Whilst my main focus on upcoming MMOs is most definitely on Star Wars The Old Republic, there are a couple of others that I am keeping an eye on as well. I am not sure if I will play either of them, for they are both still a long way from release and I need more information before deciding, but both offer some things that are unique and different to the current MMO crop.
They are Funcom's The Secret World and XLGames' ArcheAge.
The Secret World
Regarding the game mechanics, the Secret World is more of a sandbox type game rather than a theme park game. There are no character classes and no character levels. Rather the player chooses freely what skills, weapons and appearance they want from a huge list. There is no set path of progression; you do what you want when you want to. It's a brave move and will be interesting to see how it works.
On top of that there will be some interesting new quests and mission types, including investigation missions that will require you to do research and investigation on the internet using hundreds of websites created specially for the game (kind of the like the recent boom in alternate reality games).
It sounds interesting, and as a long time fan of Lovecraft's work and the X-Files a lot of the conspiracy stuff sounds fascinating. Let's hope that Funcom can deliver and learn from the mistakes of Age of Conan.
CryEngine 3, which is one of the most advanced gaming engines.
Whilst being set in a more typical fantasy world, like The Secret World it offers several new and unique twists. This is much more of a true sandbox, allowing players to group together to chop down trees and build houses and ships, truly changing the landscape of the world.
The combat system is more of a real time combat than most MMOs and allows true ability combination chains like those in fighting games. As a consequence of using CryEngine 3 the game also has a full physics model, so for example, using a knockback ability against someone on the top of a hill will have a drastically different effect to using the same ability on someone standing next to a wall.
Check out the video below for a preview of the environments, combat, ship-based pvp and construction systems.
Currently in closed beta testing (unfortunately only open to Koreans) lets hope that ArcheAge manages to live up to it's promise whilst avoiding the mega grind that plagues most Korean MMOs.
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