(First post here - I would really appreciate any helpful replies, opinions and suggestions!)
I'm a longtime computer games player, especially a fan of roleplaying games, who've recently decided to look into MMOs. Partly to see what I might have been missing out on, and partly looking for a different experience than what I can find in singleplayer RPGs. My favourite singleplayer RPGs are the Elder Scrolls series - which sometimes are likened to MMOs for their open worlds.
What am I looking for? The following all appeals to me:
A good solo experience.
A rich world to explore and immerse myself into.
Story, good context for the quests and monster bashing - I want to know why I am supposed to bash 15 gremlins, etc.
Character development - while I am not all that interested in customizing the looks of my character, I want to make choices about skills and stats, come up with a build that is my own to some degree.
Beautiful and varied landscapes
Unique experiences - games that do thing differently or in a unique way, regardless of genre, are always interesting to me.
On the flipside, what do I want to avoid? The following would all discourage me from playing a game:
PvP - I have absolutely no interest in it, and would hate being subjected to it. Same goes for other forms of competitiveness.
Bland, repetitive quests.
Clumsy UI (I can stand old-school graphics... but old-school and clunky UI is a different matter)
Needing to adventure in a party in order to experience stuff
Other points of interest:
Crafting - what I have tried of this, it seems to mostly be pointless busywork, and not very interesting. I would either want a more interesting crafting system than "collect ingredients, follow recipe", or be able to avoid it.
Player interaction - I am a loner by nature. While I want a world that feels lived in, and is populated by other people, I would prefer to not have to interact with them, to be able to go adventuring on my own, gather gear on my own, etc.
Combat system - I am not a fan of the seeming MMO standard of hotbars / cooldowns... where I spend my time watching meters and cooldowns instead of focusing on what is in the middle of the screen - it feels like a fancy game of whack the mole to me (but I'd still happily play such a game if I enjoy the setting or stories). I much prefered Conan's / DC's more action-oriented combat.
F2P vs Cash Shop vs Subscription - I am fine with any of these alternatives, as long as prices are reasonable (... SW:TOR (with its focus on story) looks interesting to me, but the initial outlay of £35 for the game is a bit much, I think) - but I strongly prefer being able to have a go at some form of trial version before paying cash. Also, spending money over time is easier than a big lump sum up front.
Setting - while I don't mind standard Fantasy settings, I like them to be well fleshed out. I am also interested in different settings - pseudo-historical, horror, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, etc. The Secret World looks interesting, for example.
So... given the above, I am sure some people wonder why I don't just stick to single-player RPGs. I am, after all, not looking for adventuring in a group, or wanting to fight other players. Partly, my reasons for wanting to try MMOs are that I want to experience worlds that feel more lived in. Partly, I am tired of my character being the one who saves the universe, and being the lynchpin around which the whole game revolves. Finally, I want to try something different. Also, too many singleplayer RPG get overly caught up in telling their big story, instead of letting me explore and live inside their world.
Over the past few weeks, I have downloaded and tried a bunch of MMO trials, and here are my brief impressions of them. Note that these are impressions gathered from a mere 2-5 hours playing of each... feel free to point out where I have got the wrong impressions of a game.
World of Warcraft:
The interface felt clean and polished. None of the classes ended up capturing my fancy all that much though - perhaps more to do with boring descriptions than how they actually play. Started two characters, and for both, the starting areas felt dull, and the quests were bland and without any interesting context.
While the world / story seemed intriguing, I got bored of bashing low-level 0xp mobs all the time while running back and forth doing quests - too much time spent in combat that was no challenge. World also didn't feel very populated.
Lord of the Rings Online:
I am a fan of the setting, and the game gave me a good impression - I much prefered the more serious architecture and landscapes of this to WoW's style, and there seemed to be more and better stories behind the quests. Beautiful landscapes in the small part that I've seen.
Age of Conan:
My favourite out of the trials so far. I enjoyed the different combat, quests felt immersive, and I like the grittier "mature" setting (I'm a fan of Howard's stories). All the voiceacting definitely helped with immersion as well.
Dungeons and Dragons Online:
So familiar, and yet not. Having spent countless hours with Neverwinter Nights 1 / 2, as well as doing Pen & Paper RPG-ing, D&D is quite familiar... yet things have undeniably been changed or adapted here. I liked the tone of the game, reminiscent of pen and paper RPG-ing, and I am a huge fan of the wide open character development options that D&D offers... towns seemed very lively with other people as well. My doubts are how well solo-ing will work though - D&D is by its nature designed for a group.
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning:
I'm a huge fan of the setting (used to pen&paper RPG in it a lot back in my teens / twenties), and I felt they had caught the mood of it very well. Unfortunately, the game did not seem suitable for people wanting to play on their own, and seemed rather underpopulated... public quests aimed at 9+ players having 0-1 people going at them, and so on.
DC Universe Online:
Felt slightly on the simple side, but still fun - combat was fun (which is important, as one spends a lot of time doing that). Quests were on the bland side, but I still enjoyed the overall experience.
Felt very old-fashioned to me... things felt clumsy to do, taking more mouseclicks than in other games, weird graphical phenomena (monster animations continuing to run after I'd killed it), boring quests with lots of running back and forth to bash X number of this or that monster. Did not like.
City of Heroes:
Interface felt archaic and clumsy. Character development seemed to have quite a few possibilities. Combat was dull to the extreme.
Voyage Century Online:
Interesting different concept - I like the idea of being an explorer, sailing around the world. I disliked the interface strongly... not being able to move my character with the keyboard, multi-key shortcuts (... I see the point in reserving all the regular keys for chatting, I guess, but to me, it felt awkward). I wish I could have liked this game - I like the setting, the ideas, but the actual game seemed awkward to me.
I like the turnbased combat, but being stressed by a time limit utterly ruined it for me. Apart from that, didn't seem to do anything else all that different or exciting.
Runes of Magic:
Seemed like a worse and less polished version of World of Warcraft.
Decent fun, but combat was not all that interesting - maybe it would change at higher levels. Worried about solo playability. I don't think I'd want more than one superhero RPG in the mix, and DC made a slightly better first impression.
Fun in short bursts, but didn's seem like much of an MMO to me - felt like a straight action game.
So, given all of this, what MMO should I decide to get deeper into? Which ones that I have already tried deserve a second look? Which more ones out there should I try?
Thanks in advance!