Massively Multiplayer Online Games have been going strong for over a decade now. With their notorious subscriptions recently converting to free-to-play models, it is a mystery where the next generation of MMO’s will take us. Hopefully away from the copy/paste tactics that has diluted the genre as of late.
But enough of that! Let’s take a look at this list of the Top 10 MMO’s of all time that have had the opportunity to grace us with their presence! All MMO’s had a fair chance at this list and their graphics and gameplay upon their release were taken into consideration. So let’s get this started.
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning dragged players into the incredibly lore heavy Warhammer universe. My tiny country boy mind had personally never heard of Warhammer, and the realization of what I had been missing was a major greenskinned slap to the face.
While this MMO introduced very little innovation with the majority of its gameplay, it did shine very brightly in the PvP department. The battleground instances in Warhammer make this game worth every minute, and are the sole reason I continued my subscription for quite some time. The realm battles were also great fun if the playing field was equal on all sides. Nothing expresses boredom more than a massive gank squad taking areas without a fight, but nothing is also more enjoyable than having a war between two massive armies of equally skilled players!
Now when I speak of Star Wars Galaxies, I am referring to the game prior to the 2005 CU (Combat Upgrade) and NGE (New Game Experience) updates. These updates literally slit SWG’s throat and left it twitching on the bathroom floor (RIP).
The original Star Wars Galaxies was a great sandbox experience for anyone who wanted to play around in the Star Wars universe (Not sure if I should say galaxy or not…). Players had the freedom to furnish their own homes and create characters that could focus on skills like entertainment, crafting, and medicine rather than only combat. The player ran shops and world PvP were great additions as well.
The game did fall short on some aspects. The key issue for me being the one character per server rule. I have a horrible case of Alt-heimers, meaning I love creating multiple characters at a whim without any restrictions. SWG didn’t give me this opportunity and I just couldn’t love of it because of that. The horrible balancing issues were also a major downer.
Lineage seems to be a hazy dream to most gamers. It is rarely mentioned outside its own circles and is quickly beaten down by elitists from other MMO’s when it peeks out of its hidey-hole. Not to mention its sequel, Lineage 2, is often praised for being a beautiful game and for having a massive population of woman who hate pants (Assless chaps for all!).
While Lineage has not aged well graphically, its gameplay and story are still top-notch. The gameplay is much quicker and relies more heavily on your reflexes than most MMO’s, including its sequel. The PvP is actually pretty fun if you love old school gaming and the castle system is a pretty neat little feature if you ever get high enough to give it a go. All around it is a pretty fun game for its time and has a diehard following.
Asheron’s Call popped its head out during the beginning of the MMO market’s heyday. Following the lead of juggernauts like Ultima Online and EverQuest, AC really tried to find its own personal niche, and it managed this quite well.
A key feature of the game is its world filled with creatures and races created personally for it and its amazingly fun leveling system. Unlike most MMO’s, AC did not trap you into a certain class at creation. As you gain experience you allocate your points to different skills, which in turn gives you class-like abilities. You are eventually given the option to reallocate your points when needed to completely remold your character. This was an amazing feature when the game was released and it is still great today.
The game’s story is also very enjoyable. Its new content came in narrative episodes that really pulled the player into the game’s plot, and this was great for players who loved to be drawn into the stories of their games.
I’ll be honest, when I first played The Lord Of The Rings Online I thought it was another generic World of Warcraft clone. The graphics seemed oddly similar, as did the combat, but I eventually had to give it more credit after a few hours of play. The game is actually quite solid and can stand well on its own. I’d be lying if I said the above mentioned graphics and combat weren’t heavily influenced by WoW. It is still rather generic when it comes to button mashing during combat, but that is not where the game’s strengths lie.
The beauty of LotRO is in the world it is built within. The game makes full use of the Middle-earth universe and can be seen as a love letter to any Tolkien enthusiast who wants to explore the landscapes and dungeons of the Lord of the Rings’ world. It is a very enjoyable experience being able to run around as a Hobbit thief while exploring the places you’ve only read about.
I adore Dark Age of Camelot. This game did so many things right, but was unfortunately stuck in the shadow of its rivals. To make things worse, future updates eventually came along and attempted to murder the game much in the same way as Star Wars Galaxies. However, DAoC managed to survive its attempted murder by opening classic servers that do not use any of the hated content. I really wish more games would have followed this easy fix (I’m looking at you, EverQuest).
Where DAoC shines is its use of Realms in its plot and gameplay. The game revolves around King Arthur’s death leading to war between the three realms: Albion (Arthurian legends), Hibernia (Celtic folklore), and Midgard (Norse mythology). Each of these realms seem like their own separate games and really give an amazing feeling to DAoC. Not to mention the Realm battles, which Warhammer Online obviously took their own realm combat ideas from, were extremely fun and amazingly advanced for the time.
