Nov 09 2009
There are a remarkable number of choices available to massively multiplayer online gamers compared to a few years ago, but medieval fantasy continues to be the most popular setting. In these games you create a character, don a sword or a spellbook, and venture off into a persistent online world in search of experience points. An Internet connection is required and these games typically charge a monthly subscription fee. I rely a lot on user feedback as well as my personal experience when rating these games, so if you have an opinion on the subject, feel free make a suggestion.
Blizzard Entertainment muscled its way into the MMORPG market back in 2004 with this game based on their illustrious Warcraft strategy series. Although it does not rewrite the book on MMORPGs, exceptional artistry, nicely paced gameplay, an engaging world, solid PvP, and a great interface made World of Warcraft a favorite among fans of this genre. It's easily the most refined and popular game of its kind with millions of players worldwide. The Battlechest version includes both the original game and the first expansion, The Burning Crusade.
Many people discovered MMORPGs by playing EverQuest, so EverQuest II had high expectations to live up to, and it doesn't disappoint. The graphics are outstanding, voiceovers are used extensively, character creation is very impressive, and the combat system is a cut above the rest. Since release there have been several expansions and adventure packs, and PvP servers have also been added to the game. The Shadow Odyssey is the game's 2008 expansion, and it includes all previous expansions as well as the core game.
Set in the mythical world of J.R.R. Tolkien, Turbine has built a MMORPG around the famous story that in many ways defined the fantasy genre. The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar lets you experience the adventure as a Human, Hobbit, Dwarf, or an Elf, and is designed to bring you into contact with various members of the Fellowship along the way. PvP is offered through "monster play," which allows players to temporarily assume the role of monsters in an optional battleground. It's an impressive rendition of Middle-earth that has had extensive content updates since launch.
The biggest MMORPG release of 2009 was NCsoft's Aion, and it has been satisfying some MMORPG fans cravings for something a little different. The game introduces flying combat as a central mechanic and it's set in a high-fantasy world with impressive graphics. Aion has many elements in common with other RPGs, but it's a PvP-centric game where high-level play involves capturing fortresses and artifacts in direct competition with the other player faction as well as an NPC faction.
A gritty world with many adult themes winding through it, Age of Conan is a MMORPG intended for a mature audience. The combat system is very unique, requiring melee characters to swing their weapon in different directions, allowing complex combination attacks, and giving you defensive choices to make as well. At the game's high levels, guilds can build cities and keeps which can be attacked by other players. Age of Conan fell a little short of expectations at launch, but like most games of this kind, improvements are implemented with each patch.
Mythic Entertainment's Warhammer Online, like the famous table-top RPG it's based on, concentrates on realm vs. realm (RvR) conflict between the forces of Order and Destruction. Every zone in the game has an area that is dedicated to RvR with several objectives in it which ultimately decide who controls the zone, culminating in a siege of the enemy's capital city. The game has potential, but some of the siege mechanics seem a little off, and the engine tends to choke more than most on large numbers of players.
The award-winning Final Fantasy series has been adapted into this famous MMORPG from Square Enix. Three powerful nations try to protect the world of Vana'diel from the hostile beastmen. Note that FFXI is a significant departure from other Final Fantasy games, and it can be daunting for casual players. It's also the first MMO that allows PS2, Xbox 360, and PC users play in the same universe. The Ultimate Collection. which arrived in 2009, includes the core game and all previous expansions.
Like its predecessor, Lineage II focuses on battles with other players and large-scale siege warfare. This time it's fully 3D, with visuals powered by the Unreal graphics engine. Guilds challenge each other for control of the game's castles in scheduled PvP events. Like most Korean games, it uses a point-and-click movement system. The North American version has a number of features to lessen the level grind a little, which appears to be paying off. The Epic Edition is bundled with all 5 earlier Chronicles.
A huge seamless world, elaborate crafting, and a diplomacy system with which you can sway NPCs are among the features offered by Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. It's relatively demanding compared to many recent MMORPGs, both in terms of hardware requirements and time requirements, which isn't to everyone's liking. There is a considerable amount of depth to the game, and it's an ambitious project with a lot of potential.
EverQuest continues to hold a special place in the hearts of MMORPG fans, being the first 3D game of its kind to catch on in North America. It still has a large player base, and likely has more content than any of its competitors. The game is set in a mythical realm full of all the usual halflings, ogres, healers, necromancers, and monsters, featuring a remarkable level of character and class specialization.