CrunchArcade: Get a Life… Online

This is the first installment of Peter Suciu’s CrunchArcade column in which he explores some of the latest and greatest in gaming software and gear.

There’s a whole world waiting for you online, actually several of them. And while Second Life might let you buy property online or start a virtual business, this just sounds like it will become another extension of the daily routine. For something truly different you can get a life… a life in an MMORPG of course. This doesn’t have to mean becoming a fat slob like the boys on South Park either. You still need to take care of yourself and know that it is only a game.

But if you’re looking for a bit of adventure, and want to be a knight, hero or even play it bad, there are plenty of opportunities online. Here’s a look at some of the newest arrivals, and latest updates for the virtual world traveler.
Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar
Midway Games
If you’ve already watched all 200+ hours of the films (or did it only feel that long), you don’t have to wait for Peter Jackson to settle his differences with NewLine Cinema and make “The Hobbit” for your life to continue. The journey of the one ring of powers continues.

Set during the time of chaos, it is the Third Age of Middle Earth and all is not well in the lands, which are intertwined in struggle as dark forces from the East are rebuilding their power. Sauron’s forces are on the move, and the War of the Ring is at its height. Times like this call for heroes, and this is your moment to shine.

OK, so you don’t get to be the ring bearer – this is an online game and 10,000+ people can’t all carry around the ring after all. And you probably won’t get to be the king who makes his return either, or even the most powerful wizard… but you will get to be part of the struggle in the epic battle of good vs. evil. You can forge your own fellowships, while this game takes advantage of some of the latest social networking advances so you can use integrated voice chat, and see your character’s in-game stats on updated Web pages.

World of Warcraft Newbie Bundle

Blizzard Entertainment

ESRB Rating: Teen

The reigning king of MMORPGs, and a game worthy enough to have that kick-ass parody episode on South Park shows no sign of giving up the goods any time soon. Of course if you missed out on what Cartman described as the worldwide phenomena, there is still hope. The recently released Newbie Bundle (we couldn’t make something like this up), will help get you started.

Complete with the Burning Crusade expansion the bundle features two new playable races, and a level cap increase to level 70. There are new starting zones, and an entire new continent to explore, as well as high-level dungeons filled with loot to plunder. The expansion even added the new Jewelcrafting profession.

The new continent of Outland features some PVP objectives and rewards, but you’re free to ignore these – but then you’re missing out on part of the fun. Many of the new dungeons are also designed for larger groups, so clans from five to 25 players can venture together without feeling like a small army is coming through, yet be playable when you can’t get 40 of your closest friends together for the nightly quest.

Thanks to regular updates, a vast amount of occupations to play, and a seemingly never-ending series of quests this remains the most polished of RPGs. At this rate we won’t have to see the end of the World (of Warcraft) any time soon.

City of Heroes Good Vs. Evil Edition

NC Soft

ESRB Rating: Teen (Suggestive Themes, Violence)

Super hero? Super villain? Choices, choices, choices. City of Heroes lets players craft characters with super powers, and sends them on missions in the crime plagued mean streets of Paragon City, while the City of Villains expansion introduced the ability to play as a criminal mastermind. The popularity of Heroes on NBC has also sparked renewed interest in this super hero themed game – and you don’t have to wait too long to see players clearly referencing the show.

The Good Vs. Evil edition includes both the massive world environments of Paragon City and Rogue Isles, along with exclusive in-game bonus items including new hero and villain costumes. The DVD offers bonuses including a digital comic good, the Issue 7 Strategy7 Guide, game trailers and screenshots.

This version includes the Issue 7: Destiny Manifest update, which adds new player-versus-player zones, and new villain Mayhem Missions, because sometimes it is oh so good to play it bad.

Star Wars: Galaxies The Complete Online Adventures

Lucasarts Entertainment/Sony Online

ESRB Rating: Teen
What could have been the greatest geek-happy RPG ever hit a few hiccups in hyperspace. The changes to the gameplay (which made it easier to play as a Jedi) caused some of the die-hard players to leave the galaxy far, far away. But despite the problems Star Wars Galaxies is still going, and the war between the light and dark side of the force seems to have a bit more left.

This new package includes all the Star Wars Galaxies games in one box including An Empire Divided, Jump to Lightspeed, Rage of the Wookies and Trials of Obi-Wan, along with chapter updates, and bonus material including a demo of last year’s real-time strategy game Star Wars: Empire at War.

If you’re a diehard Star Wars fan and want to be a bounty hunter or Jedi there’s no time like the present. Just remember EVERYONE wants to be a bounty hunter or Jedi!

EverQuest: Anniversary Edition

Sony Online Entertainment

ESRB Rating: Teen

Like a drug addiction, will EverQuest ever really go away? Even as World of Warcraft and other games draw away players, the game once known as EverCrack still happily maintains its share of hardcore users players.

The new Anniversary Edition will let you fall of the wagon with new features from The Buried Sea expansion, which includes 60 new missions through more then 375 zones, including an alternate plane of existence. The EverQuest universe now includes 16 unique races with 16 classes, and more than 50,000 items to earn and collect.

While the game is starting to show its age, a bit there is still plenty to see and do, and if you’re returning after a long break you might not even recognize the place!

Upcoming Games:

The success of the MMORPG genre has ensured that there will always be yet more worlds to discuss. If you’re looking to beat the heat online this summer, there are a couple of upcoming role-playing games that are worth a look as well.

Two Worlds

Release date: June 26


Rating Pending

This first MMORPG to allow play on both the PC and Xbox 360 will feature a full single-player campaign, as well an online multiplayer mode.

The time is the mythical dark ages, as the single player campaign sends you on a desperate journey to save your sister, but to do so will require that you open the tomb of Aziraal, the ancient god of war. And you’ll charged with a great task – saving your sister, but making sure that the powers of Aziraal don’t end up in the wrong hands. To do this you’ll have make (and even break) a few uneasy alliances along the way.

Each action you make will have lasting consequences, both in the single-player campaign, and the online massively multiplayer modes. After completing the full story, and side adventures, you can continue in the online world, where your reputation is further affected by each of the good deeds and ruthless decisions you make on your journey. There are always choices to be made, and in Two Worlds you just need to try and make the right ones to get ahead.

Gods and Heroes Rome Rising

Release date: August 1

Sony Online Entertainment

Rating Pending

Set in the classical age, the look of this upcoming game is more reminiscent of the movies featuring the special effects of Ray Harryhausen than HBO’s ROME, and that’s actually a compliment. Which would you rather play – one of backstabbing politicians and endless talking, or mythological monsters and endless quests!

As a human you’ll start out as mere pawn in the war of gods, and it is up to you to attain your place as a hero among mere mortals. You’ll start small… actually in the gladiator pit is how this one is likely to begin, and you’ll have to prove that you are in fact descended from one of the 12 Roman gods. After this minor task, you’ll be granted unique powers and can start building an army of minions to do the fighting for you. Of course you should remember two things. First, thou are not a god but merely descended from one, and second, you won’t be the only one fighting for the glory that was Rome!