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Here are what I feel are the 5 best MMOs and why:
1) The Secret World
Based on my experiences in the released version, open BETA and closed BETA:
Its different, and not a WoW clone. A "thinking persons" MMO with alot of puzzles, mysteries and immersion.
No cartoony graphics like WoW, instead the world is a serious place, and its the current modern world.
An original story line that is not about Elves, Orcs, and or a bunch of aliens in space.
It can be downright creepy at times and even scare you.
Unfortunately, the game uses tokens just like WoW clones do....so that is the only thing I do not like.
PvP is ok.....when its good its good and when its bad its bad. Personally the PvP in China is my favorite, but is also the least rewarding.
A monthly subscription means I will not be playing this game for more than 6 months regardless of how much I like it.
2) Guild Wars 2
Based on the BETA, I have to say I like this game because its beautiful, fun, and includes the best of old school MMORPGs as well as some of the newer ones
Yeah, its yet another "Fantasy" universe, but it is difficult enough to make leveling a gratifying experience, yet not a grind.
The game takes the dynamic events that made RIFT popular, but does it better. For example, just using the strategic cross roads as an example, its kind of cool to have this fort that sits on a major trade route with caravans coming and going that you can actually do quests for, but also how the crossroads and its fort can come under attack by the AI without warning. That fiight is tough but fun. And these types of dynamic events happen all over its game world. The argument can be made that because these dynamic events pop up in and around the same places can put a damper on it, but there is a reason for that, i.e. these locations are strategically important, thus there is a reason the AI wants it.
No more spamming for groups!!!! HOORAY! This is the big one for me, as I hate spamming and/or seeing others spam for groups. In this game you basically "show up" and everyone is now one big group.
No subscripton!!! Thats the biggest benefit and its not a F2P game either with the typical F2P issues. Only time will tell, what effect if any the cash store will have, but at least you do not have to unlock stuff and places with real money, tokens or gems like the F2P games do.
3) Age of Conan
There is no other MMORPG game universe as violent, bloody, sexy, and true to the original novels as Age of Conan.
As a fan of Robert E Howards Conan books, but NOT THE STUPID MOVIES, I would have to say the immersiveness and bloody violence of combat that is so true to the books is what really makes this game. A great storyline and combat that requires alot of thinking and planning for your combos as well as skill.
Guild Sieges were the most fun I ever have had in 20 years of PC gaming! Even when I was low level I charged my mammoth and made it swing its tusks thru a mass of enemy players!
Unfortunately.......and its a BIG ONE...you can forget about PvP since the game is hugely dependant on gear. Unless you played from release or grinded arena play to get your level (x) PvP gear you will be slaughtered. There are arena match fixing by players who sabotage an opposing team for their guild or pre-made, cheating was bad with combo cancelling and other combo exploits that rid your toon of the time consuming animation but hit with the total combo power/damage.
Also, the great Roleplaying/PvP servers were ruined by players who harassed the RP'rs. Which was a shame because I have never RP'd before this game, but I can tell you the RP was so good back in 2009/2010 that it made everything more fun especially guild vs guild RP.
Those days are over and replaced by the harrasers who would flood all chat channels with kiddie potty talk and other mindless dribble.
The addition of F2P made all this more tolerable, and allowed those behind the PvP gear curve to buy PvP gear with tokens bought with real world money that took you to the beginning of each tier of gear. Thus, at least you were more competitive somewhat, but still....new PvP's and especially those level 80s that waited too long to PvP are hosed.
This game takes place in the future, has beautiful graphics, a huge game world and a huge population. I believe it has the largest MMO population and has been around a long time thru many expansions. It is really a MMO you can wrap yourself around and really really get into.
It has one of the largest stores for books, maps, posters, models, real life clothing, you name it and has an incredible glossy magazine.
SO...whats wrong with it and why is it not number 1?
Well....it has a subscription and it takes a long long time to progress....its open world PvP which is great but once you leave high security space you are on your own. Joining a guild known as corporations in the game is the way to go, but expect a huge time investment to receive a return. Its all about making money. Now for good or bad the games makers say anything goes...scandals, extortion, griefing, evan scams...as long as you do not CHEAT or HACK.
You can even use your hard earned money to buy PLEX which can also be used to buy game time! A guy I work with has not paid a single dollar for his monthly subscription for the past years due to the huge amount of PLEX he has. However he will be the first to tell you how many hundreds of dollars he paid in monthly subscription fees for his first few years!
One nice thing is that your skills will continue to progress when you are logged off, as not all skills are instant and take time, more and more time to learn, but like I said take a skill that takes a week in real time to learn and regardless of whether you are online or not its timer will keep ticking towards completion.
Space combat can be epic with huge battles and huge ships. If you like trading, buying and selling commodities is a fun money maker. Mining can be fun or dull dependng on how you feel about using a mining ship on asteroids.
The inclusion of DUST 514, which will be the first ever FPS game that players on the planets will fight over the very same planets that EVE players have oney making structures on. Thus, for the first time ever, comnsole players will contract out to PC players to protect the space faring PC players structures and other money making machines on the planets surface.
However, DUST 514 is not released yet so we do not know how this first time ever venture will turn out, but it sure sounds exciting.
5) Warhammer Online
Do not laugh! Its the HUGE Warhammer Universe! And is only dwarfed by its futuristic themed cousin Warhammer 40K. Its been around for almost 30 years having been created as a table top miniatures game in the early 1980s, first as a Fantasy game and then as a futuristic one (WH 40K), novels and books galore and even a movie!
So...whats the issue? Well, for one its a monthly subscription game that is PvP centric and totally dependant on population. Sure, you could play PvE, but the devs did not do such a good job on PvP. The game was innovative for its public quests and instanced battlefields in addition to Open World PvP. But all this was not enough to keep what basically becomes a shallow game at max level.
The "Free Trial" which limited you to Tier 1 caused this first tier and small map/area to be high population adn fun, but eventually caused Tier 2 and 3 to become low pop and hurt the game. Server merges were drastic. The only good news is that enough changes were made to the game to now cause all Tiers to have good population, but only during primetime.
The open world PvP which is exciting at first does get old after awhile as you ride from objective to objective or zone to zone for max Renown Points.
I include this game only because it was only 1 expansion and 1 RIGHT decision by the devs to being number 1. Unfortunately, the Devs could never quite make that 1 right decision to correct its shortcomings. No expansions and no F2P sealed its fate. Even worse, when Electronic Arts bought Mythic after Mythic had a brain fart, EA has pretty much abandoned the game. It would seem EA threw some money out to the Devs could have been used to fix this game, but instead created "Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes", which is a fun little F2P arena PvP game that requires you to spend "some" money to be competitive....IMHO the fact that Mythic and Bioware state that Wrath of Heroes is Warhammer Online PvP without all the "boring stuff" (their exact words) just shows you how they feel about the original game....YEAH dont fix it....just create a different game while bashing the former one.
Still...if you are a Warhammer fan, this game is always worth trying for about a month or 2.