I am currently playing very different MMOs, because they each give me something I want from this genre while lacking in other areas. Elder Scrolls Online has this seemingly huge world to explore, but the housing is subpar. Guild Wars 2 doesn’t even have housing. But both games have a beautiful world! So, I thought, if I could mix and match my perfect MMO, what would I take from which game that I have played in the past or am playing now?
World of Warcraft, being the first MMORPG I ever played, has always been the easiest “on my mind” – in the sense that it has clean skill icons and sounds and even when I’m not looking at the screen, I know what’s happening most of the time. If I do listen to a stream with somebody playing the game, I know which mage skills are used (unless they’re new ones which I wouldn’t know since I’m not playing the game anymore) and in PvP… the rogue. He/She has to be here somewhere!
Even though I mainly play PvE content, there should definitely be PvP content in my MMO as well, but no open world PvP in regular questing areas! Despite its many issues and flaws, I really loved the open world PvP (well, RvR) zones in Warhammer Online! I liked running around in the PvE part of the map, doing quests and when that got boring, being able to jump into the PvP area easily – and without loading screens as it was on the same map. Most of the time, the RvR chat was busy and you could read where they were fighting at or where they needed more players to defend or attack. There was also the UI window showing you open parties and warbands which also told you if they were currently in the RvR or the PvE zone. You could join by clicking and then simply running or riding towards them on the map. WAR is the only MMO where I spent most of my time playing PvP and not bothering much about PvE. I also levelled up most of my toons in RvR which is another thing I love about this game: You could jump right into the PvP action from the beginning! I also loved that you had two targets in WAR: The offensive and the defensive target. If you cast a damage spell, it would hit your enemy, but if you cast a healing spell, it would cast on the friendly target (or on yourself if you didn’t have another friendly player targeted).
Now that is icons, combat sound and PvP sorted… but we’re still lacking a lot of other essential things. For PvE, I don’t care about raids. With the RSI in my left hand, I always choose only those activities that I can quit any given moment. On bad days or when my hand suddenly starts aching, I need to quit what I’m doing fast. I couldn’t do that if I were in a raiding group. But, obviously, I wouldn’t mind if my MMO had raids. I just can’t say which MMO to take them from as I have no experience with them. The last time I raided (in WoW), I was still studying at university, so that’s several years ago. I would love open world bosses, though! Guild Wars 2 comes to my mind – but not in its current state. The original Living World season 1 with its open world bosses was amazing! The only part that annoyed me was that the content stayed for two or four weeks and got removed forever after that. Some encounters had bugs or weren’t balanced well and it always felt as if ArenaNet didn’t bother fixing them, because the content would be removed faster than they could fix these issues anyway. General open world exploration should rather be taken from Elder Scrolls Online, though. I just love how it feels exciting to turn around a corner not knowing what to expect there. And the map is filled with open dungeons, little bosses etc.
The game world’s design… well, there’s a tie between Elder Scrolls Online and Guild Wars 2. I think in both games, the worlds are stunningly beautiful and breathtaking to look at. The art design is simply amazing in both! The classes are a bit more difficult to choose. I would say that I found fun ones to play in a lot of MMOs. In World of Warcraft, there was the warlock (the old one, I am not too fond of how they changed the class over the years), the death knight, the mage, the rogue, the druid,… Guild Wars 2 and Warhammer Online also have a lot of fun classes with interesting mechanics. The downside of WAR is that the classes were race-locked. It is understandable, given the lore of the game, but still restrictive from a gameplay point-of-view. With playable races, I would choose Guild Wars 2 and Elder Scrolls Online. Guild Wars 2 especially because they dared not giving us “cats with boobs” for female charr, but instead, made them look a lot more realistic and still aesthetically pleasing! But ESO has lizards (and… lizardesses…?).
Let’s stay with these two games for more than just the world and the classes: I like the builds and their progression systems as well. When it comes to the whole pure raw “let’s choose a build to play with”, I’d go with GW2… It’s easy to understand, I always feel as if I could choose the talents that fit to my play style the best rather than what needs to be chosen to be competitive (remember: I mostly play open world content, not raids!). But only with build templates, which GW2 doesn’t have… yet. So actually, I’d go with the original Guild Wars here! The progression system is much more interesting in Elder Scrolls Online, I think. With skill points, you unlock individual skills, level them up or morph them to get a different bonus on your skill – or you choose passive skills or even crafting skills. And then it’s back to Guild Wars 2 again when it comes to endgame character progression. I like that they are not adding more and more gear with higher stats. Instead, the two expansions gave us one new skills path to unlock each time for every class.
With the combat system, I would definitely choose ESO over GW2. I don’t like the explosion of colours on top of a whole floor of red that puts you into the downed state within two seconds in Guild Wars 2. ESO also has an action-style combat system (that is very easy on my left hand which is why I prefer this one over traditional combat nowadays), but I have time to react to red spots on the floor and I can easily see what my enemy is doing and block or dodge away in time.
Lord of the Rings Online is still missing from this list. Their graphics (the landscape, not so much the characters themselves) are also very pretty, but I prefer the art of Guild Wars 2 or Elder Scrolls Online. However, what this game does is create a perfectly relaxing atmosphere that I just feel comfortable in. I’m not sure what exactly it is… probably because some of the quests simply ask you to bring cake somewhere. I also really enjoy most of the seasonal quests as they are fun to play and often lack any form of combat (unless you’re stomping shrews!). The Haunted Burrow during the Fall Festival is very enjoyable, for example, and very well designed as it keeps the lore intact while still giving us something fitting for Halloween.
While I’m on the topic of “relaxing” content, I would definitely want Rift‘s housing system in my MMO. The freedom you get by putting together things freestyle is amazing (I build a shower with some poles, a water effect, a dish for the shower head,…) while at the same time, you could also just take the pre-existing items and build a beautiful dimension (that’s how the housing is called in Rift) that way. There are also quite a lot of different dimensions to choose. Some with beautiful houses already, some with nothing but an empty space. There are also several houses that you can put in your dimension, so there is no need to manually build one with planks. But you can do so, if your rather prefer your own style! Others may say that a game like Everquest 2 or Wildstar has/had better housing, but since Rift is the one I know well, I am not going to disagree, but simply say that I don’t know the systems well enough to choose one over the other. But I do know Rift’s dimensions and no housing system in the other games I mentioned here, if they even have housing, comes close.
And, last but not least, the monetization system… This one is easy: Guild Wars 2. There is no question about this one. GW2 is the clear winner here. You can play the game in its basic version for free and then, if you like the game, you can buy the base game and the two expansions to get everything there is. No additional money needs to be spent to enjoy the game. There is no monthly sub you can buy to be more special than others. But there is, of course, an in-game shop that lets you buy lots of things like cosmetics, new skins for the mounts, etc. if you want to give the game your support! There are some quality-of-life items, though, that I wouldn’t want to play without anymore, like the unbreakable gathering tools or the bank slot expansions. But again, they’re not necessary. They just add some convenience.
So, did I forget something or is that it?