Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Upcoming Online Games in 2016

                Every genre has a lot to show in 2016, but the amalgam of sub-genres that form the online games list send this category in the quantity lead.
As genres tend to overlap and some of the games that could be presented here have been presented in articles dedicated to a genre that is more appropriated to their nature.

Black Desert Online
Release Date: March 3

                Black Desert Online is an upcoming sandbox MMORPG which has been in development since 2010. The game has been released on the Asian and Russian markets as a free to play title but will come to Europe and North America as a buy to play game at a minimum cost of 30$.
                Black Desert features a seamless open world which comes to life through extremely beautiful graphics courtesy of a powerful engine that will render worldwide weather effects and a dynamic day/night cycle.
                The gameplay is action oriented with a combat system that requires precision through manual aiming, dodging and tying up combos. The players will put this tight combat system to good use through 6 different classes engaging in PvE combat and massive PvP battles which include sieging castles.
But there will be more to do than just fighting. Black Desert has an instanced housing system which is extremely detailed providing tons of customizations. Professions will also be available from the more conventional ones like fishing and crafting to the having the liberty of being an actual trader.
                Black Desert Online is one of the most anticipated MMOs in the last years and it is finally making its way to western countries. The players’ reception of the game during its Closed Beta test was positive and there is more testing to come before its release in March.

Tom Clancy’s The Division
Release Date: March 8

                Massive Entertainment now part of Ubisoft has moved from making beautifully looking strategy games to beautifully looking MMOs.
Tom Clancy’s The Division is an MMO combining 3rd person shooting with RPG elements tied in a loot centric progression system in the style of Borderlands and Destiny. Players will take the role of a Division agent and step into a post outbreak Manhattan in an attempt to stabilize the area now only inhabited by the few remaining survivors and aggressive local gangs.
The game is separated into two distinct components: a campaign that can be played solo or co-op and the multiplayer area called Dark Zone.  The Dark Zone serves as a PvE and PvP battleground where players can group up and fight powerful enemies or other players in a hunt for better items and zone specific currency and ranks.
The combat is based on numbers as each weapon has statistic relevant to its type, level and other variables. The damage model is far from being realistic but it is what one should usually expect from an MMO. The enemies are bullet spongy with the damage taken varying between the weapon used and player’s stats but also taking aiming into account.
                On the technical part, The Division under delivers by not looking as good as it did in the original trailers, but it still retains the excellent level design and the attention to details. The graphics are good despite the visual downgrade and the physics while diminished still have an impact over a variety of in-game objects.
                Tom Clancy’s The Division might be a hit or miss for many. Getting used to the combat system will require tolerance from some players and the hub style MMO isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But it does innovate here and there combining some hardcore elements with the loot rush for a thrilling PvP experience. At the moment it is a question of how much more the game has to offer besides what was seen through the Closed Beta Tests or shown in the recent videos.

Albion Online
Release Date: Q1

                Albion Online is an isometric medieval fantasy MMORPG with from Sandbox Interactive. One of the most intriguing aspects of the game comes from the fact that it’s designed to be a cross-platform MMO that will pit together players from PC, iOS and Android.
                The gameplay focuses on guild play with gathering materials and crafting being most effectively done as part of a group. The classless system allows weird combinations of armors, spells and weapons leading to interesting play styles. The real time combat is a little slower than what Hack & Slash games have to offer, but it works well for the game’s large group battles like Guild vs Guild wars. But what makes the gameplay of Albion Online stand out is its hardcore nature. Death results in the loss of all items as the body can be looted by other players.
                Albion Online is not an MMO for everyone. The grindy crafting system and the probability of losing your gear in an instant will be appealing only for those players who look for this high risk high reward experience. But with the cross-platform support and a PvP system that supports huge battles and territorial conquests it can find its place on the crowded market of MMOs.

Release Date: May 3

                It looks like 1st and 3rd person MOBAs are the new fashion in 2016 and Gearbox’s Battleborn is the road opener for that.
                The demand for singleplayer campaigns in games that focus on multiplayer has been around for a while, I don’t agree with it, but some publishers feel this pressure. So Gearbox yield to this public demand and Battleborn comes with a campaign that can be completed in solo or co-op mode. But the main attraction of this game still stands in its 5v5 multiplayer which comes with three game modes and focuses on team play but doesn’t disregard individual skill.
Battleborn has a roster of 25 heroes with unique personalities, abilities and mechanics. The heroes can be leveled up in a persistent progression system that works with all the game’s modes. 
Gearbox gained a lot of fans with Borderlands and the witty characters and cartoonish graphics of this game could be a big selling point for them.
In theory Battleborn sounds interesting, but the steep price tag might be a turn off for some players.

