My thoughts on MMOs in 2019

This summer is going to see some excitement around MMOs. In June we will see the new chapter; Elsweyr for The Elder Scrolls Online. Shortly followed by the Final Fantasy XIV expansion; Shadowbringers in early July. On top of that World of Warcraft: Classic will finally arrive in the summer and rumours of a possible new World of Warcraft expansion being announced at Blizzcon 2019 are beginning to circulate. And finally even Star Wars: The Old Republic is getting a new expansion; Onslaught in September 2019. So there is a fair amount of new content coming for some of the more established MMOs.

With this in mind I thought I would write a very quick summary of my thoughts on how I feel about some of the most popular MMO games, given that MMOs and similar Live Services games have often dominated my playtime in recent years. This is concentrating on existing games rather than brand new MMOs that are yet to be released.

Currently playing: The Elder Scrolls Online

I’ve written about this before and I don’t need to say too much other than this is my current MMO/Live Service game of choice. I’ve already pre-ordered the latest expansion; Elsweyr. The only issue is that I don’t feel the hurry to jump into this new chapter content straight away having played a fair amount of the game in the last few months.

Given up on (for now): World of Warcraft

I made the mistake of picking up Blizzard’s 6-month subscription offer back in October and I haven’t played the game a great deal. In truth I’ve barely spent much time with Battle for Azeroth’s new content. My 2018 return to the game saw me playing more Legion content and catching up on old zones by levelling new characters. I’m struggling to find enthusiasm to play World of Warcraft anymore at the moment. So for now a good break from the game is probably the wisest choice.

In addition World of Warcraft: Classic doesn’t hold much attraction for me. I only started playing the game during The Burning Crusade expansion and even though I enjoyed the demo of Classic last year I don’t think I have the appetite for the original game. This is going to get a lot of attention though and for those players interested, whether they are reliving old memories or not, this should provide a fascinating experience. As a streamer recently said this is probably more akin to a seasonal event but will likely generate some interesting stories.

Not played in a while: Guild Wars 2

I’ve written about the original Guild Wars recently saying how I never spent enough time with that game. And unfortunately the same is true of Guild Wars 2. At the moment I’m enjoying The Elder Scrolls Online too much to go back to this. It’s a shame because I do have content I would like to experience like the Personal Story and Living World, but for now it isn’t happening.

Would love to try: Final Fantasy XIV

This seems to be the de facto recommendation for players looking for the best MMO in 2019. And for good reason. Square Enix’s MMO seems to have gone from strength to strength since the 2013 relaunch A Realm Reborn. However whilst I would be keen to give it a go, as ever with any Live Service like this, I’m trying to hold off because of the time and cost commitment. In addition it also sounds a bit like World of Warcraft in that for solo players there is a lack of endgame content (i.e. not even using LFG). And that is a slight concern for me if I got into this game.

Previously played: Star Wars: The Old Republic

I played Star Wars: The Old Republic for a few months when in came out in late 2011. And from the sounds of it a lot has changed in the last 8 years. Indeed this always played a bit like an offline RPG and there might be more content for solo players now. However whilst that appeals somewhat this might remain a once visited memory for me. It is good to see a new expansion arriving in September though.

The ‘not quite MMOs‘, but in the same category

Might be done with: Warframe

This is probably sacrilegious to write in 2019. Digital Extremes looter extraordinaire is the darling of most on the internet right now. And again for good reason. However I feel removed from this game, currently struggling to get back into it. The never ending and constant release of new items to collect along with more group oriented modes recently introduced has cooled me on this game. So why might I be done with it? Well it’s more about catching-up and having already amassed nearly 400 hours in a 18-24 months span I did get a little bit exhausted with Warframe.

Need to play: Path of Exile

Similar to the previous game, I feel a bit burnt out on isometric ARPG games in general which has impacted how many I’ve played recently (i.e. not many). Also the short seasons in Path of Exile mean I feel I need to jump in with a view to commiting for a month or two. And there are simply too many other games requesting my time at the moment. In no way a criticism of this game. At some point I will give it a proper go.

