10 Jul 2010

Casting Your Net Wide

It’s a strange thing when your perspective of the world changes. For me, the RealID Saga of the last few days has shown me just how much the simple game of Warcraft means to people. It’s also shown me just how much people are prepared to give up to take a stand or prove a point. Finally it’s shown me firsthand that the power of fans is still there, and that when the community speaks clearly that companies tend to respond.

I’d desperately been searching myself for a way to turn this from a negative into a positive. I’d criticised it in a post of my own and torn it to shreds with Stu on an expletive-laden podcast. I’d exhausted my feelings of anger and rage and betrayal and remorse. I wanted to have something to smile about again, so I started casting my net wide. I started having a look around at what other games would catch my eye or draw me in.

I wanted to find out where else I could be the plucky spellweaver or arcanasmith.

The announcement from Mike Morhaime has since arrived, and we’re all able to put away our torches and pitchforks and sleep soundly in our beds for another night. I was left thinking that the time I’d spent researching was wasted, that the information I found just didn’t matter any more. But something else tells me that Beta’s going to be on for some months yet, and that we’re not all going to be a part of it. That some of us Masters of Magic might want to help out a few games here and there, sign up for a few betas and generally have a look around.

As a result, here’s my list of caster-friendly MMOs to keep an eye on. Some have started beta testing already while others are still heavily in development. Either way, have a look around and see if one of these tickles your fancy.

Final Fantasy XIV

Just entering closed Beta and due for release at the end of September, FFXIV is a continuation of the popular Final Fantasy RPG series. The game appears to be a story and questing heavy game, with only limited (if any) opportunity for PVP encounters. The graphics look as gorgeous as anything produced by Square Enix. It also feels sickeningly cute.

The game features two caster classes: the Conjurer and the Thaumaturge. The Conjurer is an elemental magician and as such has a wide range of spells in their arsenal. These can be offensive as well as defensive, and will apparently include a range of buffs and debuffs. They’re also the only healing class in the game, making them incredibly versatile and very much in demand. Think Shaman without totems and no enhancement spec, and you’re probably there.

The Thaumaturge is more of a warlock-style caster, with a strong emphasis on potent offensive magic. There’s also the health-as-mana mechanic in the class as well, where the Thaumaturge inflicts damage on themselves to cast spells and drains health from others. If you like your warlocks, you’ll probably feel right at home with this class. No pets though.

TERA

Currently looking like it’s borrowed a few things from Dead Or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball, TERA is another high-fantasy game that’s built from the same mould as the Final Fantasy Series. It also seems to be heavily questing and PvE focused, with few opportunities for the PVP player. The game’s slated for release later this year and is currently going through “focus group” testing, where testers try out specific areas of the game.

There are three caster types in TERA. First there’s the Priest, who as you’d probably expect is a pure-class healer. Not much detail on offensive capabilites, so expect to be healing your party most of the time. Moving on there’s the Mystic, another Shaman-style elemental damage and healer hybrid.

The Sorcerer rounds off the set as a pure class damage dealing caster, with a couple of added benefits. Expect these to be your traditional party buff and enemy debuff style abilities.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

The big one that many are waiting for, SW:TOR is a game ripe with possibility. We’ve already heard a lot about the lore, the questing, the environments and the setting, but what’s going to be in there for the fans of the caster classes?

It looks like for most of us, we’ll be picking either Jedi Consular or Sith Inquisitor, depending on our desire to be Rebels or Imperials. Both seem to have similar tricks up their sleeve, with both of them having some fancy lightsaber-waggling abilities. I’m hoping that these classes are going to be the more Force-based classes, with chain lightning, crate tossing and other fancy abilities that we’ve loved the films for.

In the Distance

There are several other games to keep an eye on such as Jumpgate Evolution and Dark Millennium Online, but these are both very much still works in progress. While I think that Jumpgate might be a great companion game to sit alongside the new Star Wars MMO, there’s not enough information on it available. The same goes for DMO, although I have some high hopes for this in providing some rich opportunities for caster classes.

I’ll still be playing Warcraft. It’s a game that I’ve devoted years of my life to and got a huge amount of satisfaction from. I just guess the recent events have shown me that I’ll need to keep a weather eye on the horizon.

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