Canceled MMOs of 2019

The end of the year is here and that means it is time to look at the games we lost this year. It wasn’t as bad this year as it was last year but there are still quite a few games to get through. Here are the canceled MMOs of 2019.

 

February

Blacklight Retribution

At the end of 2017 Perfect World gave Blacklight Retribution back to its developer Hardsuit Labs and for a brief moment it looked like the game would have another chance at life. Sadly it wasn’t to be and after a couple of years on Steam the game finally shut down.

 

ROSE Online

Though ROSE Online had been in Maintenance Mode since 2016 it still came as a bit of a surprise when ROSE Online shut down. The game had been live since 2005 and 14 years is a great run for an MMORPG. There was news of a mobile spin-off late last year but sadly there hasn’t been any news about it coming West.

 

April

Orcs Must Die! Unchained

After the success of Orcs Must Die! 2 it only made sense that Robot Entertainment would start working on a new game in the series. It was initially released in beta in 2014 and stayed there until April 2017 when it officially launched. In April 2019 the game was sadly shut down and, for those doing the math, it spent more time in beta than it did live. At the time of its shutdown the game had been running at a financial loss for several months.

 

Survived By

Survived By town

A permadeath bullet hell survival game kind of sounds like you just vomited some words but this is exactly what Survived By was. Sadly the development team decided to stop working on the game after it became clear that they wouldn’t be able to meet their original vision. This was the second Digital Extremes game that has been shutdown after Amazing Eternals in 2017.

 

Kritika Online

En Masse shut down the Western version of Kritika Online earlier this year and then just a few months later announced they were bringing it back! Yes, you can actually play Kritika Online right now on Steam where it is called Kritika: REBOOT.

 

Breach

QC Games closed its doors, putting an end to their 4v1 game Breach. The game had been inspired by Shadow Realms, a game that had been in development at Bioware and was canned before the public ever saw it. Though we did get a chance to play it. No reason for Breach’s shutdown was given but considering the studio disbanded entirely it isn’t a stretch at all to assume money was an issue.

 

May

The Culling

The Culling

Times have been rough for The Culling ever since they decided to immediately start working on a sequel to the game. That sequel was a Battle Royale game, a completely different genre to the first game. To say it was an unpopular move would be an understatement. Just a couple of weeks after the sequel launched they closed it and went back to work on The Culling. They even went so far as to make the game free to play. But by then the damage had been done and their players had left.

 

Dragon Nest Europe

Dragon Nest Europe

Action MMORPG Dragon Nest shut down in May this year, but the game isn’t gone entirely. It can still be played in most regions of the world, including North America. Unfortunately IPS from outside of North America are blocked so that is little consolation for European players. This isn’t the first time a region of Dragon Nest has shut down though so there may be hope in the future.

 

June

ELOA aka Warlords Awakening

eloa

ELOA has the rare misfortune of being one of the few games that has been shutdown three times. The first time it was an illegal beta version of the game that was stolen from Webzen who had released it in the east. Webzen contested the game and it was shut down. Then Webzen launched their own version of the game which ran for just a year and was sunsetted due to low population. Then it was brought back again, this time not by Webzen under the name Warlords Awakening. Sadly it only lasted a year too.

 

Atlas Reactor

Atlas Reactor was Trion’s answer to X-COM and sadly it flew under the radar of most gamers. After Gamigo bought Trion they promised to release content for all their games, including Atlas Reactor but it seems that after consideration they decided to shut the game down instead.

 

July

Worlds Adrift

Worlds Adrift

Bossa took a break from their usual games like Pigeon Simulator and I Am Bread to make an MMORPG that had a lot of promise. Sadly, the game didn’t gain enough traction to be commercially viable so the studio decided to shut the game down.

 

Mavericks

Mavericks: Proving Grounds

Mavericks was one of those games that never actually got released but it had so much hype and potential that people were talking about it like it was going to be one of the great games in the genre. Sadly, the company behind it suffered from financial woes and the project came to an end as the company closed down.

 

August

Lazarus

Lazarus the mmo alpha and beta list

Indie MMO Lazarus never made it out of Early Access but it had an amazingly unique premise and those who played it loved it. After 3 years in Early Access the studio decided to sunset the game as they were facing the financial strain of keeping it going.

 

September

Bless Online

bless online dragon

Bless Online was once hyped to be the next big thing in MMORPGs but after waiting years and having more than a few issues the game’s release wasn’t quite what anyone expected. Bless Online has shut down but it isn’t the end quite yet. Neowiz is hard at work on a re-imagining of the game called Bless Unleashed.

 

October

Fallen Earth

Just a short time after celebrating the 10th anniversary of Fallen Earth the game was shut down. This may not be the end. There’s hope for a reboot in the future and the studio is hard at work on that already. There is no date for this reboot though so for now we have to do without.

 

December

Durango Wild Lands

Durango Wild Lands Review Zebraceratops

Nexon’s survival mobile game Durango Wild Lands shut down after just 6 months. Though it should be said that it was in beta testing for 2 years. The fact that the developers released one final patch for the game before it closed made it all the more depressing. It’s likely that Nexon’s ongoing financial issues had a role to play.

 

DEATHGARDEN

Behaviour Interactive announced that DEATHGARDEN, their survival shooter/battle royale game had a decreasing player base and for that reason the game would be shutting down. This is another title that technically never made it out of Early Access, but these days Early Access is more of a soft launch than a beta.

 

Dragon’s Dogma Online

Dragon’s Dogma Online was one of those games that never actually made it to the West, but that didn’t stop a lot of Westerners from playing it anyway. It was actually a follow-up to the 2012 action RPG Dragon’s Dogma and it was Capcom’s first MMORPG. Dragon’s Dogma ran for 4 years before it was shut down, a pretty good run for a game that was a studio’s first MMORPG and never got a global release.

 

Maintenance Mode

These games haven’t been shut down yet but for most games once they go into Maintenance Mode their days are numbered. These are the games that were put into Maintenance Mode in 2019.

 

Ragnarok Online 2

Ragnarok Online 2

Gravity moved the development team that was working on Ragnarok Online 2 onto other projects and ended development on the game, but it is still playable for the time being.

 

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

Oddone Games developer Young-chae Kim said that Tree of Life had been a project he had dreamed of making his entire life. Ultimately he couldn’t make Tree of Life a better game due to inexperience. So they ended development of the game and started working on other projects.

 

Battleborn

Battleborn gameplay

Battleborn had the misfortune of being released at the same time as Overwatch while competing for the same audience. Since then the game just hasn’t had the population necessary to keep going. 2K announced that Battleborn is now in Maintenance Mode and they’ve been kind enough to let players know that it will only be around until 2021.

 

Elder Scrolls: Legends

The Elder Scrolls: Legends

Players of the Elder Scrolls card game Elder Scrolls: Legends had been patiently waiting to hear about new content for their game when it was announced on Reddit that none would be coming. Elder Scrolls: Legends hasn’t shut down just yet, though who knows how much time it has left?

 

Honorable Mention

Foundry System in Neverwinter and Star Trek Online

Foundry STO

The Foundry System, which allowed gamers in Neverwinter and Star Trek Online to create their own missions, was sadly shut down earlier this year. While this is just one feature in a larger game, it was a beloved feature that meant a lot to players of those games. For that reason we wanted to give the Foundry System an honorable mention.

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Diablo IV – What We Know So Far

You all have phones, right? Thankfully, unless you’re reading this on one, you can set it down. To uproarious applause, Blizzard-Activision released a darker, grittier, more visceral update to the franchise in it’s long awaited fourth entry. Diablo IV was announced earlier this month at Blizzcon, with steady streams of information trickling out as the days have rolled on. With three panels to summon from, and a trove of information released through tertiary interviews, we can finally and safely talk about what to expect out of the darker return to Sanctuary.

The announcement kicked off famously at the company’s trade show in a BIG way. Featuring a ten-minute cinematic of some of the darkest, most gore-drenched detail Blizzard has ever displayed. Invoking an ancient rite in the pursuit of wealth and knowledge, three treasure hunters manage to birth Lilith, the demonic child of Mephisto and Daughter of Hatred, into the world. Unleashed upon a bleak world lost after the fall of Sanctuary, everything is ripe for a new age of hell to rise up from the dark depths.

It cannot be understated how much people have been looking forward to Diablo IV. Since an announcement during Diablo III’s season 14 production, alluding to multiple Diablo projects under work in, “Blizzard’s forges,” speculation has been rampant. This wasn’t teased well with the announcement of Diablo Immortal last year, as well as the PR mismanagement both during and long after Blizzcon 2018. It would later be discussed in a report by Jason Schreier of Kotaku that Blizzard had cancelled a Diablo IV announcement at the last possible moment, and further internal reports on it had been quashed company-wide. To say that applause at Blizzcon was deafening might be a mild understatement.


