MMORPGs: A Look Back at 2009 - Champions Online, Fallen Earth, Aion, Cities XL

MMORPGs: A Look Back at 2009 - Champions Online, Fallen Earth, Aion, Cities XL
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A Continued Look at 2009’s MMO History

A year full of layoffs, closures, and over a dozen new MMO releases meant that while 2009 was a tough year for the industry, players still saw a great deal of new content. Here’s a continued look at the MMO industry’s hottest news of 2009.

Champions Online

Cryptic left City of Heroes to NCSoft, and moved on to make a new superhero themed MMO: Champions Online. Based on the Champions roleplaying IP, Champions Online was announced in early 2008 and saw its launch on September 1st, after a launch date delay (originally slated for July 14th.) Many felt the game’s production was rushed and unpolished, but what was more controversial was that Champions Online was not only a subscription based game, but also offered microtransactions including a full-respec for $12.50.

Fallen Earth

A mature hybrid of RPG and FPS elemeFallen Earthnts, Fallen Earth was one of the independent MMOs to “make the scene” this year. Released in late September via digital download, Fallen Earth aimed to provide a first-person version of an apocalyptic state, set in the Grand Canyon. The game features many complex systems, including crafting that takes place over real time, and does not have a fixed class system.

Fallen Earth was received with general praise from the MMO community and has received several regular updates over its lifespan so far.


AionAnother MMORPG to see a launch in September, Aion is a localized version of the Korean game, Aion: Tower of Eternity. Highly praised for its beautiful graphics, Aion serves a unique place in the market as a PvPvE game - that is, a game of two player factions and one enemy faction, pit against each other in PvP combat zones across the world.

With a rich RPG story and setting, Aion was one of the most highly anticipated releases in 2009, and met a great deal of praise. Its first month of launch was riddled with server issues as NCSoft struggled to keep a faction balance across all its servers. Critics have also railed against the game for not having enough content, being too reliant on PvP, and not having enough quests, resulting in necessary grind.

Cities XL

Cities XLReleased in early October, Cities XL is a city-building simulation game that offers both a single-player game and a multiplayer-online subscription-based game. Published by Monte Cristo, the game allows players to build up to five cities however they like, including historical and famous architecture, and trade with other players across the world, encouraging multiplayer communication.

Cities XL is a continuation of the development of City Life. Like Darkfall Online, Cities XL has met with mixed reviews, but with less controversy.


Although not yet an MMO, Torchlight deserves a mention in this list. Developed by Runic Games - a small independent studio created by the fallout of Flagship Studios. A single-player RPG, Torchlight is highly reminiscent of the Diablo series and, as some critics lauded it, fixed all the things that annoyed players about Diablo while retaining the joy of randomized dungeons and gear grinding. Torchlight has received immense praise from the gaming community.

Torchlight was released in October via digital download. An MMORPG version is planned for a release in approximately two years, which will share many of the same elements of Torchlight while remaining an independent game.


AlganonReleased on December 1st by Quest Online, Alganon - originally known as Crusade - was released. A subscription based MMORPG, many have criticized Alganon for being a “WoW clone.” It features an offline study system that allows players gated progress through timed studies. Many features, such as additional races and classes, were eliminated from the initial release of the game.

Before the year end, a limitless free trial was introduced.

Dungeon Runners

A Diablo-style MMO, Dungeon Runners was under the banner of NCSoft from its launch in May 2007. The game had a heavy sense of humor, and took a satirical approach to its own genre, with lots of tongue-in-cheek jokes and adult humor.

Unfortunately, staff cuts at NCSoft resulted in Dungeon Runners’ team being cut down to three members, and the developers were forced to admit that the game was simply not profitable, and must see a shut down on January 1, 2010. Refunds were offered to all subscribers, as well as game packs from NCSoft that included the City of Heroes Architect Edition and Guild Wars Prophecies.

Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood

Siege of MirkwoodLaunched on December 1st, Siege of Mirkwood is Lord of the Rings Online’s third expansion. The expansion opened a new zone - Mirkwood - which contained a new raid, as well as a host of quests, instances, and content for all types of players. The expansion also added a new feature, skirmishes, which allow players to do small instanced encounters from anywhere in the world, earning special rewards and controlling their own soldier that joins them in combat.

The expansion also revamped several systems, from the Legendary Item system, to crafting, mounts, combat, statistics, and UI.

This post is part of the series: MMOs: Looking Back at 2009 and ahead to 2010

2009 was a turbulent year for the MMO industry. This series takes a look at the highlights of 2009, as well as the most anticipated releases of 2010.

  1. MMORPGs: A Look Back at 2009, Part 1
  2. MMORPGs: A Look Back at 2009, Part 2
  3. Most Anticipated MMOs of 2010