Copernicus MMO Gets One Thing Very Right

38 Studios has had a rough month. Since moving to Rhode Island after being given a gracious sum of money from the state, the game development company has continued work on Project Copernicus which was first revealed at Comic-Con 2007 and released the successful Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Reckoning did very well for itself, which came out at the #4 position for February’s greatest sellers. The game featured a highly stylized fantasy world, emphasis on fate, and a wonderful story that players could mold through their adventures.

While this World Fly-Through for Copernicus didn’t show us anything for character models, combat, or story it does confirm that the world will be strikingly similar to Reckoning. This is great to see as many times we’ve seen series translate to MMO’s and lose some “brand flavor” in the way of design, sound, and graphics. 38 Studios is seemingly brings the experience that we’ve already invested into to an online audience. If they succeed in moving over the other aspects of Reckoning, then it makes me question why other MMO transformations sacrificed so much to move into the genre.

Take the Elder Scrolls MMO as an example. This upcoming game looks nothing like the rest of the series nor plays like it. It is basically just an online game featured in Tamriel. That’s great and all but what is terribly wrong with the series’ current and proven formula of play? The Elder Scrolls series has been very successful in mashing up first and third person gameplay that allows players to choose their preferred style. Skyrim has only helped to gain another step towards perfecting this kind of gameplay switch thanks to much better strafing and third person movement and animations. I’m baffled as to why this MMO will take such a huge leave from the comfort of what made these games so great to play. In essence of what we’ve seen so far, The Elder Scrolls Online looks like a “high style” World of Warcraft.

If you’ve been on the site long enough you have no doubt seen my past MMO articles including reviews and previews. I call for a personal need of change in MMOs. The tradtional style of tab targeting combat, exclamation-hovering NPC story telling, and bland leveling experiences are beyond me now. I’ve moved on to hopefully greener pastures and to support a change — an evolution, if you will — for this genre. Games like TERA Online, Guild Wars 2, and The Secret World are doing their fair share of evolving. While two of those feature tab tagreting combat, the other features you find in those games go a long way in making you feel like you are playing something different. Be it menu style, weapon types, movement focus, or quest/leveling design Guild Wars 2 and The Secret War give me an ounce of hope for the traditional MMO. With Game Informer’s info about The Elder Scrolls Online firmly in check, I don’t see a drastic change from the tried-and-true traditional outlook on MMOs and that scares me away from the project.

What does this have to do with Copernicus? A couple things, actually. I mentioned how the World Fly-Through video (seen below) brings back memories of playing Reckoning. I have hope that Copernicus will be the truest transition to MMOs. You could argue, however, that it was built to be this way. 38 Studios began work on Copernicus first but elected to delay the project thanks to a prequel game. This game, Reckoning, was set to bring us into the world and introduce us to key characters, factions, and areas. Seeing the world footage today makes me think that 38 is on the right path here. Even if this was meant to be done this way – prequel then MMO – it is a great project to see some to fruition.

How does the gameplay argument factor in? If Reckoning is the precursor we were meant to think it was, then Copernicus should feature the same visceral combat. Can you imagine an MMO with that kind of freeform combat? As an avid MMO player, I can’t wait to see how the healing gameplay would be like. Aside from that, given all that we have seen from Reckoning, I can’t imagine us getting something that most would deem a “WoW clone”. I imagine something along the lines of TERA meets Reckoning and that excites me.

I hope 38 Studios see their issues come and go. It is sad to see a studio put so much faith into a product just to hear about possible closings or staff problems. Project Copernicus is looking cool so far, albeit still very mysterious. I can’t wait to hear more about the MMO and hearing more of that music.