10 titles in my games library I would like to play before the year is out

Every once in a while I find it helpful to take a bit and organize, especially when you’re trying to tackle a large project (even an entertainment project). I have a list of books to read/to buy, a queue for TV shows to watch, a folder that has all of my new music to sort, and so on. Time to do the same for games!

I recently flipped through both my GOG and Steam libraries to figure out, time permitting (and it never is), which games I would like to play or sample before the year is done and for what purpose. These don’t, for the most part, include MMOs or any games I have yet to buy. Here’s what I came up with, ordered from highest priority to least:

  1. Fallout 4 – Yeah, the recent Fallout 76 hype is pushing me hard to playing this again — and maybe beating it this time. The only question is, can I hold out in Pillars of Eternity long enough to get that done before Fallout fever takes over?
  2. Wasteland 2 – I got this so long ago and only recently loaded it. Think it would be an interesting contrast to playing Fallout and might get me hyped for Wasteland 3.
  3. Alone in the Dark – Freaked me out as a kid. Time to go back and face my fears.
  4. Elite: Dangerous – I bought this on sale over Christmas and have been promising myself that I would give Frontier’s space sim a try. Needs to happen, people!
  5. Day of the Tentacle Remastered – Never played this adventure game (le gasp) and I think it would be a great retro games entry.
  6. D&D Pool of Radiance – Another promising retro games series. Heard it’s a classic and would like to give it a go.
  7. Oxenfree – Got this for free (I think) and it looks moderately interesting as a thriller adventure title.
  8. Divinity Original Sin II – Really need to carve out some serious time to get through this after having sampled the start. Looks good but some other RPGs are taking priority.
  9. Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Picked this up on sale a while back after seeing really strong reviews for it. Would be my first Shadowrun game, in fact.
  10. Stronghold HD – I played this briefly back in the day and wouldn’t mind doing one or two sessions for retro gaming.

What titles are on your backlog that you’d like to play or beat in 2018?

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6 dark horse MMOs that could surprise me

Following yesterday’s list, today I wanted to continue to look ahead at upcoming MMOs that have piqued my interest. The six that I’m going to list here are anything but sure bets (even in this industry). They have weird concepts, unproven dev teams, or might not end up being my type of game when I actually do play them. But here we go with 6 dark horse MMO candidates!

1. Identity

I’m probably one of the few people in the world that follow this project regularly, but that’s because I really do appreciate the ambition of bringing an MMO “life simulator” to bear. Might just be bland PvP in a modern setting, but I think there’s a lot of potential for a contemporary MMO that allows you to live out different virtual lives.

2. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite

This may well be the closest we’ll ever come to an actual Harry Potter MMORPG, and the whole mobile ARG angle seems like it could work. But I wasn’t that bowled over by Pokemon Go, and I don’t know if I’ll have the time or interest to putter around the town waving my phone at other people. Plus, we haven’t heard a peep out of this project since last November.

3. Pantheon

In my opinion, too many of these upcoming MMOs are leaning hard on the crutch of PvP to fill content gaps, so any title that makes PvE a priority has my attention. I haven’t held the greatest respect for this project over the last few years, but the team has stuck with it and is starting to produce an actual playable MMO. Maybe it’ll be worth checking out? It’s gone from a no-prospect to a possibility in my view.

4. Legends of Aria

Aria gets points in my book for making the move MORE toward an MMO over the course of its development and for a charming stylized look. Plus I’m kind of cheering on this small and scrappy team. On the minus side, lots of PvP and no huge word-of-mouth recommendations as of yet.

5. Amazon’s New World

Is New World still a thing? Will this be so PvP that I might as well bury my carebear nose back in World of Warcraft? We’re hearing rumblings that Amazon might be talking about this game soon, and the combination of an alternative history setting and Amazon’s deep pockets and desire to prove itself could result in something worth playing. I’m very uncertain on it right now, however.