ARK: Survival Evolved
Release Date: June

                ARK needs no introduction, most of the gamers know this game after its great success soon after the Early Access release in June 2015.
                ARK: Survival Evolved follows in the footsteps of Rust, using similar game mechanics but within a prehistoric setting and with a ton of PvE content. Over the years various developers have been trying to make a survival game with dinosaur, but ARK is the first to deliver a visually stunning and incredibly immersive experience of a world inhabited by these creatures. Dinosaurs and other animals from different but long gone times cohabit and threaten the player’s existence in this survival game. But the most frightening image is not that of spotting a menacing T-Rex, but that of seeing a player mounted on a T-Rex.
                The game’s hardcore PvP is extremely demanding with multiple tiers of buildable structures and craftable items which can be lost with ease in fights with other players. But a hardcore game is made for hardcore players and there are many who are willing to work in shifts to tame dinosaurs, build and protect bases and raid enemies for resources or just for fun. Playing this game leads to epic stories of won uphill battles or immeasurable losses both situations describing perfectly the tensioned gameplay of the game.
                ARK: Survival Evolved might be the most complete online survival game out there and it’s coming out this year after just one year in Early Access in which content has been pouring on constant basis.

No Man’s Sky
Release Date: June

                The hype for survival games was followed by a huge hype for space simulators and if you don’t believe this take a look at Star Citizen’s budget raised through crowdfunding.
                No Man’s Sky is a space game that wants its share on the market by approaching the concept differently. With a more arcade flight model the game is investing more in the joy of exploration and the discoveries that come with it.
                Players will embark in an epic journey in a vast galaxy created through a refined procedural generation process that not only creates solar systems but can even fill them with life. The life forms in the game will be unique, as No Man’s Sky uses an algorithm that puts together an incredible amount of variables to creature unique creatures that players can discover first handedly.
                You are not only exploring to discover new life forms but joining in a tumultuous galaxy with traders, factions at wars, pirates, spatial police and other players and fight for your existence as you see fit.
                No Man’s Sky goes for a colorful artistic direction and an arcade flight model in contrast with the competitors and gives players the keys to a seamless living and breathing universe.

Release Date: Q2

                Blizzard steps into uncharted territory with Overwatch, an online FPS with MOBA influences. The game features two opposing teams of 6 players each fighting over objectives in a Team Fortress 2 fashion. Players can choose from numerous heroes each with their set of special abilities designed to fulfill a certain role on the battleground. Heroes can be switched after death allowing players to better adjust to the situation at hand.
                The game comes with the production value worthy of a Blizzard game and with cartoonish and sharp graphics that look great but can be run even by older GPUs.
                Overwatch will be a long term project as Blizzard is committing on providing free updates post launch which will include new modes, maps and heroes. Time will tell if the company can master this genre the same way they did before with RTS, H&S, MMORPGs and even CCGs.

Escape from Tarkov
Release Date: TBA, CBT Q1

                Escape from Tarkov’s announcement was one of the biggest surprises that came at the end of 2015. Developed in silence by the Russian developer Battlestate Games, it made itself noticed through an amazing gameplay trailer presenting a gorgeous open world environment, realistic shooting and hardcore game mechanics that are worthy of survival simulators.
                Labeling this game is hard as it blends multiple genres into what could be a deadly mix. Escape from Tarkov is a FPS/RPG/MMO with simulator elements. The first person shooting is combined with RPG elements which deliver a narrative driven adventure and a persistent set of skills that level up the more they are used. The two genres are mixed in a pot of open worldliness filled with players that can be friends or foes. To top everything off the game mechanics look pretty realistic and hardcore with equipped gear being lost on death and each action’s animation being detailed for an increased immersive experience.
                Escape from Tarkov is one of the most exciting games coming out this year. Its visuals are stunning, but the highlight is on the gameplay which looks even more impressive. Even if I’m almost mesmerized by this game’s trailers, there are still things that worry me like the pre-order bonuses and the fact that it was developed using Unity 5 an engine that doesn’t have the best record with online games. Either way, Escape from Tarkov has a chance to hit home with MMOs, shooters, RPGs and even survival fans alike.

World of Warcraft: Legion
Release Date: Q2/Q3

                The sixth expansion of the undying subscription based MMO is coming and bringing to the main scene the much awaited Burning Legion. The third invasion is coming forcing the Alliance and the Horde to strike a pact with the Demon Hunters of the Illidari introducing the new hero class: Demon Hunter. But this won’t be enough to face this unmatchable foe. The heroes of Azeroth will learn to master Artifacts, powerful weapons which can be upgraded progressively to unlock their full potential.
                The story has returned to the main universe and has the heroes tracking the steps of Maiev Shadowsong as she chased Illidan to the Tomb of Sargeras in the Broken Isles. Characters from the time of Warcraft II will make a return and the long lost Turalyon and Alleria Windrunner will finally make an appearance in the MMO universe.
                The game’s level cap has been raised to 110 and many changes and improvements have been set in place to refresh the gameplay of a game that continues to stay on the market since its launch in 2004. As was the case with the other expansions, Legion comes with new dungeons and raids, allowing the players to pay a visit to the Emerald Nightmare which was teased since vanilla times.
                There is a ton of new content in this expansion and probably many players will come back to explore the new areas and take on the challenges that Blizzard has to offer with the launch of Wolrd of Warcraft: Legion.

