This week, the head start for Final Fantasy XIV kicks off - the official launch happens next week. For MMO-fans, it's another fresh game to invade (even though a lot of people were put off by the open beta); a new MMO is like a brand new candy store, filled with new mobs to kill and new loot to unearth. At least until the next big MMO enters the scene, when many of us will scurry off and see if the new game is the new big thing...
Because of this, I think we should never forget the games that are already available! Many of them offer unique experiences, having tons of content after being developed for many years and are all too easily forgotten when we dream of new worlds to explore. So if you're playing a MMO and start to feel restless, and feel that Final Fantasy XIV isn't your thing, here are five MMOs you might have missed but should certainly give a try! Remember, there are usually free trials to sign up for before you pony up any money!
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
Vanguard hasn't had an easy run, especially after a disastrous launch that totally crippled the company that had developed it. But since then, the game has been improved constantly for the last three years. The only thing that it's missing is players, but with the US-servers being consolidated into one, that is no longer as big an issue as it used to be.
Vanguard still has a tight community and offers a huge fantasy world to explore. It's all too often overlooked and if you're looking for a new fantasy world - even though it is pretty traditional in places - you really should give Telon a chance. It has tons of races and classes to choose between and an incredible crafting system that shouldn't be missed. The Diplomacy card game is dangerously addictive, just so you know. You've been warned.
Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided
Similar to Vanguard, Star Wars Galaxies has developed a rather terrible reputation after SOE decided to implement the so called "New Game Experience" and "Combat Update" five years ago. But the game has come a long way since, and offers an almost unparallelled sandbox MMO to play around in.
Set in the era between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars Galaxies features non-instanced player owned housing and guild cities, Player versus Player battles between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance, heroic dungeons and one of the deepest crafting systems ever in the MMO genre. Its free, 14-day trial is well worth checking out.
Icarus Studios' Fallen Earth features a post-apocalyptic setting, which is quite unique in the world of MMOs. While featuring levels, it has a deep and complex character progression system that offers up tons of customization. It also has a nice time-based crafting system and is one of the most immersing MMOs available - how about scrounging up resources from heaps of garbage or burnt-out cars? Life in the Grand Canyon after the Nuclear War is hard...
Speaking of troubled runs, Ryzom tops the chart - having been cancelled twice already. The small, French indie-MMO still got some life in it though and these days it's back in the hands of the original developers. Set on the world tree of Atys, its setting is one you will never see in another MMO ever again. Features like skill-based character progression (everyone can, in theory, do everything), experimental crafting based on the tons of different resources that can be found and the fact that the mobs actually possess a rudimentary AI (don't be alarmed if they come up to curiously sniff you when you're out digging) are things people keep asking for from other games, things that are available right here.
Sadly, not many have found their way to Ryzom. Give the game a shot, perhaps you'll find yourself as immersed as the game's already devoted fans.
Final Fantasy XI
With Final Fantasy XIV being the big thing to launch this month, it might be a good idea to take a closer look at the game from which it takes the majority of its inspiration - Final Fantasy XI, the first in the FF-series to get the MMO-treatment. FFXI might be old now, having been launched back in 2001, and the graphics might not be as spectacular these days (it was launched for the Playstation 2 as well as PC) but it is still a very different and very cool MMO.
For players having grown up on more modern MMOs, part of it might seem incredibly harsh and unforgiving - like losing experience points if you die, or having to group to really get anywhere - but for the patient Final Fantasy XI has a lot to offer. With the level cap raised recently, and with the September update just applied, there is still life in this golden girl. It's also available for the Xbox 360, so if you really want a MMO to play while eating popcorn in your sofa, this might just be the game for you...