Over a week ago, Massively Overpowered posed a question on its regular Daily Grind column asking readers a nice thing that could be said about an MMO game they didn’t like. I definitely chimed in on this once, since my useless mutant superpower is finding something to like in games I hate, but the more I pondered the question the more I came up with multiple answers.
So, why not take that bit of random inspiration and run with it? Here’s a small list of MMO and multiplayer titles I’m no fan of yet can admit that they do something really well.
LOTRO: It Nails the Middle-earth Aesthetic
I can’t say that I dislike Lord of the Rings Online so much as I don’t appreciate it nearly as much as others do. It’s definitely showing its age, but it also bears that age super gracefully, and by and large I can see why it has so many fans.
A lot of its charm seems to be associated with just how right the game’s rendition of Middle-earth feels. Everything about the game’s world is the most fully realized this series of books has ever been, whether its the marquee locales like Weathertop or all of the random empty space in between said landmarks.
That aesthetic stretches into its overall presentation and gameplay, too. The classes all make sense even though they’re MMORPG-ified, the music is suitable, and even the UI seems to enhance the overall vibe. This really is the best online version of Middle-earth.
EVE Online: Sandbox Par Excellence
As terrifying as the exploits of its players can most certainly be, I draw a lot of mental and written comparisons to EVE Online and other sandbox MMOs for a very good reason: this one continues to do sandbox gaming right the most often.
EVE has a hands-on enough approach to try and wean new arrivals into things, yet it’s also hands-off enough to let the single shard of players figure out their own territories, factions and economy. For the most part, getting into those gameplay beats is…well, I can’t say it’s easy, exactly, but it certainly seems doable. Really, it takes the training wheels off at what’s probably just about the right time.
I mean, I’m still never playing it again because I don’t know anyone in there and being a lone wolf is tantamount to a death sentence. Even so, it still remains the watermark for sandbox MMO gaming for me.
Champions Online: Top-Notch Custom Class Building
No matter how much I wonder why this game survives and City of Heroes got the axe, one thing I’ll always admire about Champions Online is its Freeform class, which is the “build your own hero” option for those who buy in to the game’s subscription program.
Now, as much as I adore City of Heroes and its customization options, you still were pretty much shoehorned into archetypal build choices. Sure, you could style those powers quite a bit, but you ultimately were only getting specific powers at X level. With Champions Online’s Freeform choice, you have this wealth of various abilities, powers, weapon types and skills to draw from. Best of all, each of these choices all seemed to mechanically fit together without practically any problem.
It really feels like I could conceivably make any weird super I wanted. If one of the CoX legacy project MMOs can nail that same customization feeling with their powers, then I don’t know I’ll ever play another game.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Amazing Sidequesting
To get the bad out of the way first: the classes in ESO are probably some of the most yawn-inducing choices I’ve ever experienced in any MMO ever. In spite of that, however, I’ve got to say that The Elder Scrolls Online’s sidequest gameplay is top tier. In fact it’s so good, I can ignore the hum-drum classes.
Every time I’ve dipped my toes back into this game, I always eschew the main story of whatever area I’m in and just explore. Not only am I rewarded for doing that with neat views, but I’m also given things to do in terms of questing. What’s more, these quest lines are all really well written and thought out.
Imagine if you could log in to an MMO and just experience a bunch of little D&D one-shot adventures or brief stories. That’s kind of what ESO’s sidequesting feels like to me. It’s really, really good.
Overwatch: A Great Esport
I love watching esports (with the exception of most MOBAs), and one of my all-time favorites from a spectator’s perspective is Overwatch.
Now I’m sure the point of esports overall is to try to get people to buy the game and join in on the fun. I’ve tried as much with Overwatch on a couple of occasions, but my personal terror of PvP and inability to cope with the heat of competition always sees me bounce off. Still, I get to live vicariously through Overwatch’s amazing esports scene and that’s pretty damn good.
What’s better still is that the esports broadcasts of Overwatch generally don’t force one to have intimate knowledge of the game. A lot of esports events seem to play to an extremely friendly and familiar audience, but Overwatch’s broadcasts tend to speak to as many people as possible without insulting one’s gaming intelligence.
Also, watching people excel at this game really is a sight to behold. Like, holy crap.
WoW: It Makes My Friends Happy
Try as I might, World of Warcraft just fails to enchant me. At this point, I’m convinced that it’s a failing on my part; like there’s some genetic predisposition to not finding the delight that others in my sphere do with this game.
Still, the fact that it delights so many of my friends is a pretty damn good consolation prize. Would I like to play a game with all of my friends regularly? Sure. However, taste being so subjective, that’s pretty hard to pull off so I’ll just resign myself to the fact that it’s not for me and instead be happy that it makes friends happy.
Seriously, it’s awesome that so many people I know have such a connection to the game and its community. That’s the best part of online gaming overall, for all of its other failings.
So, good on ya, World of Warcraft. Keep making my friends feel good. Or try harder to, depending on one’s opinion.