Predicting the best online RPG or great blockbuster is akin to the magic found in most of these games. Online role playing game (RPG) fans are a diehard bunch. Whether it’s Rift, Star Wars: The Old Republic, or World of Warcraft — the reigning king of the genre — players are dedicated yet always hopeful for a new version of their current obsession. Here are a few contenders for this golden throne:
Is Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn the best online RPG?
Originally released in 2010, the first version of Final Fantasy XIV was a disaster. Lack of content, abysmal user interface functionality, and somehow missing the essential Final Fantasy style, the game crashed and burned hard enough that designers decided to pull a moon from the virtual sky, slam it into the world, and start over. Thus was Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (FFXIV: ARR) begun.
The “new” game’s release at the end of August 2013 proved so popular that Square Enix had to stop digital download sales until just recently, and reviews of the game are almost uniformly positive. The world looks great, the quest lines are classic Final Fantasy fare, and the grandiose nature of the franchise doesn’t swallow up player enjoyment. FFXIV: ARR uses a pay-per-month model with no plans to go free-to-play (F2P), but it is still one to watch.
The Elder Scrolls Online
The Elder Scrolls franchise has seen huge success with single-player games like Morrowind, Oblivion, and in 2012 the top-10 hit Skyrim. Their massively multiplayer offering, The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO), scheduled for release sometime in 2014, hopes to translate that success to the world of online RPGs. There are several reasons to watch out for TESO, starting with its focus on first-person rather than third-person combat. Other games in the series are known for their first-person focus, eschewing the over-the-shoulder camera used by most fantasy RPGs, and early indications are that this perspective brings a new kind of speed and immediacy to MMO combat lacking in some current offerings.
Fans are also hoping that game maker Bethesda can keep alive the Elder Scrolls tradition of almost limitless possibility; in single-player outings, gamers could kill almost any NPC or steal any item, leading to sometimes hilarious results. Doing so in an MMO, however, will be a tricky venture. It’s also important to note this game too will rely on the pay-per-month model, but again early buzz remains positive.
Long before World of Warcraft, there was Everquest. For ten years it dominated the market and spawned a generation of dedicated fans. The sequel, Everquest II, didn’t fare so well, and gamers have been waiting with bated breath for any mention of a new version. At the beginning of August 2013, they got their wish with the announcement of Everquest Next.
Right now, there’s no projected release date for the game and no pricing model information, but what is known is very, very interesting. According to Sony Online, the game will feature a far more responsive combat system than traditional MMOs, abandoning the need for users to wait on global cooldowns (GCDs) to perform their next action. But what’s even more interesting about Next is its terrain system; supposedly, just about everything in the world will be something you can destroy — and that goes for walls, floors, and even the ground itself. There are concerns, of course: What happens if (when) malicious users attempt to cause trouble for the general population by destroying essential game play elements? Add to that a promise of “no quests,” where the player will be left to his own devices in the world, and you have a recipe for either greatness or unmitigated disaster.
Quantifying what defines the best online RPG is a matter of personal preference and speculation, but keep your eye on FFXIV: ARR, TESO, and Everquest Next as likely contenders.
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