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The Firing Line: What ever happened to that game?

Jef Reahard

Online shooters are a dime a dozen these days. Heck, so are MMOs. I can't get up from my computer chair for five minutes without missing some sort of PR blast about the latest, greatest gift to gamingkind.

It's easy to lose track of all these titles, and it's even easier when some of said titles are fairly niche to begin with. In this week's edition of The Firing Line, I'm going to figure out something to write about until I get into the PlanetSide 2 beta. Er, I mean, I'm going to do a little detective work in an attempt to figure out what happened to a few of the MMO shooters that have dropped off my radar.

Taikodom - a red spaceship

How does a twitch-based EVE Online grab you? It sounded pretty cool to me too, at least back in 2010 when there was still some talk about this Brazilian import floating around the intarwebs. While I've long been a fan of EVE's market gameplay and general sandboxiness, the combat puts me to sleep in that auto-attack way that only MMORPGs are (in)famous for.

There's more to EVE's combat than orbiting and shooting, of course, and I'm not knocking the knowledge and preparation that goes into a successful fleet engagement. The actual starship on starship violence is quite boring, though, and Taikodom looked to remedy that by marrying twitchy flight action with something called a "living universe."

Hoplon Infotainment
released the game to South American audiences in 2008, and GamersFirst snapped up the North American rights and presumably has been working on various localization tasks in the interim. We heard some beta rumors late in 2010, but since then, Taikodom development seems to have stalled. GamersFirst does allow you to sign up for the beta, but it appears to do nothing more than put your name on a mailing list at this point.

Tribes Universe logo
Tribes Universe

The general gaming blogosphere finally took note of Tribes Universe's hiatus a couple of weeks ago as websites far and wide reported on Hi-Rez's decision to shelve the MMOFPS in favor of the smaller-scale Tribes: Ascend.

Regular readers of The Firing Line knew this a long time ago, though, as I visited the Hi-Rez campus in early November and asked COO Todd Harris about that very thing. Honestly, the more I think about the postponing of Tribes Universe, the more I think it's probably best for the franchise. Ascend's closed beta has been pretty well-received by both veterans and rookies alike, and frankly there is no shortage of sprawling MMOFPS titles coming out in the next year or so.

Even with the venerable Tribes IP as its secret weapon, I'm not sure Universe could compete with the likes of PlanetSide 2. If Ascend is successful, I'd love to see Hi-Rez expand the concept into a larger open-world game, but right now there's only so much time in the day, and games like Firefall and DUST 514 will also be competing for the affections of sci-fi shooter fans who like a little sandbox with their gunplay.

Repulse - gameplay screenshot
Genesis A.D., er, I mean Repulse

Ijji shut down the Genesis A.D. game servers after the open beta period ended last spring, and that was seemingly that for the next few months. Aeria Games eventually acquired the title toward the end of 2011, and the firm subsequently changed the name to Repulse, released a cinematic trailer, and set about reintroducing the free-to-play sci-fi shooter to the masses.

Incidentally, Aeria also acquired Ijji itself recently, and if you have questions about Repulse (like, say, how does it get away with using Halo's armor designs?), you can probably find at least a few of the answers at the game's official website. At the very least, you can sign up and download the beta client to check the game out for yourself.

Face of Mankind - gameplay screenshot
Face of Mankind

This was kind of a late entry to this week's column, and I briefly debated including it since Nexeon refers to Face of Mankind as an MMORPG and not necessarily a shooter. The combat mechanics are shooter-like, though, and frankly I can't pass up the opportunity to mention one of the few MMOs that places a premium on actual dynamic content (I say actual both in reference to FoM's player-generated content and what passes for "dynamic" content in RIFT and its ilk).

FoM has a long and checkered history, but it's survived a couple of rough patches and continues to draw a niche crowd of gamers who are attracted to its unique blend of player politics, factional gameplay, and sandbox content.

Face of Mankind is also receiving regular content updates, with the latest featuring a new finite resource system and a new civilian faction.

Battleground Europe - paratrooper gameplay
Battleground Europe

This may seem like the odd man out in terms of the games I'm mentioning this week, and in many ways I suppose it is. It's not sci-fi, for one thing. It's ancient, for another (2001 might as well be 1901 when it comes to PC gaming).

The game formerly known as World War II Online is still alive and kicking, though, and that's no small feat for a niche title that takes great pains in being as close as we're ever likely to get to an actual computer combat sim. Not only that, but it's very nearly three games in one. There's the footsoldier component, the tank driver component, and the aviation component, any one of which offers a depth of gameplay not often found in the shooter space (or the MMORPG space, for that matter).

Battleground Europe
also receives fairly regular updates, the latest of which added American forces to the game. Cornered Rat Software is also brewing up a feature called Rapid Assault, which will enable players to log in to a quick slice of WWII action if they lack the time for an extended play session in the persistent world portion of the game.

And that's all I've got for you this week. If you're in between online shooters, or you've never tried Repulse, Face of Mankind, or Battleground: Europe, give one or all of 'em a quick look. At the very least you may find something interesting to tide you over until your PS2 beta invite gets here, amirite?

The Firing Line's Jef Reahard has a twitchy trigger finger, a love of online shooters, and an uncanny resemblance to Malcolm Reynolds. OK, maybe not, but at least if he ever kills you, you'll be awake, you'll be facing him, and you'll be armed.

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