Diablo IV returns to it’s isometric routes as it has with previous installments in the RPG franchise. Instead of linear, chapter-based progression like previous installments, the team behind the dark dungeon despoiler instead promised an ‘open world.’ Following along the progression patterns of World of Warcraft: Legion, the game’s storylines can reportedly be completed in any order potential players desire. As seen in trailers, the open world can be traversed on foot, on horseback, and with friends.

While five classes are promised to ship with the base game, similar to the series’ previous entry. The barbarian returns from their rampage to save a defenseless Sanctuary in Diablo III, focusing on brutallistic melee combat. Relying on swirling steel and devastating power, his powers were showcased as ones returning fans will recognize; waves of damage from powerful blasts of his weapons. Roars of fury that increase his power and speed, even blazing runic armor to smite his foes.

Fresh from her adventures in Immortal, the Sorceress was the second announced class. With similar demoed playstyle to III’s Wizard, the Sorceress focuses on range and control to devastating effect. More tactical than her brutal brother, the Sorceress excels away from combat using elemental magic to deter and tactically destroy her opponents. From homing bolts of lightning to freezing icicle arrows and detonating fireballs.


Returning to the franchise with much fervor and cheers from Blizzcon attendees, the Druid was the final class to be announced at Blizzcon 2019. While sporting a more feral, ancient nordic design, his spell repertoire has been massively altered to fit the motif. Unlike his Diablo 2 counterpart, this Druid relies more on the feral and fearful aspects of nature. Doing away with elemental attacks, he instead relies on powerful shapeshifting magic. Showcased in the trailer with both a werewolf and werebear form, it’s more than likely this shapeshifting will become the central design point of the revamped class.

Together, these three will explore a far more open Sanctuary than ever before. Leaning heavier into its predecessors MMO-lite elements, Diablo IV will feature an always online persistent world. A constant internet connection will be required for it, though no solutions for a single-player or couch co-op experience have been detailed yet by Blizzard. While details are still vague, the company is intending to have the world littered with random player encounters, more in the vein of Dark Souls than World of Warcraft. As such, Blizzard has also confirmed Player vs. Player content for this new title after it being sorely missing from the previous entry. While details are still vague on the concept as a whole, the team confessed to restricting it to particular zones for players to slug it out.

What isn’t vague in Diablo IV is the confirmation of microtransactions. With each flagship Blizzard-Activision title currently including them in some form or another, it’s not surprising. In an interview with Quin69 lead game designer Joe Shely confirmed their inclusion. Initially trying to pass them off as additional expansions, he then confirmed, “you will also be able to acquire cosmetics in the game… It’s very early, but yes.”


But that really seems to be the theme to Diablo IV’s presentation at Blizzcon. It’s very early yet. Despite promises of cross-platform play between PS4, Xbox One and PC, Blizzard recanted to say that while it’s a goal its still VERY early yet. When questioned about a release date, the company promised quarterly updates in February 2020 but it was still too early yet to confirm anything solid. When asked about other features and classes the mantra became, “It’s very early yet.”

So what can we see for a projected launch window for Diablo IV? The answer, confusingly, is both ‘sooner,’ and ‘later.’

As most industry enthusiasts know: the next console generation IS coming. The Xbox Scorpio is well into its development cycle and leaks from Sony-America have cited a potential Holiday 2020 release window. In talking with indie developers at the Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo I was able to confirm that PS5 development kits are already being widely distributed to prop up the console’s launch. As we saw with Diablo III, however, Blizzard managed to launch their title for the Playstation 3, and later touched up a ‘Battlechest’ version for the PS4. It’s likely they could do the same again.

The best projection we have, currently, is an early 2021 launch. With rumors of Diablo IV having only been in moderate prototype status during its blockade of Blizzcon 2018, and now a limited announcement for 2019, an additional year-and-a-half window would be the optimal bare-minimum for the company. More than likely we’ll see Lilith return in March 2021, the start of the fiscal year and the year of Hatred in Sanctuary.

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Team Go Rocket And Shadow Pokemon Invade Pokemon Go!

Pokemon has been one of my favorite fandoms for well over two-thirds of my life. I was only ten when the original Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue were released and it was unlike anything I had ever played before. I was instantly hooked to the adventure, the mechanics, and the phenomenon that came from it. I vividly remember facing off against the horrible Team Rocket for the very first time at Mt. Moon. Eventually, I took them on at the Silph Co. building and their own hideout, then one last epic battle against their boss to take away the Earth Badge and head toward Victory Road. That’s why Team GO Rocket in the smash-hit mobile game, Pokemon Go, is such a fantastic entry for longtime fans of the franchise. 

 

Prepare For Trouble, Make It Double!

For the uninitiated, Team Rocket, in the mainline games, is an evil organization hellbent on stealing Pokemon and causing havoc. Led by the devious gangster Giovanni, they cause trouble all in the name of more power and money. Giovanni, himself, is (during the events of the original games) the leader of the Viridian City Gym, making him the final Gym Leader before hitting up the Elite Four. It’s even alluded to that they had something to do with the creation of the genetic powerhouse, Mewtwo, which was confirmed in the anime and other media. Team Rocket became an iconic part of the Pokemon franchise and even my mom knows who they are, partially due to ten-year-old me playing the games all those years ago.

team go rocket jessie james

Pictured: Not Twerps, clearly.
(Source: Pokemon Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee trailer, TPCi)

Unlike some of the evil organizations across Pokemon games, Rocket shows their ugly face more than once in the series. In the direct sequel games to the first generation, Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver featured them as the primary threat. There, they caused mass evolution of Magikarp, cut off Slowpoke tails to sell as a delicacy, and generally caused trouble on their path to find their missing leader. By the 7th Generation, Giovanni had figured out how to travel through the multiverse, where he collected alternate versions of other “Team” leaders that had defeated the protagonist in each of their respective dimensions. At that point, Team Rainbow Rocket was the post-game threat, which ended in Giovanni threatening to return yet again. 

That’s where it left off and may have hinted at what came next, with Giovanni’s final words in Pokemon Ultra Sun and Pokemon Ultra Moon, “Now…what new world shall I unleash my evil schemes upon…?”

 

Team Rocket Comes To Pokemon Go!

Let’s cut to the real world and the incredibly successful Pokemon Go mobile game. Catching Pokemon while traveling around the real world, battling, trading, and completing research quests is just usual fare. After three years of constant events, the very loose lore of the game sometimes throws the players a bone. This time, it all started at the “Pokemon GO Fest” in Dortmund, Germany. An ominous familiar black hot air balloon sporting a giant red “R” was seen during the event. Players and fans knew something bigger was coming.

Sure enough, they did. Lasting for a day initially, some Pokestops were discolored. Upon approaching them, they’d turn black instead of the usual blue and have that classic red “R” up top. Spinning it would do something new, however. Instead of just gaining a few new items and moving on, a Rocket Grunt would attack you, starting an actual battle. After the tough battle, the first Pokemon they’d have used was available to catch using premier balls, not unlike catching a raid Pokemon. But, something was off about these Pokemon. They emit a dark aura around them because they’re Shadow Pokemon!

 

Old School Fans Would Know Shadow Pokemon

Delving back a bit into the history of old Pokemon games, you’ll find Pokemon Colosseum and Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness. During those games, the evil Team Cipher created a process that removes emotion from Pokemon to harness their fighting spirit. Players can catch Shadow Pokemon and “purify” them. Aside from a Shadow Mewtwo appearing in the Nintendo Wii U and Switch game, Pokken Tournament, this type of mechanic hasn’t really appeared outside the third generation era. 

dratini-pokemon-go-shadow-purify

From the shadows, Dratini!
(Source: Pokemon GO)

Of note, the Japanese version of Shadow Pokemon in prior entries is referred to as “Dark Pokemon.” Meanwhile, the Japanese version for Pokemon Go still refers to them as “Shadow” in the prefix. Anyone old enough to remember the original Team Rocket expansion of the Pokemon Trading Card Game will remember cards like “Dark Gyarados” and “Dark Raichu,” which can back up the thought process that “Dark” and “Shadow” are considered one in the same.

 

Team GO Rocket Blasts Off!