Arena of Fate
Release Date: TBA

                Arena of Fate is Crytek’s attempt at the MOBA genre. The game follows the same mechanics of two teams of five players each fighting over map control. The differentiating point between this game and other MOBAS is the heroes system which has the players picking characters from history and fantasy. Joan of Arc, Tesla, Cleopatra and many other historic figures can fight with or against Little Red Riding Hood, Achilles and even Sherlock Holmes.
                As with any Crytek game we can expect that it will deliver on the tech, but we just have to wait and see if the gameplay is on point.
                There is no secret that Crytek is in a difficult spot. The company has some serious financial issues and it’s in need of some hits. Arena of Fate is a title that steps in a very crowded market where titans hover over the smaller competitors, so Crytek must bring their A game if they want to leave a mark with Arena of Fate.

Release Date: TBA

                Yager Development has taken the concept introduced by World of Tanks and uses it to create a game that features atmospheric and spatial battles between gargantuan ships in Dreadnought.
                Dreadnought has a variety of ships fitting for different roles equipped with special abilities that have to be put to good tactical use to win the battle. Due to the nature of these ships, strategy, positioning and choosing the right target will win over cheesy tactics. To step up the tactical options, the players will be able to control the power allocation of their ships to strengthen or weaken certain parts based on the needs.
                Dreadnought is developed using Unreal Engine 4 and is set to release sometime this year. The gameplay seems strategic enough to make the game feel fresh and the free to play business model will make it accessible for everyone.  As with MOBAs, the market of this kind of games is getting crowded but competition can bring only good things for the players.

Fable Legends
Release Date: TBA

                Fable Legends is a co-op action RPG developed by Lionhead Studios as a free to play game. Legends’ gameplay is based around 4 heroes facing a villain, roles which can be filled by players or AI if necessary.
The heroes will be selected from a list of customizable characters each with unique abilities and game mechanics. The heroes can be accessed through a rotation system that changes the available free heroes at a set period of time. They can also be purchased for permanent use via in-game currency or real life money.
The villain takes a role somewhat similar to a dungeon master, setting the nature of the quest for the heroes to complete and making their life hell. Those playing as the villain can set traps, spawn enemies and control the enemies’ nature. The villains have to be careful and think their strategy as the number of enemies they can spawn is limited by a set amount of points.
                Fable Legends could be an interesting game, but it has to play its cards right because as Evolve pointed out games with an imbalanced number of team members can be tricky.

Fractured Space
Release Date: TBA

                Fractured Space is a team-based PvP game featuring capital ships engaging in intense space battles which requires team strategy but doesn’t ignore individual skill. A good knowledge of every ship’s abilities and tactical role is required to be efficient in combat but players also need good aiming and competent ship piloting skills.
The ships can be purchased and customized through a progression system allowing players to take on the role they want to play and equip a loadout suiting for their play style.
                Fractured Space has been in Steam’s Early Access stage for more than a year and it’s progressing nicely. The game will have a free to play business model with the cash shop being filled by skins, boosters and other items that won’t affect the balance of the game.

Lost Ark
Release Date: TBA

                Lost ARK is an action centric MMORPG with isometric camera and vividly looking graphics powered by Unreal Engine 3.
                The players will be able to choose between 18 different classes and join the fight against a demonic invasion through open world events, dungeons and even raids. There is also a strong adventure component with players boarding ships and exploring the world map in search for challenge and treasure.
The hack & slash style combat with an emphasis on skill shots will be put to good use not only battling demons but also in fighting other players in PvP arenas and tournaments.
                The game has been in development since 2011 and it should enter a Closed Beta testing phase soon in Korea and China. Lost Ark’s fate for the western countries is not yet known, but there are rumors that it will eventually make it to Europe and North America. Let’s hope so because this Diablo-esque MMORPG looks great!

Release Date: TBA

                Epic Games takes a shot at MOBAs in a game combining classic elements of the genre with 3rd person shooting in a visually striking and action packed game.
                Paragon already has numerous heroes with distinct abilities and roles ready to jump in a 5v5 battle on a standard MOBA map with three distinct lanes separated by a tunneling jungle. In the old fashion, heroes can be leveled up during a match and upgraded through a cards system that replaces the more conventional items. Builds can be created around these cards as they can be upgraded multiple times increasing the statics of your hero based on the chosen upgrades.
                The combat is fun, fast paced but tactical enough to remaining interesting for a longer period of time and despite being a 3rd person shooter the shooting mechanics have been balanced so they don’t offer exploiting possibilities.
The Alpha Test videos look very promising and if Epic Games plays its cards right this game could grab the attention of many PC gamers, especially since it has the visual fidelity of a 2016 title.