Very few series deserve the amount of respect given to the Ultima franchise. The series is a legend in its own right, and fans went crazy when Ultima Online was finally released back in 1997. UO’s release introduced a large amount of the gaming community to the world of online games. More importantly, it introduced them to how brutal a sandbox MMO can be to anyone not ready for it.
UO was great in that it was run by the players. From the economy to land ownership, the players controlled the outcome for most of what happened in the world. While this could quickly cause situations to turn sour, it also lead to fun, comical, or even outright amazing instances of player interaction. This interaction has been forgotten in many modern-day MMO’s with the introduction of solo content and instances, and that is a real shame. If you really want to experience the wild west of online games than you need to spend a bit of time over in Lord British’s court.
I have yet to meet a gamer who knows nothing at all about World of Warcraft, and rightly so. The game now defines players’ ideas of what a massively multiplayer online game is, and it backs up this claim to fame with its hefty subscriber count.
While WoW’s connection to the much loved Warcraft RTS series, and its own highly addictive amusement park style of gameplay, have managed to steal the souls of so many gamers, the game itself is rather simple. The majority of WoW’s content revolves around spamming skills, finishing fetch quests, and raiding for larger and shinier gear, and while this does not seem fun in written words, it is impossible to turn off when put into practice.
The reason for WoW’s success is extremely difficult to pinpoint. One thing for certain is that the game’s colorful and cartoony aesthetics paired with the need to spam hotkeys for bright and flashy skills, is obviously part of the recipe for success. Pour over a nice topping of an epic story and you have yourself a very addictive winner.
If you have not had a chance to play EVE Online than you have my deepest sympathies. The game is an MMO tech marvel whose visuals cannot be clearly expressed in words. The guys over at CCP Games managed to successfully create their own sandbox universe for players to freely play within, and I seriously mean ‘universe’.
While the gameplay has an extremely steep learning curve and requires hours and hours put into the game just to get started, the community actually quite large. You have not experienced guild comradery until you have been a member of an EVE Online corporation. It is an experience that is beyond amazing, especially if you’re cruising through space in your ship with your corporation members at your back. Definitely give it a go, and be sure to check it out at the Museum of Modern Art. Yeah, the game was allowed to be included as a permanent piece of MOMA. Now nothing shows video game success more than being chosen to represent games as a form of art!
Before I go any further, I want to explain that I am referring to the original EverQuest Trilogy. This includes: EverQuest (Original release), Kunark expansion, and Scars of Velious expansion. I have excluded all expansions from Luclin and beyond because that was the point where Sony Online Entertainment acquired Verant and started making a ton of unwanted changes (Changes that still burn Evercracker’s souls).
Before the emergence of World of Warcraft, EverQuest held the MMO throne. Not only did it hold amazing 3D graphics for its 1999 release, but the features included during its release and the content added with its expansions were jaw dropping.
Besides the option of 13 different races (Each with its own benefits and detriments), you are also given the choice of 14 unique classes. Being given this amount of character creation choices is still rather unheard of in many MMO’s even today (I see you back there, WoW!). To sweeten the experience even more, the game has a very detailed faction system that can affect nearly everything you do. This faction system is something that has been altogether ignored by most MMO’s from past and present, which is a huge shame. It allows your character to have a stronger effect on the world around them and be punished or rewarded for many actions they take.
Added onto these gameplay features is the addition of a useable language for each race, multiple continents, a player ran economy (Until Luclin destroyed it…), player gambling, religions, a home city for every race, multiple PvP servers with different style rules, and giving each class a very personalized use in a group. I have yet to see another MMO that so strongly utilizes crowd control classes as EQ did.
EverQuest was really a marvel during its youth, and it is a shame to see how much it has been whittled down. It is unfortunate that SOE has yet to create an EverQuest server that is locked in the classic era with all the new content fully removed (The classic server they added does not count by a long shot). Dark Age of Camelot’s was successful and I am sure EverQuest’s would be as well. If you have an opportunity to try a classic EQ server than I highly recommend that you give it a go (GO GOOD TEAM!).
Over the past decade the MMO market has been filled with great titles that do not receive enough recognition. Here are a few of the runner ups (in no particular order) that are all great games in their own right.
- Meridian 59
- Guild Wars
- Guild Wars 2
- EverQuest II
- Final Fantasy XI
- Anarchy Online
- Dungeons and Dragons Online
- DC Universe Online
- Tabula Rasa
- Star Wars: The Old Republic
- Lineage II