As I’ve written here, MMORPGs are among my favorite genres of gaming. Today is a good moment to talk about the four MMORPGs I’ve played in the last one-and-a-half years and which elements I’d take from each. Next week I’ll follow-up with a second part featuring what I think has changed the genre since I began playing the games in 2005.
I’m not an expert by any means and don’t have any experience with the big pioneers such as Everquest or Dark Age of Camelot. I joined the genre with the excellent vanilla version of World of Warcraft (WoW).
WoW was and still is a fantastic game. Its fighting system is extremely fluid, the amount of customization is great and its lore is based on the excellent series of strategy games that came before it. The game was able to captivate many of my friends and myself, especially in those early days where teamwork was required to achieve certain goals. The expansions have been very up-and-down in my experience. Without a connection to the lore of Warcraft 1&2, Burning Crusade didn’t have much of an impact on me and I stopped playing the game. The return of Arthas, whose story remains the crown jewel in the World of Warcraft universe, in Wrath of the Lich King was captivating. Cataclysm was a lot of fun with the revamped leveling experience, while the endgame content was very disappointing to me. After another prolonged break, I returned with Mists of Pandaria to find a beautiful landscape and areas. The story has picked up a notch, putting the “war” in Warcraft center stage and so far it has paid off.
The lore keeps pulling me back as Blizzard’s creative team have done a fantastic job in keeping me interested in many key characters first encountered years ago. And Blizzard has done a fantastic job of incorporating new features and systems to engage players. Daily quest, raids, PVP, achievement hunting or even a Pokemon-style pet battle system provide a great deal of variety.
Because the game provides so many means of doing things, the sense of community has been eroded and an extreme sense of entitlement has taken hold of what seems like a large number of players.
Another big MMORPG I play from time to time is Guild Wars 2 (GW2), which unlike WoW requires no monthly fee. The event system in GW2 is fantastic. It keeps players involved and always looking around the map what is going on. Additionally, it promotes communication and anyone can join in. Combined with the level scaling, they make the game feel very dynamic. Another gem is the easy-to-learn fighting system that promotes constant movement highlighted by smooth animations.
Unfortunately, my connection to the story is non-existent. I never felt ArenaNet managed to make me care much about the dragons attacking the world. The lack of different factions started to bother me more than I initially thought as having conflict against other players has always been very enjoyable. On the other hand, the feature to fight massive battles against other realms would be great if my PC wouldn’t start to lag immediately.
In the Free-to-Play world, I’ve played two big titles with massive IPs throwing their weight behind them: Star Wars: the Old Republic (SWTOR) and Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO). I loved SWTOR at the beginning as it captures the feeling of being a Jedi perfectly. It’s use of cut scenes with terrific acting to advance the personal story promotes total immersion in the game. Playing as a Jedi made me feel like I had found the perfect class. No other class in any game has come close to the feeling. Unfortunately, the lack of endgame content and clear vision kept it from becoming a major threat to the MMO throne. The clunky ability system and many unresolved bugs made the game feel far less polished than its competitors. I would love to give the game another chance now.
LotRO captures the atmosphere of Middle-Earth appropriately, but the starting levels feel dated by now. Since I didn’t know anybody playing the free game, I never managed to muster enough motivation to level up my character to endgame heights. But the level of detail and the atmosphere was great. I also enjoyed its system of earning points to spend just by playing, giving non-paying players an opportunity to progress.
To summarize how my ideal MMORPG would look like: I’d love to see a game with the polish and size of WoW, the fighting and event system of GW2, the class and story of SWTOR and the atmosphere of LotRO.
There are a few MMOs I’m looking forward to, especially Elder Scrolls Online, which hopefully will follow in the footsteps of the excellent single player games Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim.
Which MMOs do you play? How would your perfect game look like? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter! Please also like, share and subscribe.
Next week, I’ll focused more on the general changes I’ve noticed in games and what I think about them. On Friday, chapter 15 of “An Elusive Hero” will be published.