6. Chronicles of Elyria

I cannot tell you how torn I am on this project. Almost daily I go from being absolutely convinced that we’re seeing a trainwreck in the making to nursing a grudging respect for the sheer vision that’s at work here. In short, I like a lot of the ideas that this studio has put forth, and I also hate a lot of its ideas and think that they’ll really work against the game’s favor (especially selling nobility packages and putting a huge emphasis on PvP). But we haven’t ever seen a development process quite like this, including creating a visual MUD to test out the core gameplay systems before the graphics are created and instituted. I don’t know. I really don’t know. But I’m following it.

6 upcoming MMOs that have my full attention

I tend to group online games that have my interest into three categories: MMOs I’m currently playing, MMOs I kind of want to play but have no time at the moment, and MMOs I want to play but aren’t out or finished yet. Today I want to talk about that last category as I’ve been revising my list of my top most wanted games right now in May 2018. Which have my full interest?

1. Ashes of Creation

I still hold some reservations about this title and how it’ll be able to strike a balance between the PvE and PvP halves of the game, but man, does it ever hit on so many must-have features for me including housing, a changing world, and flexible class systems. The team’s been really quiet over the past half-year or so, which I attribute to running the Alpha Zero and actually making the game. I kind of wish they’d be more regular with developer diaries and videos, however.

2. Project Gorgon

You may have noticed that after a couple of sessions following the early access release, I haven’t been talking about Gorgon much. That’s because the framerate performance was abysmal in Serbule and I realized that as much as I like this game, it’s still not quite fully baked yet. Might just be worth waiting for the full launch later this year. Plus, where are my knife-wielding faeries?

3. Peria Chronicles

Here’s a title we haven’t heard much about AT ALL, but what we do know is downright intriguing. It’s a beautiful-looking sandbox in the vein of what EverQuest Next was supposed to be, and I really want to hear more about it and get it over to the west already.

4. Cryptic’s Magic: The Gathering MMO

Speaking of titles that we know little about, apart from the initial announcement last year, we haven’t heard a peep out of Cryptic’s next MMO. But I know I’ll be playing it, because I have a soft spot for Cryptic’s games and the Magic setting seems like an untapped (har har) field for MMOs.

5. Dual Universe/Worlds Adrift

I can’t really separate these two games in my head, as they’re both competing for the same area of my attention. Make your own ships, explore worlds/islands, have a blast. Worlds Adrift just came out on early access and Dual Universe is coming along nicely. Both might be a nice change of pace from my normal MMO, and I’m rooting for both to succeed.

6. City of Titans/Valiance Online/Ship of Heroes

We need a hero. A superhero. Scratch that, a superhero MMORPG — and thank goodness that there are three of them in the making. I’m always concerned about smaller indie projects, because without deep pockets and resources, they seem at a disadvantage to really making it. But three of them? Chances are that one will be decent (fingers crossed), and I’m really jonesing for City of Heroes-style gameplay as of late.

Tune in tomorrow, when I continue this list with six dark horse MMOs that could surprise us all!

If we could bring MMOs back to life, what would it be like?

Since my head is stuck in MMO news, gaming, and discussion for a part of my day, I have been known to conjure up hypotheticals to keep me amused. After all, the news is often so weird and unexpected that my daydreams might one day happen — you never know!

One of those I’ve been pondering lately is what would happen, exactly, if a studio brought back online a rather popular long-deceased MMORPG. Say, City of Heroes or Star Wars Galaxies. Just out of the blue, “Hey guys, we’ll be reactivating the game next week, officially. See you then!”

While those two titles are almost certainly forever lost to us, it’s not the craziest of questions. We have seen dead MMOs revived (such as Asheron’s Call 2 coming back for a short run, or Shadowbane in other territories, or Hellgate: London). It all depends on whether the code is still out there, the servers capable, and the studio willing. Plus IP issues and all that. Anyway, it’s feasible, it’s possible, just not that likely.

But hey, who knows? I mean, we’re seeing an interesting surge of interest in classic servers, what with Old School RuneScape, World of Warcraft Classic, RIFT Prime, and the like. People miss what they used to have. They miss the old times. They want to go back. As a retro gamer, I get that. So maybe there are studios thinking that they could make a quick and relatively easy buck by flipping back on the switch to a game.

