World of Warcraft...if you've played the MMO genre at all, you can't help but know the game. You know its history. You know its success.
You know that it's colorful. That it's smooth and polished, easy to pick up and extremely hard to put down. You know that it's been the king of the MMORPG hill almost since inception -- that it's constantly reinventing itself and adding fun, highly addictive content every expansion.
And you know (at least some of you, anyway) that despite all this, it's also getting a little stale.
We get it. All our legendary armor and super high gear scores are now worse than green items. We get a few new skills, and the grind begins again until we move over to PvP segments that continue a war which doesn't actually make a whole lot of sense anymore. Some of us are tired. Some of us are a little bored. Some of us, well...we're burnt out.
If this is you, I have good news - there are other MMO games (new and old) that all offer something a little different than Illidan and friends. So come with me on a quick trip through 5 MMOs to play if you need a quick exit from the Legions of WoW.
ESO might be an older title itself (though not nearly as aged as the World of Wacraft), and it has a bit of a spotty history given a not-so-stellar beta/early release. But currently one of the best MMO experiences on the market - especially given its (mostly) Free to Play status.
A different mindset of endgame content, the Elder Scrolls Online experience is a polished take on the "Keep Wars" genre of MMO in the lineage as the once-fantastic Dark Ages of Camelot, giving players a massive and neverending PvP endgame to look forward to.
For the filthy totally reasonable PvE players among us, there's still plenty of end-game "Raids-n-Bosses" style content in the Trials and Cyrodiil, and tons of crafting available.
If you like your magical fantasy violence a little less garishly cartoon-y or your PvP battles massive and driven by siege engines, check out The Elder Scrolls Online here. (Or if you're already playing it, check out our guide to the recent Dark Brotherhood DLC.)
In the long line of "WoW-killers" that the MMO market churned out for years, there were plenty of misses -- but more than a few hits, too. Perhaps the most notable is AION, the winged fantasy combat MMO/flight simulator from NCSoft. It boasted more than a few diehard followers and some compelling (if super-grindy) gameplay.
Also the views. The gorgeous views.
Unfortunately, AION suffered from time if nothing else. There just aren't as many Elyssians and Asmodians fighting in the rift as there used to be, and the rather similarly styled (but newer) Blade & Soul didn't help matters.
Luckily, for those of us still intent on soaring through the skies while performing fancy, vaguely anime-inspired combat moves, there's a new hope with Revelation Online -- an upcoming MMO that's currently in beta.
Whether you're an old AION fan or just looking for something new, Revelation promises a return to all the half-high fantasy, half-steampunk sights we've come to know and love over the years, complete with flying (or at least falling with style).
If you want access to either the open or closed beta, you can sign up on the official website -- or even buy an early access pack if you want to support the dev and get guaranteed beta time.
Now, let me be clear. Guild Wars 2 isn't exactly a stellar PvE experience. It's not awful, mind you -- the story mode combinations reflecting choices you make in character creation are fun if a bit limited, the world encounters keep the old sense of "LFG" alive in an age of instant instance groups, and the world is painted just well enough to be fun to explore.
It's just not all there when it comes to PvE. Everything is kind of formulaic. Kind of "samey" with the rest of the MMO world. So why did it make the list?
Simple: It's a half step towards the MMO-killing MOBA genre. Simply put, Guild Wars 2 has an incredibly easy to reach PvP "endgame" that's active almost immediately after character selection, and puts two teams of competitors in a tightly packed, objective-filled arena to battle their specific and limited sets of skills against one another.
And it's great.
No twenty seven bars of skills that need 3-key combinations to activate. No incredible macros just to keep all your cooldowns together. Pick your weapons, pick your armor and rune set, then start murdering your way up the ranks. As a bonus, this iteration of Guild Wars doesn't even have IWAY -- but you can have it your way in the second installation of the series, found here.
If there's one thing that's gotten a bit boring in the World of Warcraft (and to be fair, many other MMOs), it's how streamlined the whole experience is. Go here, kill this. Talk to this person because you're this level, kill twenty seven hundred Zhevras to get four hooves.
Ding! Level up -- congratulations! Now go here and kill this.
Your choice tends to be which zone you spend your first ten or so levels in, and after that it's all about the same as the zones converge. Where's the sense of choice? Of chance?
Where's the sense of adventure?
For those of us who want a little less railroad and a little more sandbox in our MMOs, the game that took the genre (and Twitch) by sandstorm offers a fresh, much more open ended experience in Black Desert Online, which you can buy here.
Start your journey through the gorgeously rendered world of the Desert today, and never look back.
On the off chance the header image alone doesn't sell you on the game... (Seriously, look at it. I'm pretty sure those stormtroopers with laser spears are riding a dinosaur to go help a dragon fight King Kong)...ARK has plenty of gameplay to back up its insane setting.
If you like hard mode, that is.
ARK is a survival-style MMO. There's plenty of grinding, new skills to learn, and amazing things to build as you take your virtual avatar through a land filled with peril, danger, and sweet dinosaurs. However, there is the omnipresent danger of being thrown back to square one when your high-tech survival base is destroyed by a rampaging pack of T-Rexes -- just like in real life.
If the "Swords and Sorcery" setting is a little stale, and you want a bit more challenge to your MMO than "click the button to murder yet another bandit who doesn't seem to understand that your sword is on fire with magic", be sure to check out ARK: Survival Evolved (available here for both Steam/PC and Xbox One).
Whether it's the open-ended exploration of Black Desert Online, the aerial exploits of Revelation, the intense MOBA-esque combat of Guild Wars 2, the rock-solid gameplay and intense customization and end-game of The Elder Scrolls Online, or the dinosaurs with machine guns attached to their frickin' heads of ARK, these five MMOs are all fantastic titles to explore if you've been around the World of Warcraft a few too many times.
Of course, you could always just grind Zhevra hooves -- but I, for one, am not prepared to go back to that.
What other MMOs would you recommend to recovering WoW addicts? Let me know down in the comments!