So, that event lasted all of a single day, going away in a flash. Within a few days, the dastardly Team Rocket was showing up in New York City for a big take over of Pokestops. After several hours, they were “defeated,” only to drop more hints at a more widespread take over set for two days later. They’re relentless! All of Pokemon Go’s Twitter and social media went into black out and Team Rocket took “control.” Giovanni stepped forward with a new team name: Team GO Rocket! He even alluded to his final line in Pokemon Ultra Sun and Pokemon Ultra Moon. They took control of all Pokestops for an hour on a set day. As quickly as they came, they were defeated yet again, with threats of a potential return. But, are they gone for good? Unlikely.

pokemon-go-team-go-rocket-pokestop-grunt

Pokestop right there!
(Source: Pokemon Go)

Where Will This Lead?

Team GO Rocket Pokestops now have the in-game “Hero” medal tied to defeating them. It’s clear that Pokemon Go players now have a force to take head on. With the ability to purchase both Team Rocket and Team Rainbow Rocket’s attire for your avatar to wear, I wonder if we’ll have the ability to join them one day. 

I recall the end of Nugget Bridge during the original Pokemon games, where the final opponent turned out to be a Rocket Grunt. He asks if you want to JOIN them! Maybe this is our chance! Probably not. But, in this world, who knows? Could we see the infamous Jessie and James hop to Pokemon Go? Will we get Slowpoke without tails as an event? Could we see Team GO Rainbow Rocket emerge eventually and have us face off against other notorious Team leaders? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what Team GO Rocket and the Pokemon Go team has up their sleeves next. 

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Star Citizen – Flight of Fancy

Star Citizen is the undisputed king of crowdfunded games, an enterprise of galactic proportions that has everything to go horribly wrong. Cloud Imperium Games’ ambitious project boasts an epic scale that makes other far-reaching games look like a tiny speck of dust in comparison. It’s an endless feature creep that still lacks a release date, despite being in development since 2011 and having raised nearly $300 million so far.

Chris Roberts has the creation of the Wing Commander series to his credit, giving him an authority that very few video game designers can brag about. He is clearly passionate about Star Citizen and has an unwavering vision and a grand scope that plays in his advantage, as much as it is encumbering the game’s progress with stories of endless micro-management. Star Citizen is the greatest game that may never see the light of day.

But we are getting closer to… well, something, and the proof of that is the Free Fly event where anyone could try the Star Citizen Alpha 3.5 and see for themselves how this space epic is shaping up. Spoilers: it’s buggy, the system requirements are sky high and clearly there is an irrational amount of work yet to be done, but I’ll be damned if Star Citizen doesn’t make you feel like a space cowboy in the greatest sci-fi universe ever designed for a video game.

If it will ever be finished – as much as any online game can be –, that is another subject entirely.

Star Citizen Preview Ship Exterior

In Space No One Can Hear You Blow Up

Star Citizen stands out from the crowd as soon as you click the shortcut; this is an absolute resource hog that will make Crysis and Doom 3 feel like the most optimized games ever at launch. After several minutes of loading to reach the main menu and several minutes more to deploy at the space station, you suddenly come to the realization that backing this game wasn’t enough – maybe the time has come to upgrade your computer. However, that isn’t enough to hide the fact that Star Citizen needs some serious optimization, or it will be roasted by a community that isn’t solely comprised of players with high spec computers.

The Free Fly Alpha 3.5 offers three different ventures into Star Citizen, and that goes without mentioning the stand-alone star-studded single-player adventure Squadron 42, which is slated to launch in 2020. You can go for the full Universe experience or taste some more immediate action-oriented tidbits via the Star Marine and the Arena Commander modules, with the former for first-person shooter gameplay and the latter for epic space dogfights or races.

Star Marine is the module to go if competitive shooters are your thing. It’s intense and visually impressive, with little touches like your heart rate playing an important part – let’s call it stamina –, but you’ve played many shooters before that feel similar. It’s a solid effort that for now offers a scant selection of game modes, Elimination (free-for-all where the player with the highest kill count wins) and Last Stand (battle for control points). Up to 24 players may enter the arena and you can customize your loadout with weapons, armor and utility items such as MedPens and grenades.

Star Citizen Preview Star Marine Last Stand

Arena Commander offers a similar approach to Star Marine but takes the fight to deep space. This is more uncommon, as there aren’t many games with the looks and sheer maneuverability of Star Citizen’s ships. You will not only be impressed by the amazing views, but the exhilarating dogfighting also comes out strongly commended, shooting other ships while carefully dodging asteroids. It takes a deep knowledge of each ship’s strengths and failings to make the best of every situation, but this obviously is a task that takes a fair length of time.

There is more to Arena Commander than dogfighting, as you take the seat of your ship and race other players through the gigantic rings of a space station, with a beautiful forest on the surface of the planet. Or you can relish on the delights of leisure flight, going to space stations and purely enjoying your time. But if you are of the truly competitive kind and prefer a Battle Royale mode of sorts, Star Citizen has got you covered. Squadron Battle is team deathmatch at its heart, while Vanduul Swarm and Pirate Swarm are both about holding off enemy onslaughts.

While Star Citizen has this everything-for-everyone approach right off the bat, this is a game that is more than the sum of its parts, at least in theory. The mere thought of a game that mixes elements from its modules with a persistent universe where you can be whoever you want, go where you feel like and act as you want is mouth-watering, thrilling and, quite honestly, hard to believe. Seeing is believing won’t cut it in this case; what Star Citizen has to offer right now may feel ambitious and grand, but promises were made about a magnificent scope that is light years away from its current state.

Star Citizen Preview Character Customization

Lost in Stanton

Star Citizen recently saw the addition of female characters, with the visual quality being sky-high – human eyes are universally acknowledged as one of the most difficult features to faithfully reproduce in video games, but the result here is mind-blowing. I can’t say the same for hair, though, which still seems to be a work-in-progress and is particularly lacking on proper female styles. The DNA system is another new feature and raises the level of a character customization system that is trying something new. Instead of using the classic sliders to adjust every facial feature of your avatar, you choose up to three source heads to combine and slightly adjust their traits in a way that should never return a freaking abomination as an option. No offense, Fallout 4.

And now you ask: why should I bother spending two or three hours creating a stunning face for my space hero if it will be covered by a helmet? Well, because you can remove it in space stations, and your lovely face is visible in some helmets anyway, so your work won’t go to waste. The current iteration of Star Citizen’s character customization doesn’t offer any body customization options, but this is on the to-do list. Just don’t ask us when it will make it into the game, because… well, it’s Star Citizen.

My Free Fly adventure begins as soon as I get up from my bed in Port Olisar, a space station in the Stanton Star System. This place is just a tiny dot in a vast universe, as Cloud Imperium Games promised that 100 unique star systems would make it into the game, and there is a star map to prove it. However, Chris Roberts himself said that players should expect between five to ten star systems with the core mechanics in place, something that sounds more reasonable considering the scope of each one and the amount of time and resources that this endeavor demands from the team.

Star Citizen Preview Shiny Armor

Moving through the space station, I can try on and purchase new Undersuits using the UEC currency. I can’t get anything too fancy, but it’s always nice to change from your base costume. After that I ran to the ship retrieval terminal where I spawn my spacecraft – the Free Fly demo had five on offer, some more suited to combat, others for delivery or racing: Anvil Arrow, MISC Prospector, Drake Cutlass Black, Aegis Avenger Titan and Drake Dragonfly. As soon as your ship reaches the landing pad, make sure to hurry up as you may be occupying valuable space for other players’ ships.

Before heading off to the designed landing pad, it’s important to check your MobiGlas, Star Citizen’s version of Fallout’s Pip-Boy. This device includes vital information for all the needs of a regular space hero, bounty hunter or galaxy courier, whoever you want to be. You can use it to track all your details such as current balance, vitals, atmosphere, suit, vehicle and mission status. But there is much more to it, including managing your equipment, chat with other players, set travel routes or accept contracts. This last one is what makes any Star Citizen adventurer tick, ultimately defining where you need to travel and what type of missions you get to tackle. You can pick some simple delivery jobs, which can go awry at any moment, or you can opt for maintenance, bounty hunter or mercenary contracts.

I didn’t have much luck with my first contract, which consisted in picking up a package from an outpost on Cellin and delivering it to an aid shelter on the same planet. But it wasn’t a matter of space pirates, fuel usage miscalculation or poor piloting skills; no, it was a bug of interplanetary proportions that reared its ugly face in the shape of a non-existing package. How am I expected to deliver something that isn’t available in the precise place where I was told to pick it up?

As it turns out, this is a bug that was previously reported and still needs fixing. Star Citizen has bugs, who would have thought? But it gets worse, with planet surfaces or space stations that fail to render, ships that explode out of nowhere, landings that will give you severe headaches, random crashes… the galaxy is dark and full of bugs.

Star Citizen Preview ArcCorp Arrival

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Boarding Your Ship

Much has been said before about Star Citizen’s ships, not all of it praiseworthy. Before jumping into the controversial details I’ll take a quick ride through some of the details and highpoints of these ambitious spacecrafts.

