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The Best of E3 MMOs, and the winner is …

By Michael Lafferty GameZone.com

Judging massively multiplayer online games at an event such as E3 can be a tricky thing. These are games that are so deep and take time to get into and play around with. Trying to spend a few minutes with them and then select one over another can be a tricky thing.

That’s the caveat to the following article, my admission that while I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the games, these are the ones that really stood out. Of course, spending extended time with them may well prove that they are more, or less, than these first impressions allowed. However, let’s cut to the chase. The best MMO seen at E3 2010 was:

TERA

From the studio going by the name of En Masse, made up of veteran developers with a rich history in the MMO field, TERA was beautiful with some elements that were familiar and some that certainly were not. Line-of-sight combat, being able to block, reading opponents and watching for tells in movements that may provide best damage opportunities all fall into line. The elements of the levels shown all fell into place to create a game that was both eye candy and challenge. The game had a presence and was an attention getter.

Runners-up

Test Drive Unlimited 2: TDU2 is better looking with improvements up and down the list. There is more territory, better social interactions, more room to drive vehicles and more customization options. The story is basically the same, but this time around the motorcycles (a pain in the first game) are gone and have been replaced by off-road vehicles. Getting hands on the wheel behind closed doors was a delight, especially hopping into a classic Mustang, roaring down the road in true American muscle car style, then releasing the gas, grabbing the handbrake, spinning the wheel and slamming on the gas again to do a 180-turn amid the sound of angry tires against burning road.

Heroes of Three Kingdoms: With a look that was certainly WoW-esque and a background that has players fighting for the fabled kingdoms of Wei, Shu and Wu, Heroes of Three Kingdoms – from Perfect World – is set to change opinions about what free-to-play games look like and play like. A bit of a learning curve, but elements that are easy to understand, the game looked incredible and was entertaining.

The Agency: What a difference a year makes. At E3 2009, The Agency was opting for a more cel-shaded cartoonish look but there has been a concerted effort to put the graphics into a category that makes it visually competitive with games coming out at the end of the year and into 2011. It’s a different take on the MMO field and that can only mean it will stand out for that reason, if no other. But taut gameplay (it was PvP time during the demo) elements are setting the stage and creating some excitement.

Overall: There is little sense in running down the list of games that have been known about for a while and used E3 to remind everyone they were coming; those games mentioned above were the surprises that popped out and gave the show a bit more MMORPG flavor than was expected. Most are months away from beta and even further from release, but the MMO genre is still growing although desperately in need of new ideas and visions. While Heroes may not be as fresh as the others mentioned, that such quality is coming to the F2P model (already being treaded by Turbine with great success) is still refreshing.

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Michael Lafferty
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