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Coming Soon to the World MMOGs

Wednesday, May 10, 2006, 10:54AM EST

With more than six million subscribers, Blizzard's World of WarCraft may well be hotter than a microwaved burrito on the sun. The temperature is rising, too. At this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, Blizzard is showing off The Burning Crusade, the game's first-ever expansion pack.

Crusade will raise WarCraft's level cap from 60 to 70, and give players access to new worlds, including the Outlands, which were seen in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, and Quel'Thalas, where the Blood Elves live. The Blood Elves, who are adept at using magic, will become one of the expansion's two new playable races, with the second still a closely guarded secret not revealed as of press time (a second race, The Wisps, turned out to be an April Fool's prank done up by the game's makers). Play here will also be fleshed out with new dungeons and battlegrounds, with players able to participate in previously fought conflicts through the Caverns of Time.

Players can also expect flying mounts in the Outlands, undertake the entirely new profession of jewelcraft, and will have access to plenty of new quests and items. Some of the new items in Crusade will also be socketed, allowing for customization and upgrade.

Perhaps the most anticipated all-new online game is Sigil and Microsoft's Vanguard: Saga of Heroes for PC. The game is being made by ex-EverQuest and EverQuest 2 developers, and has been touted as the spiritual successor to those titles.

With Vanguard, players will be able to own both houses and mounts to carry them where they want to go. They'll have access to a host of races including, among others, four varieties of humans, goblins, fox- and cat-people, half-giants, and gnomes. Characters can also opt to become fighters, healers, or magic users, with each archetype having several options such as paladin and dread knight within the fighter class. The game also holds different professions, with players able to become harvesters and craftmakers, with players able to become both, say, warriors and carpenters.

Perpetual Entertainment and Sony Online's new Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising for PC takes online games in a more mythological direction. Here, players adventure in ancient Rome, trying to expand the empire and curry favor from the gods. Players can opt to worship one of the 12 Roman deities, from Jupiter to Pluto, and may be granted special powers and abilities for their servitude.

Squad-based combat means a hero can form his own adventuring and battle party with nonplayer characters. In addition to the standard complement of warriors, archers, healers, and the like, mythological creatures such as minotaurs can be enlisted into the fight.

Huxley, a PC title from Webzen, also stretches the online game genre. The developers are calling it the world's first MMOFPS-massively multiplayer online first-person shooter.

The game takes place in a postapocalyptic future with three warring races. In addition to player-versus-player brawls, the game will also hold cooperative quests, special trading areas where goods can be exchanged, and a wealth of powerful weapons to upgrade a warrior. Huxley employs the Unreal 3 graphics engine, and may prove to be one of the prettiest online titles out there.

Huxley will have competition from NCsoft's Tabula Rasa, which similarly blends first-person shooting action with a massively multiplayer online world. In Rasa, the Earth has been wrecked and players take the role of a rebel out to foil the plans of an evil race. Gameplay takes place in outer space, with players having access to teleportation sites so as to get around quickly. Characters can tap into strange alien powers to perform superhuman feats, and NCsoft promises that their handlers won't have to make new characters to check out Rasa's different paths. When it comes time to make a crucial decision, a template of a character can be saved and restored at a later date.

Ancient Chinese heroes take their turn in the sun as Koei plans to release an online version of its popular console brawler Dynasty Warriors. For its part, Koei has dubbed Dynasty Warriors BB-the working title for the project-"the world's first MMO action game."

Warriors can be wholly customized, right down to their weapons, attack sequences, and the subofficers who serve them in battle. Upon their entrance into BB's world, players will be issued a home in which they can store their weapons and other items. From there, the game offers quick, action-heavy battles in which combatants can utilize special, multihit "Musou" attacks.

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