Ships come in all shapes and sizes, often turning a simple task such as entering and getting to the pilot seat into an adventure. You must discover where the ship door is, if there is a ladder to activate, whatever possible means are there to get on board. It’s not an obvious task at first but you’ll soon get the hang of it as you become acquainted with each ship. Once inside, you have a few accommodations at your disposal, usually including a bed which is said to serve as a safe log off/log in feature, but this mechanic seems to be broken at the moment.

Larger ships have one-man turrets, vast cargo space, co-pilot seats and more. When you’re finally seated at the cockpit, your jaw may eventually drop as you look at several fully-functioning displays and feel flabbergasted at what you’re experiencing. It’s a mix of awe and concern, but far from the complex, unintelligible design that the first impression may let on. You only need to find the switches for the basic functions such as powering up the ship, turning the engine on and you should be clear for takeoff.

Star Citizen is a hot topic when it comes to its spacecraft and the asking prices for some of them, with many ships costing over $100 and a few select spacecraft retailing for more than $1,000. While this may sound bonkers and a huge leap of faith for some backers, I absolutely respect the amount of work and character that goes into each ship. It’s a colossal endeavor in some cases, and it feels acceptable if you have some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket and absolute faith in the vision driving Star Citizen. It’s a trophy for backers to proudly display and it’s far from your traditional overpriced piece of armor, or perhaps your useless set of horse armor. It’s a matter of how much you’re willing to spend on Star Citizen and your confidence in the future of the project.

Star Citizen Preview Drake Cutlass Black Ship

Ship insurance is another controversial subject, as you must pay an in-game fee in order to avoid losing your ship for good – that surely won’t be fun if you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on it. While a few initial backers were rewarded with lifetime insurance, the most likely scenario is that you’ll have to pay a regular fee to get a replacement ship in case it is destroyed – and believe me, it will, either by mistake, space pirates, planetary storms, unfriendly players, fuel loss and other hazards. During the alpha there was no insurance fee, but when it comes into play it will surely make quite some noise, and probably not the good kind.

It’s impossible to go places in a single star system such as Stanton without resorting to Quantum Travel. This is how you navigate the vast space between each planet or outpost, and even a Quantum Jump may take several minutes, as you’ll realize when you decide to travel to ArcCorp, an impressive new planet mostly covered by man-made structures. Quantum Travel is a simple matter of finding your destination on your MobiGlas, setting up the route (and checking if you have enough fuel for the entire ride) and align your markers with the jump location. After spooling you should see your ship bending space and time as it travels to the destination. It’s a simple process that you’ll have to resort very often.

Star Citizen looks stunning and is brimming with details, a lot of them not entirely obvious at first glance. A simple task such as landing on ArcCorp becomes a challenge when you failed to realize that you need to access your MobiGlas and request landing permission to the ArcCorp Landing Services. You’ll then be assigned a landing pad which you may or may not have a hard time finding, carefully avoiding the deluge of invisible walls on this planet. After a tricky landing you are finally able to explore the area, travel to other regions using the tram and fulfill some of your contracts. ArcCorp surely is a wonderful sight from the skies, but it is also a clear indication of the unmeasured ambition that fuels Star Citizen – most of the buildings will surely be just for show, and it couldn’t be otherwise, as there are dozens of other star systems waiting to be created.

Star Citizen Preview ArcCorp Third Person

I have mixed feelings about Star Citizen. It clearly isn’t a hoax, vaporware or whatever wicked words have been uttered about it. On the other hand, despite a feeling of grandeur, it’s far from the game that it wants to be, even after all these years of development and all those millions in crowdfunding. In a perfect world, Star Citizen would turn out to be the ultimate space epic game, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. What this alpha showed us was that it is a jaw-dropping, feature-rich game that is equally frustrating and buggy.

I have no doubts that Star Citizen is trying to reach for the skies and will probably fall on its face when it launches. Because it will never be “officially released”, it will be stuck in a perpetual state of continuous development, a “game as a service” that will require huge amounts of money and a skilled development team to rise to the inevitable challenges. Star Citizen is No Man’s Sky turned up to eleven, boasting a much larger scope and a lot more controversy stemming from Chris Roberts’ unwavering vision – hopefully with the same happy ending as Hello Games’ once disappointing science-fiction epic.

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QC Games and the Fall of Breach

Every year we see dozens, if not hundreds, of newer MMO games release into the games industry. With long standing titans such as World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and the Guild Wars franchise its hard not to argue that MMO and online-driven games are incredibly marketable if not highly popular. Every year indie studios take on the challenge of putting together their own massively multiplayer game, some with great success such as Friday the 13th: The Game. Most, however, do not ever reach that pinnacle. Breach is one of those stories.

The Rise of Breach

Breach has been developed by QC Games, a newer game studio composed of former developers from Bioware Houston and Electronic Arts. They had previously worked on The Old Republic and Bioware’s cancelled Shadow Realms before leaving the company in late 2014. Designed from the remains of their former project, Breach is its spiritual successor; an isometric multiplayer endeavor much like 2015’s Evolve. Featuring a 4v1 multiplayer endeavor you play as a Mage, a techno-magical defender of the near future battling against demons invading from beyond the Veil. The fifth player in each match took up the role of a Veil Demon, a dungeon-master like entity that could lay traps, summon enemies, and personally possess minions to fight the Mages.

While putting a newer spin on the now tired isometric multiplayer model, Breach did not have a strong launch. Releasing on January 14th of this year, Breach suffered from the start; entering Steam’s controversial Early Access Program, commonly used by developers looking to develop and build their game overtime, it was not free to play at first. Instead those wishing to pick up into Early Access would pay an up-front fee of $25 USD, with the option to play free following after it left Early Access. Despite promises of wanting to market Breach as a Free-to-Play Microtransaction service model, those wishing to join in would need to purchase their ‘Early Access Pass,’ which featured game access, a 30-day experience and currency boost and 2000 QC points, the developer’s premium currency for their in-game store.

Breach

Breach and QC Games hit the ground hard and fast, finishing their closed Alpha prior to widespread release with a peak player count of roughly 1150 players according to metric database Steam Charts. QC Games had been utterly global in it’s pushing of their reborn game at conventions and trade shows. Claiming that there were 10,000 testers worldwide in their Discord Server, Breach was set for success.

To that end it launched in January and received moderate acclaim. QC Games was quick to jump on the hype and release their roadmap to future developments and plans for the game. In terms of public relations and social media power Breach was optimized for continuous, powerful growth. As a game, however, it was not.

From start up Breach featured both an incredibly interesting set-up in its world’s lore, and an unbelievably frustrating tutorial. While the game opened with a series of wonderful storyboarded cinematics the tutorial featured sluggishly wretched pacing, insincere voice acting and left far more questions than answers in the game’s wider aspects. While featuring gameplay interactions very reminiscent of Heroes of the Storm or League of Legends, there is nearly next to no information on how to go beyond combat and into modifying player gear and stats.

While particular levels and gameplay modes are blocked off until players have played certain numbers of games, I was both shocked and frustrated to find myself entering a game and stuck playing as a Veil Demon without any direction on what I was doing. The conveyance of Breach, the method in which a game expresses how to play it to you understandably, is so fundamentally lacking its simply rather astounding. While Veil Demons have quite a bit more to do in terms of their play mechanics in comparison to Mages, how to complete objectives or perform higher level aspects was simply never explained to the player. That is unless you bothered to check you hidden quest log to find a plethora of tutorials in additional gameplay modes. Gameplay modes which were not restricted in the slightest, yet playing online with your friends was.

Breach’s “Ultra” Graphic Setting in 1080p

Breach was a game of poorly planned problems in that regard.

From terrible graphics to wretched optimization and dull gameplay, Breach was a game incredibly typical of the Early Access platform on Steam. Most games launching on the platform like Tudo_RIP’s Secrets of the Forest are incredibly, frustratingly basic. From incomplete graphics packages to placeholder models these games are often requiring a steep amount of development and feedback to complete. QC’s darling multiplayer, the game the company had left Bioware to make, was incredibly troubled in this aspect. Early reviews of the game are plagued with issues of imbalances and far higher than normal GPU usages which ruined system performance and denigrated the game further.

In February the peak player count of Breach had plummeted from roughly 1150 prior to its launch, to nearly 300 by month’s end. It’s not hard to see why; Breach was a game that wanted to thrive as an MMO with nothing to grip players. Gameplay was boring, repetitive and there were no game-changing rewards. What was packaged in with its Early Access release simply wasn’t enough for long-term player adoption. Current MMOs such as World of Warcraft have faced similar problems over the last few years and have summarily injected controversial gameplay elements such as their Mission Table system to entice daily playing. Warframe too features returning rewards with a daily slot machine system for those who come back repeatedly. Breach simply did not have such systems in place.

