Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
The world of gaming, as most of you know, is big. Really, really big. Like you could choke all the remaining humpback whales in the world with games and still have some left over to finish off the pandas and elephants. It's obviously survival of the fittest. I mean, if you go to Japan, you can hit up an arcade and play games where you pretend to flip over tables (with dishes of said whales, pandas, and elephants) in a fit of rage.
Truly, there is a game for everyone and everything. So why should the world of MMO gaming be subjugated to nothing more than wandering around killing rats and pushing some hotkeys to cast a spell? I mean is WoW really that fun or does Blizzard put subliminal messages in it that keep people playing?
I really have no clue. But fortunately for the rest of us who find no pleasure in wandering around fields for hours upon hours. there are finally some alternatives coming out to whet your whistle with. So let’s take a look at what the future of Massively Multiplaying could look like.
Battleswarm: Field of Honor
This game is unique not only for its fresh take on MMOs, but just for gaming in general. It’s a cross between an RTS and FPS that takes advantage of the interweb to create something that’s truly one-of-a-kind. Imagine something that’s a cross between Tribes, Command & Conquer, and the Starship Troopers movie - if you're having trouble, it's probably because it's new.
You can choose to play as either a gun-blasting soldier on the FPS side and take on horde after horde of giant bugs and lava-spewing bull monsters, or take the more tactical approach and be the guiding hand behind all those waves of deadly freak creatures. Most of the time, you’ll probably find yourself defending your generators from the infestation or leading the swarms that will destroy them, but there’s also a Capture the Flag mode that combines both aspects into each team and cool tower defense-like game for the strategists.
Battleswarm functions on a free-to-play platform with optional microtransactions similar to games like Maple Story. Only when I say micro, I mean micro. Most of the upgrades you can purchase costs pennies on the dollar but will only last temporarily.
You can go here to check it out: http://www.battleswarm.net/game/
Heroes of NewErth
Heroes of NewErth should seem familiar to anyone who’s ever spent some time playing Savage. It even has some of the same guys behind it. NewErth would probably best be described as a RTS-shooter in that its interface is similar to that of a RTS, but doesn’t play quite the same.
You join either the Legion or Hellborn as one of three different classes. Each one excels in either strength, intelligence, or agility. All in all, there should be about sixty characters to choose from after the game comes out of beta.
Once you’ve chosen a side and character, you’ll take part in a destructive brawl between two teams of up to five players each. Battles play out almost like Capture the Flag, but instead of capturing, it’s more like "wipe your ass with flag, light it on fire, and piss out the flames". You have to defend your base and its pre-determined structures from being destroyed while attempting to completely demolish your opponents facilities. Once a building’s gone, it’s gone for good. That’s it. You shall not rebuild or overcome adversity. You lose.
Avatars are controlled through the traditional real-time point-and-click interface that fans of the original Warcraft should be familiar with. You can purchase upgrades and learn new skills to augment the standard "walk over there and beat up that thing" such as summoning spells or more powerful attacks. You’ll also get help from an AI controlled army of “creeps” who will assist you in your bloodthirsty quest. They also make a fairly helpful divining rod towards finding your next target.
Heroes of NewErth is now in Closed Beta. Give it a shot over here: http://www.heroesofnewerth.com/
Dungeon Fighter Online
Okay. I swear this will be the last time I rant about this game. If you ever played the old arcade Dungeons & Dragons games in the arcade or any of the multitude of classic Capcom side-scroller brawlers, then you’ll be familiar with what makes this (MMOSSB) game awesome.
It’s got an insanely customizable combo system with some air juggles that would put the most polished fighter game to shame. If you like beating people down up close and personal, you can be a priest. Or maybe be a gunner and shoot to kill from a distance. Classic RPG elements such as leveling up to unlock new skills, armor are thrown in on top of randomized dungeons, and PvP arena brawls.
DFO is in open beta right now. Give it a spin over here: http://dungeonfighter.nexon.net/
Feeling low-tech? Lazy? Looking for something that doesn't take all your focus? Just click on one of those millions of totally shameless cleavage ads that are all over the internet and check out Evony. This in-browser MMORTS features no boobs at all. None. But it also doesn't require you to download or install any software, and is a surprisingly deep, brutal, full-PvP game.
Everything in Evony, from building, to training, to researching new technologies takes place in real time. Attacking a nearby area might only take 10 minutes or so, but building those level 10 walls can take over a week. It's perfect for jumping in, making a few moves, and then checking back in a half hour to see how it all came out.
It's also completely free, while you can spend real world money to get a head start, you have access to everything in the game without spending a dime, if you're just a little more patient.
Just don't let your boss catch you playing it in that minimized Netscape window.