MMOs are very expensive in terms of development and especially maintenance. You need server facilities that are always online and that are reliable.
You need regular updates to maintain a solid base of players and possibly affiliates. This is one of the reasons why the indie MMO scene is so small, a niche within the MMO niche. Let's see how it is doing.
I take it for granted that readers of this newsletter know what an MMO and more specifically an MMORPG is. Briefly, an MMO is not designed to be played alone, as the name suggests (but this no longer applies, as we shall see shortly). The MMO encourages cooperation and/or competition between players (the so-called PvE and PvP). The multiplayer part of this equation seems no longer to be true lately. More and more people enter the world of MMOs with the expectation or desire to play solo, and more and more publishers and developers tend to accommodate this desire, clearly trying to please and accommodate as many players as possible.
If you search online you will find many rankings or lists listing the best MMOs that can be played solo, and even the emblazoned WoW and FFXIV (the most played MMOs at the moment) can be played safely solo.
The interesting thing about indie MMOs, as is often the case with indiegames, is that they take the liberty, and the associated risks, of experimenting (we will see in a moment how) and re-proposing a type of MMO that is closer to a sandbox experience and more open and 'multiplayer' than what is proposed by the 'today's' (in quotes, WoW, FFXIV and the Theme Park style MMOs were not exactly released last year).
Ashes of Creation
Let us begin by talking about what at first glance would appear to be the most classic MMO on the list: Ashes of Creation.
Defining it as indie is not easy. Let me explain, it is not published by any major company, so it is in all respects an indie, but it does have Steve Sharif behind it as Creative Director and CEO who, coincidentally, is also a millionaire working in the field of investment and real estate.
The game is currently in its Alpha phase in which you can participate (Alpha test two) by purchasing a package on their site.
They said about the game:
Experience an MMORPG where everything is permanently impacted
by your actions – explore, trade, build, and let the world take form. From your imagination through your will and into everyone's reality, what you create will be the cornerstone of the next explorer’s ambition.
By many accounts, it is the most promising and eagerly awaited MMO at the moment, and you can find numerous videos on YouTube attesting to its quality. The team is very communicative and communicates live on Twitch/YouTube and in a regular newsletter.
AO is a sandbox MMO with a non-fixed isometric view. Released in 2017 it has continued to grow to date and is currently one of the few to have true cross-play between PC platforms (Windows, OX and Linux) and mobile devices (both Android and iOS).
As a good sandbox, it allows the player to have full freedom regarding access to classes, effectively there are no classes to choose from in Albion Online but the player will progress through the experience using preferred weapons/weapons/magic. To simplify, by using the sword a lot, the relevant branch in the skill tree (they called it Destiny Board) will level up, allowing us to use better and better weapons.
The graphics are stylised, and simple but attractive, it is playable solo but makes PvP and guild play its strong points. If you are not going to spend money, you will have to deal with a slightly more grinding but never frustrating version of the game.
The developers of this medieval MMORPG recently announced that version 1.0, and thus the subsequent release from Early Access status, will go online on 7 February.
The game has made great strides since it was released by EA back in 2016, as explained in this lengthy article written on Steam by the developers themselves.
As mentioned, the game has a medieval setting with a skill-based, non-target combat style.
The combat is very well done and entertaining, the setting fairly varied, and the NPCs are unfortunately not as well done, most of them standing still in their places waiting for our arrival. It has to be said that the main focus of the game is on PvP with beautiful and confusing open-field battles.
The economy is player-driven and the crafting system is very deep and varied.
Another very important thing, you can fish :)
Also, this Free to Play with an interesting story and above all a twist in the combat that is something completely different from classic MMORPGs, the combat is turn-based.
Before each turn, we will have 10 seconds to set our tactics, both in terms of the skills to be used in the next turn and the approach (more defensive or more offensive). Of course, we can still create and save up to 4 'templates' for our attacks, which we will then recall with a click during the fight. The 10 seconds will then be used to modify our templates according to the enemy in front of us and the course of the battle.
Outside of combat, we find ourselves guiding our protagonists within a very detailed environment, in a fixed isometric view (the only thing we can choose is the zoom level with the mouse wheel).
Unfortunately, the game is very slow, grindy and undermined by tedious fetch quests that often lead us to have to go back and forth between two points, a very old mechanic hardly used in modern MMOs.
Mortal Online II
It could not miss THE sandbox by definition: Mortal Online II. Mortal Online's direct successor is currently under development in Early Access. It, too, has made great strides since its release, and although it is still riddled with several bugs and the game systems within it are not yet complete and optimised, it is very playable and very difficult. Especially for those not used to sandbox games where little or nothing is explained and there are no in-game guides to accompany the player in experiencing the game content. Many steps forward have been made, compared to the first episode, to improve the first approach for players not used to this type of very direct and ruthless gameplay (full loot).
Unlike previous titles, MO2 is fully first-person, the graphics have improved greatly over time, and incredible views can be admired as we wander through the world.
Compared to the first title, a good PvE component has been added, including dynamic events and bosses. Of course, however, the real heart of the game is the PvP, which with the always active fool loot ensures that the tension felt during our raids outside the cities is always very high.
Unfortunately, the space available to me is coming to an end (it is still a newsletter) and I can not tell you about the last game that I care a lot about and that is experiencing a bit of difficulty after its release. I'm talking about a TinyMMO called Book of Travels, but I'll tell you about it in another issue.