MMO shootout: conclusion

I did my own little MMO shootout these last few weeks. I can afford it because there’s a break between modules in my Master’s program, and when I come home after work I’m so completely dead that I can’t concentrate on anything but a few games anyhow. I discovered you can try out a surprising number of games when you don’t have to study 🙂 I tried to limit my search to the higher-quality ones; there’s lots of Asia-trash out there as well, but I’ll leave it to you to dig that up if you have the time for it.

Here goes. I’ve bolded the favorites. And remember, these are all opinions, not facts:

  • Jade Dynasty: Surprisingly innovative martial arts based Chinese MMO. The translation is weird in places, but the game mechanics are all there. Very quick fights (about ten trillion times faster than EverQuest 2) and a lot of convenient features (auto-walk, auto-find-quest, even auto-play-while-I’m-on-the-toilet). Lots of scheduled events in-game. I could get to like this, will certainly keep playing since it’s free anyhow.
  • Runes of Magic: Another free-to-play favorite. Some people call this a WoW clone, but they are ignorant. Battle mechanics, class structure etc. are all very different, and it has a lot more convenience features (teleport, auto-walk, NPC-finder etc.) than Blizzards big old dreadnought. Very nice, and now that they hired the Dungeons & Dragons artist to oversee art direction a bit, it will probably get more beautiful. Right now it’s very pretty, but bland.
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited: Now also free to play, at least it’s in beta. I’m not allowed to even say whether this product exists, I guess, but let’s talk about the DDO community and technology a bit. The community’s full of very very vocal and seemingly intelligent people. This is scary. Everyone you run into in this game is a total nerd and/or multiple-degree-holder. Well, that’s to be expected with a game based on D&D. Note that I use “nerd” in a warm, loving way. DDO itself seems to have a billion possibilities for character customization and a ton of classes. If you’re a D&D pro, you can also customize and craft your own class. Technically, the game runs very well and doesn’t look too shabby for such an old title. Give it a try if you discover the nerd in you and need an online action-RPG.
  • Luminary: A social, economy-based anime MMO. Very simplistic combat system, but quite a deep market/trading scene. Tobold likes it, but it’s a bit too markety for me. The people seemed nice, but there weren’t too many reasons to talk as the whole economy is abstracted for you in the form of market houses that take care of managing sales and purchases.
  • DOMO: Another social MMO, but more on the chatty side. Very anime-ish graphics, standard battle system. The engine had huge trouble doing proper collision detection even for simple things like walking, so I switched this abomination off after ten minutes and torched it off my hard drive, never to be seen again.
  • Twelve Sky 2: An ugly grindfest. But some people swear by such things, so if you like grinding and cutting the heads off of monsters, this is for you. Also, the NPCs are still voiced in Chinese.
  • MegaTen: Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine: This game runs under several names, but all you have to know is that it’s developed by some of Japan’s top development houses and it plays in the Shin Megami Tensei universe. I found it confusing, but production values are quite high and I suppose if you’re a fan of SMT, you’ll be right at home. People in the game were quite nice as well.
  • Dragonica: A 3D MMO-brawler. A new idea, that. Quite entertaining to play for a while — if you always thought “Wow, would I like to play Final Fight with a persistent world, levels and an inventory”, here’s your chance. Doesn’t have Haggar in it, though. Instead, you smack black-headed sheep and schizophrenic spider-bees around the place. I’m not kidding.
  • EverQuest 2: You need a subscription to play this one. Scary graphics, completely confused art direction but very nice special effects. Large selection of classes, but you’ll have to be happy with your character looking like it’s made of porcelain, because that’s the only thing the engine can render. The game itself seems reasonably balanced and comes with all the standard MMO features, plus a few extra (like the 3D wisp that directs you to points of interest). Still, Asian F2P games offer more conveniences to players. Can’t really say anything good or bad about the game — the community seemed nice, so I might actually play this at some point. Combat seemed very slow, but I’d been playing Jade Dynasty and DDO before, so this might be expected.

    Nothing in the game immediately yelled “subscribe to me!”, but if I were forced to decide on a pay-to-play MMO, I’d probably pick this anyhow.

  • Vanguard: The first thing I’ve noticed: The character models look breathtakingly ugly and it’s hard to make a character that doesn’t look like something from a 12 year old’s D&D character sheet. These guys look worse even than the Tom Selleck-mustachioed humans from the original EverQuest, and that was in 1999. It all turned better once I entered the game. It seems quite a capable game and it has an air of depth that you notice when you look at all the menus (diplomacy? yikes), but the whole package looked horrid and the mechanics (at least in the beginning) felt a bit too EverQuest to me. If I want EQ done properly, I play Shards of Dalaya.

I’m truly sorry to say such mean things about the graphics people’s efforts in EQ, Vanguard and EQ2, but those games badly lack art direction. Someone needs to at least unify the teams. The games look like the people who design the placeables never spoke to the people who make the terrain, and the terrain artists live on a different continent than the people doing the textures. It’s a shame, technologically EQ2 seems quite okay, even though there’s no anti-aliasing due to technical limitations and the CPU-based shadow implementation can make a quad-core melt.

Phew! That was work!

I hope I listed some games you didn’t know yet, and I hope you don’t trust my word at all and try them out on your own. They’re all free or have trials available.

Disclaimer: Don’t see any of this as a “review”. It’s just a “list of games that didn’t make me vomit (much) after ten minutes of play”. Basically, I just provide a bunch of links and some half-assed opinions while you should go and check those things out for yourself. I’m a jaded old gamer, so I’m entitled to half-assed opinions, and I can usually smell a game’s crappiness level after a few hours with enough accuracy to know whether I should keep playing.

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