that many of the old [Star Wars Galaxies] players will feel right at home in” and that it would be “dedicated to” fans of SWG.
Then it turned out to be H1Z1 and… yeah. Expectations were not properly set nor met. Really, I can’t think of a game that would be further away from SWG if I tried.
Firefall and Em-8er
If you couldn’t tell, a recurring theme of this list is MMO developers coming back to create eerily similar follow-ups to games they had done in the past. When Mark Kern got booted from Firefall after spending years trying to create the ultimate PvP sci-fi MMO, he brooded for a while and then got to work on another sci-fi online title. It remains to be seen how much of Firefall’s DNA will be grafted onto Ember, but the genre slant is hard to ignore.
Ultima Online and Shroud of the Avatar
Hey, Ultima Online’s back for another mention on this list! It must’ve been very disheartening for Richard Garriott to see two attempted sequels for Ultima Online (one of which he was deeply involved with creating) go belly-up before launch, so I can’t blame him for wanting to try it again with Shroud of the Avatar. While he couldn’t use some of the copyrighted names and titles from his Ultima series, SOTA all but calls back to the key elements that made that series so famous.
Shadowbane and Crowfall
While Shadowbane wasn’t the most popular or well-known of MMOs, it did all right for a while there before falling off the market. One of its key creators, J. Todd Coleman, never gave up on the idea of a full-fledged PvP world that could be reset, and it was this vision that he brought into Crowfall — albeit with a lot better graphics, design, and community backing. He doesn’t talk about Shadowbane in conjunction with Crowfall a lot these days, but believe you me, the former had a lot of influence in the creation of the latter.