MMORPGS are certainly not dying, in terms of the genre at least. We’ve seen many come and go over the years. We’ve also seen the rise of crowdfunded MMOs that are breaking away from the typical theme-park MMORPG offering, instead catering specifically to player’s wants and needs, like sandboxes, sandparks and survival style games. In 2020, we should see more indie or crowdfunded MMORPGS enter the market, and we could also lose a few more established ones. The two I’m most worried about are:
Secret World Legends/The Secret World
It’s a damn crime the way Funcom treats one of its most unique game IPs. The Secret World is a modern day, urban horror fantasy MMORPG with a heavy emphasis on narrative, world building and its Lovecraftian lore that involves three factions that rule “the secret world”. The Illuminati, Templars and Dragon are what players choose to represent, each offering a different taste to how the flavor text and dialogue cut-scenes with your handlers play out through the game.
When launched in 2012, TSW thought the subscription model would work, but as we’ve seen with so many MMORPGs that tried it after World of Warcraft, many just cannot sustain it. Thus it went buy to play, and eventually relaunched itself as Secret World Legends in 2017 with an all new free to play model. Funcom’s been quiet in the last two years about more story content or PvE content in-game, which is driving players away, and even the more hardcore ones away from the game. We did get Moons of Madness, a 2019 standalone game that’s based on the Secret World Lore, but that’s hardly new content and not enough certainly for the faithful players. While lack of content is probably the main reason for the doom and gloom, overall the game hasn’t aged well and the relaunch didn’t quite fix some issues that many felt was holding the game back and that’s the combat system.
Well here we are in 2020, with absolutely no news on whether or not Funcom intends to breathe new life into Secret World Legends and it’s safe to say this one will remain in maintenance mode until its eventual shut down. If nothing’s announced for it by the summer, I worry this will be one of the MMORPG causalities in 2020, but it shouldn’t affect Funcom – they’ve been changing their strategy, with a renewed focus on publishing (Conan, Dune, that weird Xcom like game) that’s bringing in the money, alongside Conan Exiles. It’s a shame that its other full MMORPG Age of Conan is going through something similar too.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this one – Astellia launched in the West way too late. This Korean MMORPG generated a decent amount of buzz when it launch in September last year. It’s buy to play model and non-pay to win approach was commendable, but it’s too high a buy-in price for what it offers.
It’s a theme park MMORPG with old-school tab target combat, and players take on the role of heroes that can control Astels – little pets born and given powers from the stars. Your combat abilities are based on your chosen cookie cutter class, but the unique selling factor is that your Astells can be summoned in combat, each offering more unique skills to use and passive bonuses to your build output as well. While it works and is fun especially in group content like dungeons and PvP, there’s nothing else about the game that truly stands out from its competitors, who are letting players play for free instead.
The graphics and engine looks dated and while better than TERA and AION, still feels like it belongs in the last generation, and not worth the $30 or the optional subscription to play. The bad news is, the game has already shut down the Korean version (Nexon), and Barunson & EA who are self publishing in the West are assuring players that this won’t happen to the new version too. Good to know, but how long will it last? Which is why I feel that if Astellia came out earlier around the period when Korean theme park MMORPGs were blowing up globally, it would have given the rest a run for their money.