The lack of MMORTS Games
I have always been a big fan of strategy games starting with Dune 2 and other games like Starcraft, Warcraft, Warhammer : Dark Crusade, Company of Heroes, but during the years I noticed that the gameplay environment didn’t evolved much. We are talking about linear progression, linear story, etc. except maybe Warhammer Dark Crusade, Total War series and those WWII games similar to Risk. Now with such diversity and financial power of developers like Blizzard and Relic I thought the next logical step in this genre would be an online persistent recipe, but unfortunately developers are still stuck in the WOW, Everquest recipe looking for more money and… money.
Having an extensive knowledge of what happens on the online games market, what games are available, which are decent, which are not, i must say I am very frustrated. I have been waiting for a good sandbox persistent MMORTS for years, but no luck so far. On my quest to find “THE” MMORTS, I played few mmorts games that were decent enough to talk about them.
My first mmorts was Shattered Galaxy, released in 2000-2001. It was an excellent mmorts, surprisingly made by Koreans. You were a part of a faction as one of the military commanders; you had access to custom armies in your quest to inflict as much damage to the enemy factions. As a commander you were able to customize the units, equip them with specific items, and unlock new ones while advancing in level, both you and your units. It was fast and very easy to get into a fight, since all the fights occurred on specific planets and on each territory you will be automatically paired up with over 20 allies against 20 or more enemies. It was persistent universe where the only problem was the risk vs rewards which were so low since losing didn’t matter much. People were fighting to get Uranium and just to have fun in Guilds or in group with random allies.
The game is still live even today, but publishing company managed to broke it completely without serious updates or real management over the game. So the servers are empty, and without a balance between faction numbers and a decent graphical update the game is dying.
After Shattered Galaxy I played a lot of browser based strategy games like Utopia, Ogame, Travian, but these are streamlined versions of what I was looking for, so I left them behind. Moving further in 2005 I played a little Mankind a 4X MMORTS similar to Master of Orion, but due to horrible 3d graphics, and bad interface I moved on.
In 2008 i discovered Saga which was a promising persistent MMORTS in Closed Beta, developed by some indie company. The concept was exactly what I was looking for. You were a King in a fantasy based universe and you were in control over economically and military aspects of a persistent kingdom. A part of the game was similar to Stronghold where you were able to develop your castle, build houses, and employ peasants to mine for resources, trade with other players, upgrade and equip your units with specific items. The other part was the RTS side where you were able to venture in to unknown lands with your custom troops to complete quests, participate in PVP and attack other people’s lands for resources. Unfortunately the troops were gathered from CCG packs, decks which were bought from the official site and you had to trade those acquired, bought with other players, to get the squads desired, since the Decks you bought contained random units. This brought a lot of money to the Developers for such a small company, but they invested very little back into the game.
While most of the features were rough I was confident that with the months left until release, developers will improve the engine, balance their features, and get a polished product out. Unfortunately on release day, it was almost exactly the same as in Closed Beta, with a few changes, minor fixes, and server improvements. I stayed for a while, returned 1 year later, and the game was the same. People were leaving in mass because of the problems and false promises from the developers. In the end the game servers are almost empty, and Devs decided to milk more money from the uninformed players by releasing an EU server since the US official one is a deserted one. A great concept, horrible execution, and the most terrible management I ever saw one for a mmorpg game, besides Sony Online, GOA and Asian MMORPGs third party mmorpg publishers.
After this major disappointment, Battle Forge was released. Very similar in concept with Saga, where you summon your units from the Cards bought online, the game was extremely polished, but instanced and no persistent elements in it, so basically it’s a lobby online game, where you PVP in a instanced ladder system, get some rewards. It also has available a decent PVE content, but nothing special, very well done in terms of graphics, interface and accessibility but with a poor gameplay. It’s like playing Warhammer II multiplayer, but much worse.
Recently I returned to Dreamlords another indie mmorts, which was re-released last year, with a complex gameplay and ability to build persistent empire and research, access your kingdom through a web browser, while on the RTS client you will fight against players and complete PVE quests. Due to the unfriendly introduction into the game, low population, and a broken persistent PVP system, I left. The developer left on the project still works at it, but the game still needs lots of work to get people back even though the game at the current stage is polished enough to get a good experience, but due to inability to get players fight for the persistent island system, it useless for me, since the PVE is quite weak and repetitive. Ladder system I am not interested in it, it just an instanced random mess.
They were other games that I didn’t mention in this article, that I played but their quality is too low to worth mention them. So what now? Well I play a lot of single players, waiting for Dawn of Fantasy and Stronghold Kingdoms. I believe one of these MMORTS games might have what I been waiting for years, since Shattered Galaxy.
Dawn of Fantasy is upcoming indie MMORTS that I been following it for years. In this MMORTS you will be able to build a persistent kingdom, build strongholds, develop the economy to sustain your armies, send armies to conquer and destroy enemies’ towns, engage in PVE. Dawn of Fantasy is scheduled for release this year, and soon it will enter in a limited open beta. I didn’t played it yet, just hoping that it will be what I am looking for, but since it will be available at some point for XBOX 360 too, I have some doubts on the gameplay.
Another MMORTS i m waiting for comes from Firefly Studios, which is an upgrade from the classic RTS, Stronghold. Stronghold Kingdoms promises to be a persistent MMORTS where you develop your medieval empire, fight and explore across real countries such as Britain and Germany. On top of the old game it seems they will add the persistent feature, a research tree, and a huge map to fight on. The problem here may come from the age of the Stronghold’s engine, but I can’t say more until we see the upgraded engine in action, it might be good enough.
In the end I am very disappointed with some developers, I know that game industry it’s a business but cmon create some new recipes, come with something new, explore, innovate, try something new, don’t think only at what recipe would binrg huge profits. A good MMORTS can gather enough profits with a stable subscription base if is polished enough and complex. Battleforge is doing well even with the simplistic lobby gameplay. Wake up!
If you had the patience to read this article, rant, talk about your experiences on this genre and what games are you playing and waiting through the comment system below.
Until next time, I leave you with this quote:
“Blessed is the mind too small for doubt.”
Warhammer 40k, Librarian.