It would be the event of the year, I can tell you that. If City of Heroes came back next week? It’s all anyone would be talking about for a good month. Players still carry many torches for that game.

There would be a lot of questions and issues to work through. Who would handle it? Would old characters be available? Would it pick back up from the last patch? Would there need to be hardware and software improvements to handle the changes in the years that have since ensued? Maybe it wouldn’t be a “relatively easy” move to get some money, but still, this is my daydream.

People would rush in to play these games. Some would be coming back home while others just curious. And then there would be those players who never really got a chance to try out these titles but subsequently felt bad that they missed out back when it was operating. Not that that is me and SWG, oh no. Look elsewhere for your shame.

I think about this whenever Paragon Chat comes up in discussion or I log into that client. The second you’re in that program, you can believe that CoH never died. It’s still there, somewhere. Still online. And while it really is just a shell of the former game, it’s amazing how so little can trigger a wave of nostalgia and instant believe in its current operation.

I do wish, and not for the first time, that there was a place that old, unwanted, or unpopular MMOs could go to retire as an alternative to being shut down. A museum or a discount studio or something. It burns me that I can play an arcade-worthy Ms. Pac-Man on a keychain device these days but I can’t log in to, say, Marvel Heroes that shut down two years ago. (Speaking of which, can you imagine how much money Gazillion would be making from Infinity War tie-ins?)

Star Trek Online: Party like it’s 2385

Life moves pretty fast in the 25th century. I think it’s the 25th? I’m not even going to check. There are ray guns and space ships, so it’s the future sometime.

I’m dashing as fast as I can through the familiar old missions, and as I write this, I’m all the way up into the upper 30s. I kind of forgot how involved and long some of these missions can be, and sometimes I’m not going through them as quickly as I would like. With a month to go until the expansion, I don’t think I’ll have this character fully ready, but I’ll be happy if I’m in my endgame ship by the end of May.

One interesting feature that I’m experimenting more with this time around is the ability to freeze time in ground segments. Since it all takes place in isolated instances, there’s the ability to be able to do this, and that makes for cool picture taking opportunities — especially during combat. My only quibble is that sometimes there’s a lag between hitting the butting and having the time freeze take effect.

Even though I could have requisitioned the next tier up of ships, I’ve decided to stay in my Ambassador-class starship for the 30s. It’s simply one of my favorite Star Trek ship designs. I know I’m weird, but the Enterprise-C trumps all of the other Enterprises in its design. It’s just stately and sleek without being too curvy or too stark.

This is the U.S.S. Jorg, and I’ve taken far too many pictures of her sailing through space. She’s pretty durable, although that could be thanks to the purple gear rewards that the Delta Recruit event is paying out.

OK, one more picture, because this one is my favorite. The weather in space is cloudy with a 50% chance of rain.

The other night I took an excursion back to Spacedock. I don’t think I’ve commented on the redesign — it’s not that new at this point — but I definitely remember how Spacedock used to look, and boy is this so, so much better. They did a masterful job coming up with a space that makes for a great player hub that’s open, visually attractive, and offers quick access to key vendors.

I don’t think I’ve ever checked out the improved Club 47, so I made a point of doing so this time. Again, so much better than the old one, which I think was a disco floor and a few tables. This club definitely has an 80s neon feel to it.

If my character could look and dress like this, I would do so, full stop. Seriously, Cryptic, sell me these clothes!

My favorite environmental joke in the club is seeing a line of frustrated clubbers standing outside of the potty. Also, there’s only one potty for all of these races and genders. Seems like poor design.

DDO: Order of Vengeance

Welcome Syp to Team Vampire Killers! I’ll be your stereotypical guide, Professor Von Muttonchops. You’ll need your own stakes, some extra garlic, and an extreme death wish.

Now that I’ve survived Strahd’s bouncy fun castle, I’m apparently good enough to be recruited for some more serious work by the local vampire killers. The first step on this path? Delivering a giant dragon skull to a bunch of ticked-off ghosts.

Seriously.