All throughout, however, QC Games was energetic in its development cycle. Updates were incredibly frequent with more than an update per week in its second month. These patches would introduce a plethora of balance adjustments, new classes, new levels and new enemies. It was clear that despite the studio’s small size, Breach was a labor of love. Despite its glaring technical issues, of which there are still many, this was a game that was hitting its goals day after day with steady improvement.

IESnared

That changed, however, with the turn of the seasons and the beginning of March. Player counts briefly spiked upwards from a common curiosity. That curiosity, however, was not for what the game offered.

As early back as February 24th, 2019, Breach’s review scores began to drastically change. Steam users such as walkerb0h began to report that the game featured traffic tracking program IESnare. IESnare is a program that is incredibly shrouded in secrecy and frankly has quite a bit of incorrect information spread about it. Colloquially known as a type of aggressive spyware program, IESnare is a sub-routine program that runs stealthily in the background of your computer. Most often used by gambling websites to increase their odds against players, this program collects a concerning array of data and feeds it back to the originators database.

The data collected from your PC or electronic device can include its screen resolution, device type, operating system, its time zone, java script capabilities, or Adobe Flash capabilities. It can retrieve information on your browser cookies, your browser types, your browser history, how long you spend on certain websites, your IP address and geolocation down to the city. It can also read your router to discover your internet service provider’s information, your computer’s performance information including CPU speed and count, component serial numbers, your device name, your OS build number, your Kernel Information and more.

All of this information is distilled into a ‘fingerprint’ or ‘footprint’ of your system’s unique characteristics. Used often as a method of locating your phone or to see if your data has been stolen, more malevolent Steam Early Access Games have included versions of IESnare and other spyware data in their installation files. The more popular programs, like those accused of being in the game Abstractivism, reportedly utilize your gaming machine to mine cryptocurrency for the developer.

Later reviews of Breach also included reports of the launcher scanning Windows Jump Lists, a feature that allows you to view recent documents in programs pinned to your taskbar, on boot up. Several users complained of being unable to connect to Breach servers if they had IESnare blocked by their browser. Other users complained of the game searching through unrelated file directories during playtime, including those on other solid-state or hard drives unrelated to the game’s installation file.

These accusations are not unfounded either. QC Games’ partner company, En Masse Entertainment (formerly Bluehole Interactive), were accused of using IESnare as a method to check the validity of user accounts for Tera. This was later confirmed when a Redditor posted the script that ran on Tera’s load-up which linked backed to Iovation Inc., the owner-creator of IESnare. This code attempted to test several internet browser functions (including Adobe Flash) and obfuscated its actions with several lines of meaningless coding which attempted to hide what it was doing.

While no one managed to pull a similar string from Breach during its tenure on Steam, more and more users found that blocking IESnare’s target domains would not allow the game to play. Customers became confused as word continued to spread until QC Games released a frankly unsatisfactory apology. Responding to several user reviews individually instead of making a full public statement, one of the developers of Breach left the following canned response which did confirm included monitoring software used for Breach:

Several YouTube reporters and pundits would discuss the topic including popular personality Sidalpha. His video would neither confirm nor deny the inclusion of IESnare but did agree that there was some form of third-party authentication occurring during gameplay. Citing a high graphics load and communication with Amazon Gaming servers, he condemned the company for, “collecting far more information from your system than [QC Games] have any right to.”

I myself have personally checked through every individual file in my Breach installation package, having been supplied a copy of the game for the purposes of publication. I did not find any trace of IESnare during any of my playtime, nor its launching software ‘mpsnare.’ I was unable to test its reliance on connecting to its necessary communication websites. I did, however, find a version of Easy Anti-Cheat used in game launchers as a method of deterring cheating using non-authorized 3rd party software. This version is found in games such as Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands and has no connection to IESnare or its developer Iovation Inc.

QC Games Closes Its Doors

This was the unfortunate nail in the coffin for Breach. Whether or not IESnare was truly included in its package, the program’s history is tarnished with its invasive purpose and problematic applications. Coupled with a lackluster and dispassionate response from an otherwise passionate developer, the unchecked rumors were what ultimately killed Breach. By March its concurrent player count had plummeted to 446 players despite its second major update and continued support. Even on April 1st when the player count had dropped down to 52 users there were still published plans to continue updates. Inevitably, this was not to be.

On April 3rd QC Games announced that both its studio and Breach would be closing down. Most likely forced by its publisher En Masse Entertainment, QC Games had begun to ramp down production by the time of their posting, citing in a follow-up statement that, “[Breach] has not performed as we had hoped… The changes required to make it a successful product would require resources we don’t have.” As of April 4th all in-game microtransactions and DLC were disabled, with premium currency being removed so players could try out anything the game had to offer. Steam purchases were also disabled. As of April 30th 2019, Breach and its servers will be closed forever.

The story of Breach is one of a blind faith in itself. In splitting off from Bioware, convinced that their game could succeed, QC Games took their isometric multiplayer worldwide. This band of developers, excited in the success they knew their product could have, showed the industry what they were made of. Despite its rough-hewn edges and unintuitive design, I cannot deny that Breach had an incredible amount of potential. Sporting its own brief esports event this was a game that had the seedings to develop over time into a fully-fledged property.

This game, however, acted in such a manner, whether through including 3rd party monitoring software or the ineptitude of its developers, that it required an immediate and well cultivated response to concerned fans. Its userbase did not receive one and thus a breach of the developers own making was created. A breach which saw its player count plummet, its future decimated, and the foreclosure of a studio with a promising future.

To date Breach has sold roughly 14,000 units according to SteamSpy, not including alpha testers and those purchasing directly from En Masse Entertainment. Player counts have dropped to no more than two individual users at a time. As of April 30th the game will be shut down forever. There is little to what remains of its legacy, save some YouTube and Twitch footage of its gameplay. Breach was a game of incredible potential, but like Icarus it simply flew too high without realizing it had struck the sun.

Both QC Games and its publisher En Masse Entertainment did not respond for a request to comment prior to publication.

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On the Precipice of the New World

I stand on the sandy shores of another world, one that is my new home, surrounded by men and women in battered cotton clothes. The tide rolls across the sand behind me, and a man in a fancy coat is pointing waving from the treeline. I am here in Tera Vitae Aeternum, this is the final slice of the unknown world, and all the men and women on the shoreline around me are here to carve their fortunes as they may in these shores.

 

Welcome to the New World

While my avatar, a young woman named Tara sits on the sand, flanked on all sides by men and women dressed in rags, I am in a quiet loft in downtown San Francisco. Several thousands of dollars worth of high-end monitors, capture cards, PCs, and gaming peripherals are spread out on tables down the length of the little loft. Men and women in New World sweatshirts are chatting amiably with the others who walk in, a large-screen television sits at the front of the room showing a splash image from the game. At the back of a room, a table spread of fruits, cookies, candies, and drinks sections off a bit of the back of the room, and several staff members are smiling and greeting everyone.

I am at a preview event for Amazon Game Studios’ upcoming MMO, New World. I was among the first to arrive, sitting next to one of the stations where the game is already open, and a lush-looking grassland is splayed out in front of the avatars.

After a bit of milling, more writers show up, and we’re called to the front where head of Amazon Game Studios Orange County, Patrick Gilmore, is standing in front of the large television. He explains that New World is a game set in alternate-history 17th century. The age of discovery is winding down, with just a tiny slice of Bermuda left uncharted in a world of now finite boundaries. In the last corner of the unexplored is the island of Aeternum, one final piece of unclaimed land.

Players take control of the island’s new residents, leaving their old homes, selling their possessions to afford to sail, and set off to make their fortune on this island with just the shirts on their backs and the sense of adventure in their hearts.

Amazon bills this game as a “Sandbox MMO,” explaining that it’s the neatest label to define what it’s about. New World is a game that has by design avoided scripted sequences and moments, instead letting player freedom and emergent stories be the driving vehicle that propels players to log on, to carve the world into the shapes of their whimsy, and to experience the construction of civilization.

Back on the island, I’m behind the eyes of Tara, and the other new residents are sprinting around the stand wildly, getting used to the controls, which were provided helpfully by a packed print-outs sitting on top of our multicolored keyboards, and throwing punches into the air, running in aimless patterns, and spinning around in graceless circles. After a bit of orientation, we find Mike Willette under the handle “Berserker Mike,” who teaches us the basic mechanics of putting down camp, crafting, and finding materials to build resources.

