There were quite a few games released last month. Some I have already talked about. Hellgate is a typical diablo clone although set in a different type of world. You do quests, kill stuff, and gather loot. The online component is fun when played with friends but really doesn't add much to the game overall. I think it makes for an amusing diversion from time to time but by far lacks the depth required for me to pay a monthly subscription fee.
Tabula Rasa was released though relatively few people took any interest. There have been indications that most people involved in the beta did not purchase the game or subscribe to it. There has been an interview with Richard Garriott floating around recently where he notes the fact that they have had to take extraordinary steps to try to convince former beta testers to come back and try the game again. In his opinion the game wasn't 'fun enough' in the last two months when many testers were brought on but, in his opinion, things are better now. In my opinion, which seems to be shared by many of the people who post about the game, Tabula Rasa was fun about 4-6 months prior to release and it was only the slew of ill considered changes thrown in at the end of beta that ruined it. Either way the popular opinion is it is a reasonably fun game until the newness wears off. After that it feels far too repetitive and 'grindy' to be enjoyable. It is widely being lumped in with Korean developed games which, by American standards, are long on tedium and short on content.
The Witcher turned out to be an excellent RPG. One which I think every enthusiast of the genre will enjoy. The story is engaging, the scenery is gorgeous, and although you are somewhat restricted in where you can travel, the game allows the player enough freedom to feel that they are making their own way through the world. It is clear that as the game progresses the player will make many decisions which will have at least a subtle effect on the way the story develops. I think it may well be worth a second play through just to see how much difference those choices make. For some combat will feel a bit awkward or perhaps too simplified but I found that once I got used to it combat flowed very well. The pace was fast enough to be interesting but not frenetic. Simple enough to be easily grasped but still retained enough depth to make you think about how you approached a fight from time to time.
Gears of War for the PC has been released though I have played very little of it. I did play enough to discover that combat in the game revolves around finding and using cover in order to survive. I don't think the translation from consoles to PC was done very well. The controls feel awkward for a PC game and doesn't have the familiar feel of other FPS style games.
Assassin's Creed and Mass Effect were both released as scheduled. I still haven't broken down and gotten a 360 yet so I haven't played either but both have gotten good reviews. Assassin's Creed has received some criticism for being a little too repetitive. It appears many of the tasks are too transparently the same so you feel as if you are repeating the same actions over and over again. the second criticism is that the fun parts are separated by lengthy periods of rather boring bits. These include long winded, unskippable, monologue's given by the people you assassinate before and after you kill them.
Warhammer beta should be starting up again sometime soon. During the downtime a number of announcements were made public. The first is that there will be at least two server types for the game. One which has limited PvP in which outside of the RvR regions enemy players are legal targets for attack but may not initiate an attack themselves. This appears to be a ruleset identical to WoW's pvp servers. Players are safe from attack in areas controlled by their factions and open to attack in areas that are contested. The second server type allows players to attack each other everywhere in the game except for the initial starting areas which will remain safe from pvp.
Once the beta reopens the final racial pairing will be available: High Elves and Dark Elves. In addition to the new race there will be some new enhancements. Players will have more options that will let them customize their character's skills and abilities. There will be a trophy system that lets you place honors you have received in very visible locations on your character to show off your accomplishments and player's will be able to dye their armor.
Lately I have found myself playing World of Warcraft again. This time on a pvp server just to see what it's like. I've nearly reached 60 and the experience has just about cemented my opinion of both pvp servers and players. I have never seen a more immature, shit talking, pre-pubescent group of players than those I have encountered on Mal'Ganis. I doubt that the majority of player's would fall into that category, but the few that are most vocal, most visible, are all miserable excuses for human beings. They are petty, crude, and, in the literal sense, quite ignorant. In general they are the worst sort of over-privileged, loud-mouthed, half-wits that you could possibly imagine being scraped up from the bottom of the gene pool. I had thought that the players whose posts I read on the public forums or overheard in general chat on other servers were as low as humanity could go but the PvP community appears to have some very 'special' members whose social inadequacies far exceed anything I have encountered elsewhere.
I have found that in general the ganking and abuse I was concerned about is not all that prevalent. In the entire time I have played I have been attacked perhaps 10 times and nearly half of those I was able to either kill the attacker or escape. Still, I have witnessed level 70's tricking level 10's into flagging for pvp in safe zones by exploiting game mechanics, killing flight masters or quest givers for no reason other than to grief the other side, and on occasion, abusively corpse camping people half their level or less just for the fun of it. I have also seen that contrary to popular opinion or the company line, higher level players have no concern for any of this. No one will come to rescue the newbs from the gankers. If the Tarren Mill flightmaster is being camped by a handful of 70's, players who could drive them off couldn't care less. They prefer to sit outside Orgrimmar dueling or chatting in general while they wait for their next BG or Arena queue to come up. This experience more than anything else has utterly convinced me not to play on WAR's full pvp server and instead create my eventual characters on the restricted server. PvP seems to inevitably attract the most childish of players, those particularly inclined to engage in the most base behaviors of both speech and act. I wouldn't go so far as to say these types of people would ruin the game or the server they play on, they are far too few in number for that. As an analogy I would compare it to someone tossing a few dead bugs onto your pizza. There aren't many of them and there is an awful lot of pizza but, given an alternative, I would prefer to have my pizza without bugs thank you.
There aren't any new games lined up for December or January so it could turn into quite the dry spell. Still there are plenty of games from November I haven't really gotten to play much of yet and others I will want to return to and try a little bit more. Maybe I'll even finally give in and buy myself a 360 or Wii if the WAR beta isn't good enough to hold my interest.
To get an idea of what MMO's are coming in the future here's what I have on my radar:
Pirates of the Burning Sea in Late January/Early February
Age of Conan: March/April
Warhammer Online: April-June
Chronicles of Spellborn: 2008
In addition there are a bunch of unnamed MMO's being developed by various studios that wont be out for years yet.
Bioware: Rumored to be a star wars themed MMO possibly similar to Kinghts of the Old republic
Blizzard: A new, non-warcraft MMO.
Interplay: Fallout MMO
Cryptic: Looks like Indiana Jones meets HP Lovecraft
Sqaure Enix: A new non-final fantasy MMO
38 Studios: Unknown MMO (division of NCSoft)
THQ: Warhammer 40k MMO
Zenimax: Unknown MMO
Bethesda: recently received significant funding for MMO development
John Romero/Sigil Works: Unknown MMO