Ever since I was a tiny child, I've had a love affair with an MMORPG. From Runescape, through to World of Warcraft, to more complicated fare like Eve Online - MMORPG games 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 PC MMO games on the PC. They’re in no particular order, but whichever place you choose to explore, will stay with you. Here’s to growing old in strange new worlds.
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
Warlords of Draenor is the latest expansion pack to grace the decade old classic, and it just goes to show that Blizzard can still refine the formula even further. World of Warcraft is at its prime.
Players who have maybe given the game a break can dive right into the new expansion with a complimentary level 90 character boost. It’s sad that to admit, but very few people enjoyed slogging through four expansions worth of stuff, just to get to the current content.
The character models have all received a facelift. World of Warcraft always had its charm when it came to the graphics, but the new models and animations are a welcome improvement by all.
Then we have the new Garrisons: your base of operations in Draenor, where you command your loyal forces of either the Horde or the Alliance. They’re teeming with stuff to do, click and loot - your followers dispatched daily on lucrative missions to further your exploits.
Quests are a more narrative heavy experience, and it is infinitely better for it. This extends to the raids: mega-dungeons with challenging bosses from all walks of life.
World of Warcraft is still king; and Warlords of Draenor is its superbly crafted, golden crown.
Buyers Guide: Try it for free here.
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 recently, 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.
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 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.
An expansion that adds proper 3D space combat is coming soon: it’s probably worth getting up to speed before that drops.
Buyers Guide: It’s free to play, and the client can be downloaded here.
Lord of the Rings Online
Tolkein’s world of Middle Earth is a perfect setting for an MMO. It has great characters, greata 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.
Buyers Guide: Grab LOTRO here.
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. Our Nick gave the update 9/10 in his Heavensward review.
Buyers Guide: You can try it for free.
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.
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