Our characters are all fantastically over-leveled. Although we lack high-level equipment and resources, we seem to have high crafting skill, great combat skill, nice combat durability, and a handful of other perks that would translate to being high-level in games with a traditional leveling system, which is something this game lacks. Instead of levels, players gain experience in specific crafts: blacksmithing gains players levels in blacksmithing. Fighting gives players levels in fighting. In short, each stat the game tracks has its own level system, rather than the character as a whole having that level.

Together, we’re directed north to a basic crafting area. Inside the walls of this little blacksmithing outpost, we’re in a what New World calls a Sanctuary: a place safe from any player-based combat. We’re introduced to crafting stations, shops, and the basics of stamina. Forges, tanning racks, and such placements are necessary to use those trades, and those stations come at varying levels. Ostensibly, higher level forges, tanneries, clothiers, and so on will not be found in the wild, and must be built by players.

Once everyone had time to bump into walls, climb railings, and hurl ourselves off of the parapets (where I quickly learned that I could take fall damage), Mike pointed us at our company’s base. We slogged through the swamp, slowing our travel, gathered some more resources in transit, killed a few wolves, and on arrival used the company’s armory to equip ourselves for combat.

We were told the combat we were arming for would be a demo of the game’s war system. Players can gather in companies, New World’s equivalent of guilds, in groups of up to 50 players. These companies could stake claims on certain portions of the map, in which players could build compounds including crafting stations, storage barracks, respawn points, walls, and other defenses to stave off attackers. Companies who wish to take over enemy positions would have to declare war. So, war was declared. While it normally comes with a 24-hour timer to give both sides time to shore up their defenses, our timer was accelerated to a handful of seconds. With some direction from Berserker Mike, we crept our way over to an enemy base staffed with other members of Amazon’s development team who were waiting on the parapets with bows and muskets. War on, we planted kegs of explosives next to the outer walls of their fortifications, and with a few seconds pause, detonations sounded the first beat of the war drum, and we flooded into the base.

What transpired during the skirmish was familiar territory. From the inner walls of the base, archers and musketeers rained hell from above, ground warriors with maces and swords flanked us from the sides, and we made war while our demolition team continued to plant bombs and punch holes in the enemy’s walls.

In motion, New World felt a lot like modern action MMOs. Despite being in alpha development, the actual nuts and bolts of the game felt fluid. Movement, dodge rolls, melee, and ranged weapons had good response times seemingly uninfluenced by communicating combat through the internet. Everything felt punchy, immediate, and violent. Attacks that connected illustrated the amount of damage dealt in crisp red, the third-person camera kept just enough distance to keep things clear without taking away from the immediate threats all around, and striking and being struck felt like it had weight as skirmisher fought and killed for glory.

Amazon let us win, I’m sure, but we managed to destroy the central pillar that secured their base, and plant ours in its place. The base was now ours.

After our little war demo ended, we were encouraged to forge our way north through a section of map called The Great Cleave, a frozen valley packed with undead-seeming settlers who’d settled in the wrong places, arctic wolves, and doubtlessly other aggressive dangers the deeper north we could manage.

Outside of combat, New World offers players some alternatives to raw swords-and-guns. Foraging resources seems to be a large part of how to craft high level equipment. The deeper in the island players push, the better the resources that can be extracted from the earth. So, in order to make high-level swords, shields, and spears, players will need to have high-level blacksmithing. In order to build the higher tier equipment, players need high levels of crafting to refine the raw, mined material into useful forms. In order to even create items with the high level materials, players need high level crafting stations. Skills are layered this way, but since companies are made up of many trades, each of these could be covered by different players. It seems in order to do high-level work, players will either need to keep many equally high-level friends, or commission high level tradesmen.

Weapons seemed to come in five flavors: Wood, Iron, Steel, Starmetal, and Orichalcum. Represented as Tiers I through V. As the tiers climb, the weapons and armor become better, both in terms of damage output or mitigation, and in durability. Higher level blacksmithing and refining increased the chances of pushing items to higher qualities—for example, a Good quality Iron Sword will be better than a Normal quality Iron Sword, and so on.

Although the game has some shared DNA with survival-crafting games, there is no way for players to dehydrate or starve. Hunger and thirst systems exist, but staying well-hydrated and well-fed offers buffs to the players stamina and health recovery respectively. It isn’t mandatory to keep their characters from dying.

One of the things integral to the apparent intent of New World is vulnerability. Most of what a player carries with them will be dropped at death. These items can be collected at any point after a player dies. Aside from Sanctuaries, players are at risk of death everywhere they go. Be that from wild animals, ghosts, corrupted settlers, or from other players. Players with the intent to become criminals can do so and attack any other player at will. However, this isn’t without risk.

Players can equip 3 weapons or tools at a time in their quick access slots, as well as four quick-use items (food, bandages, and such). These items are secure, and will not drop when players die, however, anything else they are carrying that is not equipped will fall. Criminal players, those who’ve assaulted other players with murderous intent, a manually toggled state, will gain criminal notoriety. Criminals are not safe in Sanctuary zones and drop all of their equipment on death, even the equipped items. Although being a criminal is a way to play, they have no respite at almost any point.

After eating a lot of cooked meat, drinking a lot of fresh water, and repeatedly getting killed by roving bands of skeletal corrupted settlers, I got the opportunity to chat with the developers.

The 17th century feels like an unusual choice for a setting, particularly for a game like this, so I asked the developers what about it drove them to it. One of the quotes that popped up was “the last gasp of the blade, the first breath of the gun,” a moment where swords hadn’t faded from use, but guns were beginning to become an inescapable part of the landscape. Scot Lane, game director, explained he and his team were stuck on the idea of building society, but didn’t want to feel nailed down to the collapse or post-apocalypse. “What if our game was about the opposite, the construction of society?” That way there would be both the structure of a civilized world, but also the freedom to let players make their own freedom.

Given that most of civilization seemed player driven, I had some apprehension about the nature of starting fresh later into the game’s life. Could a new player spill out onto the shores of the island only to find an oppressively colonized land, full of claimed area and strip-mined of resources? When I brought up these apprehensions, the developers seemed nonplussed. By design, the game was meant to have a bit of a race to capture territory. “There will be boom towns. There will be land rushes.” However, they explained, since players couldn’t form companies of over 50 players, it seemed unlikely that a single company to claim vast enough swathes of land to outright force out all competition.

Also, I learned during these chats, that building company territory was limited to a few predefined spots on the map, and there will always be unclaimed landmass for players to explore without having to step on any one company’s territory and toes.

Finally, I asked them what if they had any interesting stories to tell from playtesting. They offered me the story of a narrow thoroughfare that had been taken over by a criminal company. Any player that tried to make their way through it would be killed, their items taken, and if they returned, they would be killed again.

These players, fed up with it, formed up a company, and stormed the criminals. The result was a bloodbath. The criminals couldn’t face so many opponents at once, and given their attackers were not criminals themselves, could face their few casualties with their equipment intact, so they could swing back to combat quickly. The criminals, down to their underwear after their first death, could do little but throw punches and take fire as they respawned to die and respawn again. To die again.

After that, I said my thanks, and the event was over. Tara and I parted ways.

At its heart, New World is entering a crowded MMO landscape, and there’s a lot out there players can invest their time and focus in. With as much risk of loss as there seems to be, it can hard to delve into the island when the combat-focused players seem to hold all the power and face the least risk. Though there are a lot of options for non-combat roles, those with the power to punch hard seem to be in the best position to keep from being slaughtered while going about their business.

That said, I find myself wanting to return to the island to see if I can tinker with the systems, maybe explore the lush, swampy, arctic, and picturesque landscapes once again; even if I know it’ll be with a gun in my hand and a sense of adventure in my heart.

At least for now, I cannot promise I will want to settle here.

Disclaimer: Writer was flown out to the San Francisco event to preview New World at no cost.

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Hands On With Anthem

Anthem is a game that has been utterly shrouded in mystery. From its development cycle to what is planned for a post-launch release, Bioware Edmonton’s newest creation has been a complete enigma up until its first demo several weeks ago. Even looking at its official social media pages, its hard to discern what the final form of Anthem is truly intended to be, with little focus on showcasing the game’s systems. Even now, after the first leg of its public demo, the discussion surrounding Anthem is more based on the failings of the demo than what the game actually is.


Developed by Bioware and published by Electronic Arts, Anthem is an always-online MMO-lite shooter in a similar vein of Destiny 2 and features a persistent open world with drop-in-drop-out co-op gameplay. While there are certainly comparisons to be drawn between Bungie’s MMO shooter and the newest addition to the Bioware catalog, each game exists in its own circle of influence and certainly stands on its own.

