Ever since I was a tiny child, I've had a love affair with an MMORPG. With huge open worlds, populated with thousands of players, each day would be laced with adventure. Some were short-lived affairs, while others earned months if not years of my attention. From Runescape, through to World of Warcraft, to more complicated fare like Eve Online - MMORPGs remain my preferred way to play.
And I think that if you choose the right game, they could be yours, too. Here’s my list of the 10 best MMORPGs on the market. They’re in no particular order, but whichever place you choose to explore, will be stay with you. Here’s to growing old in strange new worlds.
1. World of Warcraft
The headlines say that World of Warcraft is in decline, that it is facing falling subscriptions, server merges and stagnating content. Nonsense. World of Warcraft is better now than it ever has been.
Why is it so good? It’s because it does everything well.
The lore is so extensive, that it rivals even the greatest RPGs. For nearly a decade its systems have been tweaked and refined to near perfection. Quests have transformed into fun outings filled with variety, banter, and life.
There are the raids: huge mega-dungeons filled with bosses that are varied, wild and novel. There are the dungeons: carefully crafted focused bites of story that can be repeated again and again. There’s the PvP: an ongoing conflict between Alliance and Horde that includes arena based league combat alongside skirmish modes inspired by Battlefield, Team Fortress, and Quake. There’s a solid crafting system, a decent minigame diversion in pet battles, and the list goes on.
It is everything to almost everyone, and it is excellent.
Is it strange how after writing all this, I find myself installing the client again? Not one damn bit.
Buyers Guide: Head over to this page to either return for a free seven days, or create a free account which you can level all the way up to 20. If you have some friends already playing, why not consider using either a Scroll of Resurrection or Recruit a Friend for some neat bonuses.
2. 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: it’s 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. But most importantly, it doesn’t demand a subscription fee from players.
That last point is incredible, given the focus the game’s developers Arenanet have placed on improving and expanding the game. Every two weeks on the dot ArenaNet ship out the next chapter of Guild Wars 2. Dubbed the “living story” — changing the world with each release — these bi-weekly updates accommodate the players needs with fresh things to do and major improvements.
Buyers Guide: Can be picked up at most online/retail store, or straight from ArenaNet. Watch out for flash sales: Guild Wars 2 is occasionally discounted on weekends or during holidays.
3. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a story of heartwarming redemption. It was originally released two years ago, but it wasn’t very good. In fact, it was terrible. This triggered Square Enix to take drastic action: ditch the old team, hire a new team and remake the game.
The outcome is A Realm Reborn. And it’s good.
If you’re a Final Fantasy fan, you’ll adore Eorzea. It hits everything the series is known for: epic stories of good and evil fighting it out, varied environments, great characters and flashy cutscenes.
It’s also clever: players have a great deal of flexibility within their class choice. As soon as you hit a paltry level 10, you gain the ability to switch to any of the games eight combat classes at just the switch of the weapon. The upside is that players don’t need to create alts to try out other roles.
It’s also one of the few cross platform MMOs, in which PC and Playstation players share the same world.
Buyers Guide: Sold in most retail/online stores, or from Square Enix.
4. Planetside 2
Yes, Planetside 2 counts as an MMO. It’s an MMOFPS: a huge, persistent open world filled and fought over by thousands of players, some on foot, some in tanks and quad bikes and jeeps and jetpacks, others in bombers and air transports and air fighters. At its best, Planetside 2 is like nothing else.
It’s bloody massive.
One moment you could be storming an enemy base on foot, and then the next providing air support to the flank of a fleet of Galaxy’s.
It’s best fought with friends: a friendly outfit (Planetside’s equivalent of a clan or guild) can work together to achieve extraordinary feats. Different classes fulfill different roles: light troopers using their jump packs to leap over walls, Inflitrators providing sniper cover or hacking their way into a base. There’s always something that fits into your personal playstyle, and it makes Battlefield feel like the breadsticks before a five course meal.
Buyers Guide: Planetside 2 is free to play and can be downloaded via Steam. Boxed versions of the game include bonus currency and are worth seeking out when you’ve settled in. A subscription will boost your progress, but isn’t necessarily worth the outlay.
5. The Secret World
What if myths, legends and conspiracies weren’t works of fiction at all? The Secret World asks exactly that - it’s an action MMO set in the modern world: except this modern world is filled with cults, zombies, ghosts, demons and the boogie monster.
It works because the quests it presents are a cut above what MMO players are used to. Taking an example from our Petter Martensson: there’s a mission where you’re investigating a haunted house, where young girls appear and disappear from photographs in front of you. Creepy.
Leveling in The Secret World works a bit differently too. When you level up, you gain skill points and ability points. Skill points are used to help you equip more weapons, to which there is a massive degree of variance. Ability points on the other hand help you develop your special abilities such as throwing fireballs or enhancing your character with powerful buffs. There are plenty of combinations of the two that will help you make your avatar unique to you.
Buyers Guide: There’s no subscription fee, but new expansions are paid for. There’s a master edition available on Steam that includes all content released so far.