2019 is all about…

The Elder Scrolls Online will probably be the MMO/Live Service game I play most in 2019. With a new Chapter coming and a game I still find incredibly engaging it is hard to imagine playing something else instead of this. As noted there are a few games that are tempting or I would like to play again but when it comes to MMOs I feel less is more, and actually concentrating on one game is the best decision.

I haven’t really kept an eye on upcoming future MMOs and therefore there is a chance something emerges that takes my interest but is probably unlikely.

Do some video games age badly?

There’s a moment in one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpieces where one of the characters realises that some things change so much that you can’t go back to things as they were before. And sometimes when playing an old videogame I think you may experience something similar.

This past Easter weekend the news leaked that some fans had been running a private server of the long since closed down MMO City of Heroes for the last six years in secret from most of the community. This on top of recent bad news about another fellow NCSoft studio; ArenaNet had made me want to play Guild Wars again. Not the 2012 sequel that most now know but the original 2005 Co-Op RPG game that came first; Guild Wars.

You see Guild Wars is a game I’ve played before. Actually I’ve had a number of attempts to try and play it. I played the 10-hour trial more times than I care to remember when I kept debating whether to drop money on the game. Guild Wars is one of those games that I’ve never played for as long as I should have, much like it’s sequel. The laundry list of things I have to do is still large, but at the very least I still harboured a desire to play through the main campaigns.

Guild Wars 1 screenshot.

Guild Wars is still an exceptionally beautiful game

So this past weekend I downloaded the installer and started the process of logging onto a game I hadn’t played for years. Surprisingly a relatively painless process and it didn’t take that long to get up and running. However almost as quickly as I had managed to log into the game I was hit by a strong sense of disappointment. And not just because of the reorientation process, i.e. there’s a lot of learn again but because it just wasn’t the same. The movement, skills based combat and interface felt a step back. Everything felt old, not surprisingly given how long ago the game came out, but worse still the overwhelming feeling whilst playing the game again was of wanting to play something else instead.

In other words the game compared unfavourable to some more modern games in my current library. Now of course this is unfair to Guild Wars. If was and arguably still is a great game but however irrational of me, I can’t shake the feeling that playing the game again doesn’t feel ‘right’. Knowing somewhere deep inside that maybe the chance I had to play this game has come and gone. Perhaps I’ve simply left it too long and the game’s time has come and gone.

This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this. Far from it. Although here I am writing about a game I’ve played before, you can also play a game many years after its release and still go through a similar experience. One time I remember in the early millennium finally buying Perfect Dark and Excitebike 64 on the Nintendo 64 years after release. Excitebike 64 still felt fresh and fun, Perfect Dark however felt juddery, slow and archaic. No matter how much I tried I just couldn’t get to grips with Goldeneye’s successor and it was a game I should have loved. Probably not helped by the newer First Person Shooters, like Halo, that had arrived in the years following. I even remember posting about Perfect Dark on an internet forum at the time and being meet with similar feelings as my own. Many also felt that as a game it had aged badly, or as least not as well as some of it contemporaries.

One thing is for sure, videogames do age. Both technically and conceptually. Some naturally much worse than others as some genres really develop over time. But the fact is that we players who play video games do also grow and change. And that can affect our opinions and reactions to older games. And therefore this is perhaps as much a comment about me rather than any critique about Guild Wars.

However almost as quickly as it took me to load the game, my adventure with Guild Wars comes to an abrupt end. Again. Maybe for the last time given that some day ArenaNet and NCSoft will turn off the servers. Although who knows as maybe as I may try the game again some day.

Whatever Arenanet is considering working on next, maybe a game that is truer in nature to the original Guild Wars, than its sequel ever was, might not be a bad thing. Hell I might even get around to playing it properly in a more timely manner this time. Maybe.

Coincidentally this post is being published to the day of the release of the original game; 26th April 2005. This wasn’t planned, just a happy accident I realised as I looked up facts about the game. So Happy 14th Birthday Guild Wars.