On the planet of Bastion, Elder Gods once shaped the world with great machines and a force known as the Anthem of Creation. A wild and untamed elemental force, the Anthem and its melodies could create life from inanimate objects while shaping the world at its whim. Long before the rise of humanity, these gods left, leaving their relics and instruments behind on a volatile world. Now these powers threaten the very land of Bastion, and heroes have risen to meet them. Known as Freelancers, these contract-soldiers take flight in their Javelin mech suits to defend humanity from threats based on the Anthem, and those that encroach from within the very ranks of humanity itself.

This, in my opinion, is one of the more interesting and under-utilized narrative conflicts that we just haven’t seen in western game development over the last decade. Too often do we see heroes backed against a wall by an unseen or omnipotent enemy force, when sometimes the best opposition can come from nature itself. Anthem certainly has that on full display at its onset with the melodies of Bastion ripping horrific monsters into being in an instant or glassing a plain with savage licks of fire. However, this quickly turns into the introduction of a big-bad villain who attempts to weaponize the Anthem and things quickly begin to hit a tired story beat.

The narrative of Anthem is, oddly enough, one of its weaker points. Despite being known for their fantastic storytelling and wonderful narrative construction, Bioware’s strongest skill set firmly falls flat in this department, at least within the first few hours. While the introductory missions are incredibly well written and serve to inject action into the world of Bastion there is a two year time-jump immediately after this plot-line, cutting any emotional attachment to the characters we just struggled with. From there things merely chug along in Anthem, hitting story beats until the introduction of the game’s main villain.

The Monitor, leader of the Dominion and intent on wielding the fury of the Anthem.

What’s slightly more disappointing, however, is how well written the game’s wide variety of characters truly are. From your co-pilot Owen, who’s neurotically charming to a fault, to one of the Sentinels who is standoffish and uncomfortable but warms up to your character over time. Each character has a wonderful amount of time and energy put into them, with their own development arcs and unique quirks. There is a living, breathing world in Anthem, but it simply feels as if the, “why,” in existing in it doesn’t build until later in the game.

Despite the lack of why, the “How do you play in Anthem,” is incredibly fun and well worth the purchase price of the game. Most of your play time will be spent inside a Javelin, one of the Freelancer’s exo-suits. Each one is unique in its design and playstyle, fitting a different role in a traditional RPG role. Each has six unlockable equipment slots, as well as a host of unique interchangeable abilities.

The first players will have access to is the Ranger, a medium armor class Javelin. Focusing heavily on gunplay, the Ranger features abilities that veterans of Halo or Gears of War may find familiar. Starting with several artillery abilities such as grenades and missiles, this particular suit is the best for those unfamiliar with RPGs or Anthem in general; much like Soldier 76 of Overwatch, the Ranger is a great introduction for FPS players and the most versatile of each javelin. After completing the tutorial players will be able to select one of the other remaining Javelins, unlocking the others as they level up their pilot.

The Colossus is the de-facto tank of the Freelancer fleet, originally a large construction suit intended to protect workers from hazardous materials. Now the pilots of Fort Tarsis equip them as mobile siege weapons, using their bulk as an advantage in combat. Each Colossus comes equipped with a large ballistic shield, which compensates for their lack of standard energy shield. Unable to wield pistols or sub-machine gun weapons, this Javelin instead can equip heavy weapons such as rocket launchers and gatling guns. This suit is a walking siege weapon, equipped to maximize damage and come up with blunt force solutions to otherwise complicated problems.

The Interceptor is the Javelin for those looking to unlock sheer speed, being the most nimble and deadly melee combatant on the battlefield. While it boasts smaller shields than any other suit available, it recharges its shield through constant moment and speed. Standing still for the Interceptor is not the way to play. Specializing in pure damage and one-on-one combat, the Interceptor cleaves through the battlefield at lightning speed.

Hands on Anthem

New Javelins can be unlocked at pilot levels 2, 8, 16, and 24.

The final suit, and the one I spent the most playtime with, is the Storm. Wielding the elemental fury of Bastion, Storm is the casting powerhouse of the Freelancers. Boasting wide-spread area spells and effects, gunplay is used as a back-up for the destructive powers of the Anthem. Whereas other Javelins do best flitting in and out of melee combat, the Storm is best suited to hover at a distance and unleashing its fury upon the hapless enemies of the Freelancers.

Any time you step outside of the safety of Fort Tarsis, the main hub of Anthem, you’ll be loaded into one of your Javelins. Each comes loaded with several firearms be they rifles, submachine guns, pistols, shotguns or heavy ordnance. Each also has a jump-booster, a system that players can utilize to hover, glide or fly over Bastion. These jets can be activated at any time, indoors or out, but can only run for a certain amount of time; as with any flame-propulsion system it will eventually overheat.

Players can instead maximize their flight time by soaring beneath or over bodies of water, using gravity to assist their flight (such as tilting downwards or even straight down), or by flying in water-related weather patterns. This is one of Anthem’s more rewarding systems, as it simply feels good to fly and pull off various maneuvers with each Javelin especially when you can manipulate your flight pattern and stay aloft indefinitely. Each suit handles a little differently from each other based on its armor class; the beefy Colossus is sluggish and takes artillery on directly while the Interceptor rolls in and out of combat and flies as daintily as a bird.

While customization is limited when it comes to the player-character (with only one voice per sex and roughly 24 pre-rendered faces to choose from), Javelin customization is incredibly wild and varied. While each Javelin not only has replaceable parts and armaments, attainable through in-game vendors and currencies, every single color and texture of the Javelin can be customized or altered to your specifics. Leather under-linings can be changed to an all-metal super suit, capes and cloaks can be altered to be leather of any variety. Even the loadouts for your mechs can be utterly unique, turning a tanky Colossus into a long-ranged assassin or a Storm into a front-line psycher.

Hands on Anthem

The Ranger

When it comes to the gameplay of Anthem everything just feels right. Gunplay is tight and fun to engage with, flight feels great, and even simply exploring the world is fun. However, this is where the cracks in Anthem’s designs really begin to show.

Like Dragon Age: Inquisition, Anthem moves through its narrative beats and story-progression via a mission system. While this does piece out the story and lore into palatable chunks, it also makes exploring Bastion incredibly jarring. After the completion of each mission the player will be thrust out of their Javelin and into Fort Tarsis to manage their Javelin and pick up quests. While this allows players progressing quickly to optimize their loadout this does not negate the issue for players enjoying the free-roaming aspects of Bastion. If you even want to change your firearms you will have to return Fort Tarsis, enter your loadout, adjust your guns and sit through two more loading screens to return to that open world.

It’s also clear that hovering was not entirely fleshed out in regard to combat; while the Storm is built around the concept of flying high and avoiding damage, every other Javelin can also do just that as well, minimizing the threat of any enemy encounter especially in group scenarios. This reaches a paramount point towards Anthem’s endgame, which players of more recent MMO-Lite franchises may find familiar.

As the Freelancers rebuild their forces and begin to wage war on some of the deadliest parts of the Anthem, players will earn the ability to fight against Strongholds. These multiplayer encounters revolve around silencing a dangerous relic, fighting off waves of often negligible enemies and fighting off a large boss-version of those enemies, which feels again like a large bullet sponge. As bosses have no set loot table, rewards can range from low-tier uncommon items, which I received during my time at EA Redwood, to blueprints. These blueprints can be used to create Masterwork weapons, requiring players to use Anthem’s crafting system to target and develop specific end-game pieces they want, making the end-game less a targeted experience and more of a wide-sprawling attempt to find exactly what you need blindly.

 

Hands on Anthem

Anthem’s Loadout Screen, only accessible through the Forge at Fort Tarsis.

There also doesn’t appear to be much direction in terms of what happens after the story campaign. While there have been promises from both Electronic Arts and Bioware that there will be additional content beyond the end-game, and a confirmation from producer Scylla Costa that Bioware Houston will take over the live-service aspects of Anthem, there’s no direction into what that’s going to be. For now, running Stronghold’s appears to be the entire post end-game content, meaning that this live service will be relatively deceased after players hit the end of this RPG.

So that leaves us with one major question: where does this leave Anthem? Frankly, Anthem is an incredibly fun game when you don’t look too far past the veneer and finish. While player agency isn’t as prevalent as in other Bioware games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic, neither is Anthem truly intended as a full-scale MMO nor a full-level RPG. Instead this game melds genres far more successfully than other more recent entries in the AAA sphere.