Paladins: Champions of the Realm
Release Date: TBA

                The creators of SMITE and Tribes Ascend are working on a game that resonates more with Team Fortress 2. Paladins is an upcoming free to play FPS which has two teams of unique champions fighting over objectives.
                The combat in this game is mostly projectile-based. The champions’ abilities have to be aimed -giving the opposite player the chance to dodge.
The champions have their own personality and unique abilities, but the variety is expanded through a cards system which allows building decks that serve as augmentations for the champions. The cards have a range of special effects like increasing damage output, granting health regeneration and even modifying the base abilities.
The game has smooth cartoonish graphics that works with the quirky looks and personality of the champions available.
                Paladins is currently in Closed Beta testing which can be accessed through invitations or by buying a Founder’s Pack. The game will be available for free at launch like any other recent title from Hi-Rez Studios. Knowing this studio’s affinity for competitive online games, Paladins has a strong chance in becoming something good in the matter, but it has a strong competitor in Blizzard’s Overwatch.

Rising Storm 2: Vietnam
Release Date: TBA

                Since the expansion for Battlefield Bad Company 2 I can’t remember a video game set during the Vietnam War. Tripwire Interactive is about to change this with their upcoming Rising Storm 2: Vietnam.
                Tripwire’s military shooters have been acclaimed for their realism and that is going to be taken to the next level in this gritty shooter depicting one of the most brutal wars in recent times. Join US Army and Marine Corps or the guerilla forces of NVA and Viet Cong, each with their representative arsenal, and engage in large scale online battles that can hold up to 64 players.
                Since the Battlefield series has stepped deep into mainstream territory it is up to games like Rising Storm 2: Vietnam to deliver a more realistic shooter experience without diving way too much into simulator.

Release Date: TBA

                Squad was my pick for the most promising Early Access game in 2015 and I stand by that. The niche FPS war simulator developed using Unreal Engine 4 by the modders behind Project Reality can strike big as its only competitor is ARMA 3.
                Squad has a lot to offer in the current state but the future looks mind blowing with a combined arms war that should take tactics and realism to the next level. Sadly the vehicles update has been delayed due to some internal problems of Unreal Engine 4 and it’s going to take some time before the game will deliver on the most expected promise made in the Kickstarter campaign. But even so I still can’t stop imagining how a match of this Squad will look when armored vehicles will open the way for infantry on the ground while helicopters will provide fire support raining rockets over fortified positions.
                As it stands now, Squad is an infantry based war experience with multiple roles and weapons using realistic shooting and damage models. The Early Access version is far from being complete but it’s playable and fun nevertheless giving hope for an amazing game.

Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade
Release Date: TBA, Currently in Early Access

                The initial concept for Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade was intriguing. Taking inspiration from games like Planetside 2 it could have been the MMO everyone wanted from this universe if the design flaws of Sony’s game were not repeated here. But in its Early Access launch on January 26, the game only contains a 16vs16 skirmish mode and two factions. The MMO component is nowhere to be found, yet, but according to the developers it hasn’t been abandoned, just delayed.
                The gameplay features an over the shoulder action shooter gameplay very similar to Space Marine. Different races and factions should be in place until the final release allowing the players to choose between them.
                Eternal Crusade will also feature PvE through procedurally generated dungeons called Under worlds and a survival mode named Hive. The PvE enemies will be Tyranids which will also act as a counterbalance force in the MMO mode when it will be released.
                The game was picked up by Bandai Namco Entertainment for publishing and hopefully this will bring more funds to speed up the development process. The potential for a good game is there, but that has been the case with many Warhammer titles and sadly it has gone to waste multiple times. Let’s hope this MMO doesn’t share the fate of the previous one.

I haven’t added Rust, DayZ or Star Citizen in this article because I’m reluctant to believe that any of these games will be released this year. Either way the list of online games coming in 2016 is enormous as it is and I might have overlooked some titles. It seems that the fans of MMOs and online games won’t have the time to breathe this year.
With this article the lists of upcoming games in 2016 is coming to an end. There are some genres and subgenres that I skipped for two reasons, either it is hard to pinpoint some of those games to a specific genre or the list will be way too short and filled with annual releases like in the case of sports games.
                I probably say this every year and every time I stand corrected, but the year 2016 looks really great. No matter what genre you prefer there are at least a few upcoming titles that are worth checking out. So on this positive note I’ll let the time tell us how things will turn out.

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