What's the best PC MMO? From Runescape, through to World of Warcraft, to more complicated fare like Eve Online - there's something for everyone within this huge, all-encompassing genre. Pick right and you could be in for hundreds of hours of fun, with daylight becoming something you only vaguely remember.
Here’s our list of the 10 best MMO games on the PC, kicking off with a few of the top free PC MMOs (with clickable affiliate links) and building up to the mighty World of Warcraft on the second page.
Rift is way more than the World of Warcraft clone it was originally pegged as. It’s responsible for really showing the strength of dynamic content and events over quest chains. Spontaneous events such as the aptly named ‘Rifts’ see large groups of players band together to bring down threats. Supplementing your usual quests and raids, these public events make Rift feel like it’s constantly being refreshed.
It wasn’t just these dynamic battles that headed Rift’s success. Rift’s class system deserves praise. The ‘soul’ system lets players choose whether to specialise into one specific role or to branch out into multiple roles. To help with this level of customization, you can save up to twenty soul configurations which can be switched on the fly.
Rift relaunched in June 2013, adopting a free-to-play model that is quietly exceptional. Unlike most MMO games, the Rift team really do believe that playing fair and letting free players enjoy their game without harsh penalties.
Guild Wars 2
Where World of Warcraft is as traditional an MMO as they come, Guild Wars 2 is the weird, contrarian opposite. Its design can be seen as an attempt to fix and improve on every broken mechanic that online games persist in pursuing.
It has no quests: instead players gang together to fight in rolling ‘events’ - mini storylines that playout in stages depending on how gamers perform. It has no raids: its endgame is more about exploring the world or levelling alternative characters. It is heavily PvP focused: it is trying desperately to create an eSport with in-game tournaments and a spectator mode.
And the wonderful thing is Guild Wars 2 has gone free to play, so you can play a massive chunk of the game without paying a penny...
Star Wars: The Old Republic
The Old Republic is probably the most controversial choice on this list. At launch, it was, at best, a mess. Ambitious: essentially piling three or four traditional MMOs worth of story and scope into one fully voiced MMO, with all the distractions and baggage that MMOs suffer from. It is a Bioware game through and through: with engaging storylines, companions, a full voice cast, even spaceships.
The game comes with eight classes, split across the Empire and Republic. Each has a tailor made story, and they’re good. My favourite is that of an Imperial Officer; rooting out corruption in the Empire while dodging the odd force choke from your Sith superiors.
But it cratered. Subscriptions dropped through the floor immediately after launch, players abandoned the game. Things did not look good. At all.
After swapping to a free-to-play model, The Old Republic feels like a better game. The servers are full, and there’s plenty of friends to make and team up with. Because it’s free, there’s no reason not to burn through each of the character’s plots.
Just be aware that the restrictions on what you can and can’t do with a free account are a little ludicrous: you’ll be prevented from owning a mount, have reduced bag space, even a reduced levelling speed unless you pony up.
Lord of the Rings Online
Tolkein’s world of Middle-earth is a perfect setting for an MMO. It has great characters, a massive world to explore. Whereas most of the games based on Tolkien’s world have had you play the protagonists, Lord of the Rings Online offers a tangible middle ground, and it works rather well.
You get to pick from one of the four great races: Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits. As you go along on your adventure, you’ll not only meet some of the epic characters that make up the story but also be tasked with important missions. Some could be helping the fellowship directly, others dealing with other threats, like Moria post Gandalf’s “You SHALL NOT PASS”. It never fails to make you and your character feel invaluable to the world.
What’s nice is that LOTRO is a slow burn: following the events of the Lord of the Rings books and films in near real time. Right now the story is following the fellowship through Rohan and to the inevitable battle of Helms Deep. And with each major plot point comes new mechanics: the latest version is to include horseback combat.
If you’ve ever dreamed of experiencing Tolkien’s world first hand, this is about the best experience on the market. Best of all, it’s free to play.
Skyforge’s greatness comes from a combination of its unique class system, excellent early game and beautiful world. Incentivising experimentation and personal exploration, being able to select between any class you’ve unlocked at any time lets you dramatically switch playstyle at a moment’s notice without having to go through another hundred hours of re-levelling. The Ascension Atlas operates like a Final Fantasy sphere grid, always giving you options as to both what your next choice will be and what your goal in ten hours time is.
The early game is varied and interesting, giving you lots of things to do, options as to how to do it and plenty of rewards that let you pick and choose how you want to play. It switches regularly between solo-instanced areas that tell a linear story, wide-open zones that encourage casual teaming up in a lived-in world and group content that’s more difficult but offers better loot. While it’s gated by your Prestige number, you’re unlikely to run out of things to do and have to go grind it out.
Lastly, it’s set in one of the nicest game worlds we’ve encountered, an elegant mix of high fantasy and ludicrous sci-fi. The world of Aelion has as many robotic monstrosities as it does magic rats and Gods flying around, and it’s a wonderful place to walk through, particularly on higher settings.
Click below for page two to read more about Final Fantasy XIV, Eve Online, Secret World, Runescape 3, PlanetSide 2 and WoW: Warlords of Draenor...