However, in comparison to those other entries, there are also quite a few gaps simply due to the setting of Bastion and the legacy of Bioware; players are used to complete agency in the designs of their characters, instead of the armor they wield. Other entries keep this customization out in the world instead of relying on older system concepts to force player evolution, allowing them to make basic adjustments on the fly instead of resetting their world to tweak a firearm. Anthem has a lot of heart, love and ingenuity baked into its very artistic essence, but the defects do stand out otherwise; some for the cracks in the façade, and others simply because Bioware has dominated this space for years.

For those interested, Anthem launches into the world on February 22nd, 2018

Disclaimer: Writer was flown out to EA’s Redwood, California Campus to preview Anthem at no cost.

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WoW Wednesday: Get Ready for The Battle of Dazar’alor!

With the Holidays behind us there’s only one big thing on the minds of adventurers in the World of Warcraft. Looming on the horizon comes the big additions for Patch 8.1 Tides of Vengeance; The Battle of Dazar’alor raid and the change-over to Battle for Azeroth Season 2. A whole host of changes have already made landfall with the releases of Tides back in December but end-game content will drastically change with the opening of Dazar’alor. This week we’ll be giving you the checklist to make sure you’re ready for January 22nd, when Season 2 of Battle for Azeroth begins.

Time Is Running Out!

Rated PvP Players will see their ratings returned to zero on the launch of Season 2.

With the change over to Season 2 a ton of content will become unavailable to players who haven’t participated in Season 1. While most Hall of Fames have closed worldwide, there is still plenty of time to claim your hard-earned Feats of Strength in Uldir! Both Ahead of the Curve and Cutting Edge for G’huun, the Raid’s final boss and the Old God of Undeath will become unavailable with the start of Season 2. Keystone Conqueror and Keystone Master for Season 1 will also become unavailable with the rollover, awarded for completing every Mythic +10 and +15 within the time limit respectively.

As always, a change of Seasons means that rewards for Player vs. Player gameplay will also be retired. Both the Seasonal Ranking Feats of Strength such as Challenger: Battle for Azeroth and onward will no longer be available, including various seasonal rewards. Players will no longer be able to grind for their faction’s Vicious War Mount, obtain the Dread Gladiator Mount, fight for their Seasonal Titles and the Elite Gladiator set for your armor specialization will no longer be obtainable (however recolors through the Warfront Caches will still be available). Ratings will also be returned to zero on your region’s respective weekly reset, meaning that any further progression for Rated Titles will be unobtainable.

 

RRRRREADY FOR RAIDING?!

Right now is the best time to get your character ready for the release of Dazar’alor! While Looking For Raid difficulty will launch one week later, it’s believed that the item-level requirement to enter will be approximately 350, making that the low-bar goal to prepare your character for its launch. Normal and Heroic raiders will be looking to score at least 15 item levels higher due to increased difficulty scaling.

While many players are already far ahead, it’s also recommended your Heart of Azeroth should be around level 35, making most pieces of Uldir gear unlockable.

If you find your main or alts are a little lacking on the gearfront, consider jumping into the Warfronts! Winning in the fields of battle will guarantee a piece of item level 340 gear. Two additional pieces of 370 gear will also be available throughout your warfront cycle, one from the quest to win the particular warfront and the second from quests available once the warfront has closed. Mythic+ dungeons can also be a quick way of obtaining item level 350 gear and can serve to supplement your gains.

The Horde War Table, planning for the Assault on Stromgarde.

For those looking to power-level your Heart of Azeroth start by hitting all of your daily Warfront contributions. These daily quests not only offer a substantial amount of reputation but 500 Azerite as well, meaning you can easily cross one full level PER DAY of turn ins. The weekly Island Expedition and daily World Quest faction rewards can result in 1000 Azerite, a titanic amount for anyone, even in the late level twenty range of their Hearts.

For anyone leaping right into Dazar’alor on launch day, make sure your guild is well equipped with supplies. As always flasks, war-scrolls, runes and more can be vital to your raid’s success. Ensure your cooks have their feasts well and ready! For scribes entering Dazar’alor, a new Vantus Rune has the chance to drop from an unknown boss in the raid. Ensure you come equipped with enough parchment and inks in case your recipe drops that week.

 

Alternate Options

If your main characters are already set for Season 2, consider chipping away on some of your more vital grinds. Reputation is a huge one to consider for those looking to fill out their profession recipes, as every new faction on Zuldalar and Kul Tiras has several vital recipes for your professions. The Honourbond, 7th Legion, Proudmoore Admiralty and Zandalari Empire are also reputations you should consider exalting, as they are tied into current or upcoming Allied Races.

Vindicator Jaelaana, the 7th Legion’s representative for Alliance players in Kul Tiras.

If you find that you are twiddling your thumbs waiting for new content, consider changing up your gameplay until Season 2’s release. For PvE players consider taking up some battlegrounds and work on grinding honor. Rewards for honor levels include unique mounts, toys, titles and more! Likewise PvPers can work on grinding away at several Mythic+ Dungeons for unique mounts and transmog pieces.

If the end-game doesn’t appeal to you, consider taking up a new character to tour throughout Azeroth! While you may not remember it, there’s quite a bit of the world most players don’t get to see due to the curve of leveling. With the new implementations in experience point reductions, leveling is now far more painless than it was at the launch of Battle for Azeroth.

 

Tour The Old World!

For the Player who only wants to focus on one character, look at exploring the wider world of Azeroth! Every player still has quests left uncompleted, storylines left unfinished, and secrets left undiscovered in the wide world of Azeroth. Consider working on several of the game’s more difficult Feats of Strength, which we’ve covered previously here on MMOGames.

Several players may also not be aware of the Glory of… meta-achievements tied to particular raid tiers. Since Wrath of the Lich King many players can now complete difficult challenges or manipulate boss mechanics to increase the difficulty of the encounter and earn achievements. Most of these are collected under the Glory of… series. All of these meta-achievements reward unique items, which are often mounts and titles.

Are you ready for the Battle of Dazar’alor? What are you doing to prepare for Season 2 of Battle for Azeroth? Let us know!

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New Alien MMO Shooter Announced

There is something on the scanner. It’s only a blip for now. Hard to pin down, hard to range. You know the scanner, you know the blip. That little sound as it pulses. We’ve all had that moment of tension as they get closer…. and soon they will get closer than they have been in a long time.
FoxNext confirmed a follow up to the critically acclaimed Alien: Isolation. For fans who may not have heard the news on that, the next outing of Amanda Ripley will be on a phone as the game will be mobile. Who knows, maybe a reverse Pokemon Go where you have to avoid the monsters?

However in a tweet promising more followed by a press release reported on here [SAUCE], there is more to come in the Alien franchise. Cold Iron Studios, a developer staffed by a lot of former Cryptic developers who had their fingers in City of Heroes, Champions Online and Star Trek Online to mention a few games, is apparently developing the new game for FoxNext. The press release calls it a massively multiplayer online shooter set in the Alien cinematic universe for consoles and PC.
When in the chronology and universe is anyone’s guess, but you can already hear it now. The credo. The words that come so easily to mind in the voice of the late Bill Paxton. What sort of character will we play in this new Alien MMO shooter? Clearly … an ultimate badass.
Check it out, I am the ultimate badass. State of the badass art.

Me and my squad of ultimate badasses will protect you.
Independently targeting particle beam failings. Vooap. Fry out a city with this puppy. We got tactical smart missiles, phased plasma pulse rifles, RPGs, we got sonic electronic hull breakers. We got nukes, we got knives, sharp sticks…

[Editors Note: The Press release did not promise sonic electronic hull breakers, smart missiles or nuking it from orbit. But we’re hopeful.]

 

Source: Press Release

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Skyforge Distant Frequencies Update Brings a Techno Bard

If playing a class that wields a Daft Punk-style retro futurist guitar as a weapon in Skyforge sounds like your idea of a good time, then you’re going to love the Distant Frequencies update, which brings on the Soundweaver class.

distanc frequencies update

The Soundweaver is a new support class that wields an axe of a different sort: a futuristic guitar, to be specific. As one would expect out of the Bard archetype, the Soundweaver can both bolster their allies and assault their foes with their (presumably) sweet guitar riffs.

The Distant Frequencies update is also apparently a herald of things to come in the story of Skyforge. The announcement of the update hints at a strange gravitational phenomenon that players will get to explore as part of an expansion that “will contain hints of larger things at play.”

The Distant Frequencies content patch will land on PC December 11th, PlayStation 4 on December 12th, and Xbox One on December 13th.

Our Thoughts

That’s a pretty sweet guitar, not going to lie. We’ll have to wait to know more, but the Soundweaver sounds a bit like every other Bard class that’s ever been created in MMOs. Though that’s not exactly a complaint — there does seem to be an abject lack of classes that rally friends with sweet tunes.

Source: press release

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