Even though the MMORPG genre is in its toddler stage, it's seen a number of sequels, prequels and spin-offs, just the same as other types of entertainment. Video game sequels for hit titles are safer financial investments than striking out into new territory, so it makes sense that MMO studios would follow this pattern as well.
Right now there are loads of MMO sequels and spin-offs in the works -- including EverQuest Next, PlanetSide Next, Guild Wars 2, Mabinogi 2, MapleStory 2, Phantasy Star Online 2, Dust 514, and even a possible Ultima Online sequel -- so it's safe to say that the trend won't be dying down anytime soon. However, today I want to look at 10 sequels that already made it to release and briefly examine how they stacked up to their predecessors. Oh yes, there will be blood after the jump -- and I will drink your milkshake!
It's amusing to think that back in 2004, EverQuest II was the sure bet and the odds-on favorite to become the dominant MMO of this new generation of titles. After all, EverQuest was the god-emperor of MMORPGs at the time, and most thought that its prodigy would take the torch and rule as well.
And then World of Warcraft hit later that month. EQII was sent to the back of the class.
So in terms of being the top dog of the MMO world, EQII never achieved what EQ did, but it did become an excellent game in its own right. Even today, EQII is recognized as one of the richest titles for those looking for a well-rounded MMO experience instead of a mere combat simulator, and unlike its ancestor, EQII even offers a free-to-play option for the curious.
Neocron 2 is one of those titles that invariably elicits the question, "There was a Neocron 1?" They're not very well-known MMOs, is what I'm saying.
In any case, this post-apocalyptic sci-fi FPSMMO was originally slated to be an expansion pack, but it got snatched up as a second-round draft pick and moved to another publisher. It's notable that Neocron 2 had a much more "adult" edge to it than most MMOs, which most certainly is responsible for keeping it out of the mainstream.
Neither title really took off, so it's hard to say whether the expansion/sequel was superior or not. Reakktor Media's since moved most of its focus to Black Prophecy, but both games are still chugging along.
Is Final Fantasy XIV a sequel or not? Well, if it's part of a franchise, made by the same company, and has Roman numerals after its name, I'm inclined to think that it is. Eliot disagrees and has challenged me to a duel at sunrise with black powder pistols, so there's certainly room for disagreement, not to mention that I'll probably be dead by dawn tomorrow.
Semantics aside, FFXIV was one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2010 -- and one of the worst releases as well. Square-Enix got a rude awakening as it discovered that it couldn't just half-ass a game's features as long as it had pretty pictures, and critics and fans alike savaged the title without mercy. Since last September there's been a change of leadership, and the devs have been scrambling for months to bring FFXIV up to par. Hopefully it'll do the trick, but so far FFXIV is a faint shadow of Final Fantasy XI's former success.
Like many other Western gamers, I've never really understood the appeal of hardcore MMO grinders like Lineage II. I played this game for about 10 minutes back in beta, absorbing its two most relevant facts: This game featured armor designs that made the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue look chaste, and pretty much all it wanted me to do was smack monsters on the head over and over again in exchange for minuscule numerical increases.
Regardless of my feelings, Lineage II -- the 3-D sequel to Lineage -- became just as popular as the first game, and I was surprised to see that these two titles account for almost half of NCsoft's revenue. So where's Lineage 3, then?
Now here's a tale of woe and regret. Asheron's Call was one of the most beloved of the first generation of 3-D MMORPGs, and a sequel sort of made sense. I mean, look at the picture up there -- the game looked really, really good for 2002! I don't blame Turbine fans for being eager to see their favorite franchise expand with epic, ongoing story arcs.
Pretty graphics and a small yet faithful community aside, Asheron's Call 2 never pulled in the playerbase that the first did, and Turbine was forced to pull the plug after three years. Its closing in 2005 remains one of the watershed moments of MMO history, while classic Asheron's Call is still trucking along, another six years after that.
I've always thought that EverQuest Online Adventures was an MMO that I dreamed up, even though I've confirmed its actual existence on several post-nap occasions. You can't blame me -- it's not as though SOE's really stood behind this odd sequel/prequel/spin-off title. I get the impression the company is sort of embarrassed that it exists.
In any case, EQOA is one of the very few MMOs available for the PlayStation 2. It takes place 500 years before the events of EverQuest, when the character models were even more blocky and laggy.
Allegedly there are people still playing this, but have you ever met any of them? I think they're an urban legend, like Bigfoot and Polybius.
OK, yes, this one is also technically a prequel, but I never promised you a list of all sequels, did I? DO NOT SCROLL BACK UP, AS THAT WILL INVALIDATE THE QUESTION. Anyway, Vindictus is a spin-off of sorts from Maginobi. In fact, outside of North America and Europe it's known as Maginobi Heroes, but Nexon wanted to distance the bloodier hack-'n'-slash Vindictus with its cute-and-cuddly parent.
Still! Sequel! That's my story and I'm sticking to it!
Talk about confusing: The version of the game that RuneScape players enjoy today is actually a sequel (of sorts). The original RuneScape came out in 2001, but Jagex decided to completely retool the game to create a whole new version that was called -- in testing -- RuneScape 2. Once it walked through the doors of release, RuneScape 2 became RuneScape, RuneScape became RuneScape Classic, and RuneScape Classic became New Coke.
Many of these smaller 8-bit Asian MMOs are notorious for being churned out of the clone factory faster than most of us can hit level 10, so I guess it's no surprise that The Legend of Mir has not one but two operating sequels. Because... why not?
Also, did you think I was kidding about the 8-bit thing? Legend of Mir 2 actually has 8-bit graphics, although Legend of Mir 3 made the leap to 16-bit. Even so, don't let the archaic graphics fool you: These games host hordes of players that most of our AAA MMOs wish they had.
I'll be honest, it wasn't an easy task to get to 10 titles without having to fudge some of my self-made rules. As a result, there were quite a few on-the-fence MMOs that we debated back and forth in the Massively office that weren't exact fits... but they deserved a mention anyway.
We had Sword 2, which sounds like a sequel until you really look at it and realize it's just a retitled Sword of the New World. If we allowed MMO sequels to non-MMO titles, then Allods Online, World of Warcraft and Ultima Online get put into play. Then there are the stand-alone clients of City of Villains, Guild Wars: Factions, and Guild Wars: Nightfall, which aren't strictly sequels or expansions but aren't the original games either.
Give me another year or so and I think we won't have any problem getting this list up to 20. As for now, I'm going to go watch Troll 2, which neither is a sequel nor has trolls.
Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.