Off to another castle — well, a mansion, really, where the smuggest dragon statue in the world guards its front doors. It’s here that an order devoted to fighting Strahd and protecting the land has actually all been killed and then stuck around in perpetual misery. Apparently giving them back the skull of the dragon that was the mascot of their club is supposed to give them new hope.

You’d think they’d be more hospitable, since we are all on the same team fighting Strahd, but nope. Ghosts and revenants alike are out for my blood because I have the audacity to deliver their Amazon Prime package for them. I feel quite underappreciated.

As an aside, I feel that sleeping in the same room where there’s about three dozen swords is a good way to fillet yourself when you get up to pee in the middle of the night. Perhaps that’s really why they died.

There is one living soul in the mansion, some dinky elf who’s hiding out with a roll of toilet paper (reference: see above picture). I won’t lie: I really enjoyed seeing an elf assuming his proper station.

I had high hopes for this mission after the castle, but to be honest, the mansion is pretty lackluster in design and visuals. About the only interesting part is a graveyard and mausoleum in the back.

The whole mission is an exercise to send a beam of light through various mirrors up to the tower so that it can shine for freedom and also to warn passing ships of the rocky shoreline. It’s honestly not that complicated of a puzzle.

I was a little miffed that the lead revenant tried to kill me because I wanted to kill Strahd. You see, these ghosts don’t want to end his suffering but prolong it, and that’s hard if he’s morning dust.

Giant crystal on loan from the Final Fantasy series.

LOTRO: Escaping Mordor’s gravity well

As I tentatively dip my toes back into LOTRO to venture into Northern Mirkwood, I first had to push through the final vestiges of Mordor (for now… for now). It was all a crash course in reminding me how poorly designed these zones are, how travel unfriendly, and how annoying the back-and-forth fetch quests are over this region. Plus, it’s so. Dang. Ugly.

I have never been so serious in my life as when I say that I never want to go through Mordor again. And with all of that being refreshed in my mind, I found this recent interview with SSG chief Rob Ciccolini absolutely frustrating. Not only does he completely dodge the question of the ongoing (two-plus years) poor performance issues with the client, but he rallied a tired defense of Mordor’s difficulty and design and hedged whether or not it was too tough. Whatever. You’re not going to sucker me into running any alts through it, I can tell you that.

So after suffering through a few more quests, I was finally encouraged to leave Mordor and head back to Southern Mirkwood. Wait, southern? I thought this was all northern stuff, and… you know what? I’m just glad to be out of there. I don’t care where the game sends me at this point.

First up is a quest that should have been called Tying Up Loose Ends, because the whole point is to return to Mirkwood and witness Dol Guldur being destroyed once and for all. Before that happens, I get my first and last trip inside of its walls (I’ve never been).

In a really cool moment, I actually get to see Sauron’s old throne room, back when he was recovering from the loss of the ring and his defeat by the alliance. There are a couple of interesting little flashbacks to witness, and it was bizarre to just, you know, see Sauron as an actual guy sitting there. This might only be the second or third time I’ve ever witnessed him in the game, all in flashbacks.

This guy shows up to lay out his plan to stir up trouble between the Dwarves and Smaug, and all I can think of is WHERE DO I GET THAT ARMOR? So cool. I want to join the bad guys if they all get cool gear like that. The good guys keep giving me pajamas.

And in what is undoubtedly supposed to be a shocking surprise, this elf… girl? I think it’s a girl. Well, she pops out of the gloom and is all happy to see me because I guess we hung out five expansions ago? Did the devs honestly think we’d remember this? I’m doing good if I can name all four of my kids on any given day, nevermind trying to dredge up the name of some supposedly dead elf from 2010.

We — by which I mean “I” because elves are lazy — do a bit more killing and collecting before vacating the premises.

Then in a cool cutscene, Galadriel uses the Force to smash Dol Guldur from afar. She talks about having brought it down, and all I can think of is that there is an awful lot of that structure remaining. Maybe another Force push or two would help?

Afterward, Legolas’ dad gives me a bathrobe and we celebrate. Hey, I’ll party with elves if it gets me out of Mordor. That’s how desperate I became.