As much as I’ve been a WoW junkie for the past three years, I’m even more of a MMO junkie at heart. I simply love trying out new MMOs because (1) MMOs by design have a glut of content to explore, (2) it helps to stave off eternal WoW burnout, which I’d hate, and (3) I’m always daring new games to be better than WoW, to top it in terms of quality and addictiveness. So far, no takers, although there’s been a few interesting tries.
Today I want to swerve away from WoW talk to discuss some of the “other” MMOs I’ve played in 2007, and give my brief reviews (and review my briefs) on them.
Lord of the Rings Online
With Vanguard an obvious bust out of the gate, I ignored that poor dying critter and turned my attention to LOTRO. Initially, LOTRO interested me not at all – it seemed a bit too “bland”, more generic fantasy than Peter Jackson’s imaginative movie visions. But as previews erupted in a gushing fount of info magma, I found myself warming up to the idea of the “deed log”, the synergy of the conjunction system, and the lack of “bright shiny magics” populating our toolbars.
I almost got a lifetime subscription – no fees past $150 seemed like a great deal if I was planning to stick with it – but in retrospect I’m glad I didn’t. LOTRO certainly kept me playing for a few months, yet it didn’t have the staying power I’d hoped. The Lore-Master class was incredibly weak, the skills didn’t have the instant tactile feedback when used, and the land itself was an endless sea of green, gray, brown, more brown, more green, and much more gray.
I thought the deed/trait system was an excellent idea – giving players an alternate way to level up skills and abilities past the XP bar is always great – but most of the traits and virtues earned aren’t very special or memorable. Warhammer Online seems to be taking this concept a few steps further with their Tome of Knowledge and combat tactics, so I’m happy I’ll be seeing it again.
The crafting was a complete moneysink for anybody other than a strict gatherer, the PvP useless (although inventive, letting you create a PvP-only enemy toon just for that realm), and Turbine seems dead stuck on creating unattractive UIs and tiny fonts.
However, as I said, they did a lot right by LOTRO: regular content updates put most other MMOs to shame, giving new players huge bag space is a boon, and the music system (which lets players actually create music that everyone around them can hear) was a blast. I won’t be coming back to LOTRO, but it definitely struck me as the best new MMO of the year.
“Free MMO” is almost always a code-name for “Crap MMO That You Wouldn’t Wish On Your Worst Enemy”, but NCsoft actually pulled a strange rabbit out of their hat to defeat this preconception with Dungeon Runners. For the low low price of “nothing”, Dungeon Runners offers a Diablo-esque hack and slash RPG set in a pseudo-online world (most everything is instanced, like Guild Wars). You get a heaping dose of humor, as DR takes potshots at all of the RPG clichés, and I found myself laughing from time to time from the NPC comments or the odd critters I’d battle.
It’s surprisingly fun, too – weaving through gangs of baddies is always a stress reliever, and Diablo-type games are all about mass chaos and mass loot drops. While managing your pitifully small inventory is a pain, the loot is diverse and often humorously titled.
However, DR cannot boast a huge range of gameplay options or depth; you pick from one of three meager classes, each with only a dozen or so skills (which you can train cross-class, so you can pretty much make any character you want), you run randomized dungeons over and over and over, and… well, that’s it. As of this writing, they’ve implemented a rudimentary PvP system and being pushing more content in the form of new dungeons, etc., but this is most definitely a lunch break MMO – something to play in your spare time, but never as your primary game.
DR tries to earn money by getting its players to subscribe for $5/month for improved options, which include disabling ad banners, accessing new loot, and foot rubs. Or something.
Scifi MMOs are few and far between, so this caught my eye for that factor alone. TR deviates from the normal “click 1-2-3” skill hotbar to focus more on heavy shooting with your mouse. It’s interesting, and while the movement and combat takes some getting used to, it actually involves the players in the combat far more than most MMOs.
TR adds innovation by including mob-capturable bases that you can defend or retake (think Starship Troopers), and a diverging character class tree that opens up as you increase in levels (think Everquest II in its early days). However, you’ll be playing one of two classes that everyone else has for the first 15 levels, and you’ll ultimately only have about 20-25 skills in the endgame.
This makes the game feel far more limited in terms of differentiating your character. Sure, you can boost some skills over others, you can choose one of eight end-game classes, but that’s about it. TR makes a big deal out of having you hunt for “logos” that are prerequisites to using your 20-25 skills, but you don’t end up needing about 85% of the logos you find, and you have no ability to mix-and-match logos to create new skills or spells (which this type of collecting system seems designed for). In the end, it’s just a shooter game on planets that need more life and variety to them. Played it for two weeks, gave it a pass.
I’m in the beta, there’s a NDA, and I can’t say much. But I’m looking forward to this one’s release!
So that’s it for today – we’ll see what next year brings!