MMOs in 2014: The Good, The Bad, and The Future
2014 saw tons of MMO releases and news. I'm here to share the best and worst of the 2014 releases as well as the best of what's to come in the next year or so. Each category will count down the top three with a few honorable mentions that didn't quite make the cut. Keep in mind this is still just an opinion piece, and you're free to disagree. I'd like to hear your opinions in the comments below as well.
Let's start the reflection with what went wrong in the MMO industry this year. Most of these issues are from over-hype just to find out the game just wasn't that great...
WildStar had a vast amount of potential, the problem is it didn't live up to the hype-train on launch. On top of that, the leveling went by too fast for little reward upon hitting max level. You spent a good 2-3 weeks after just grinding to unlock the quest-line for "Eldergame" content. After that it was about a month worth of solo-que for Adventures and dungeons to meet a requirement for the quest progression for raiding. Basically, it boiled down to an unwelcoming end game experience.
Since launch, Carbine put in a lot of effort to improve the gameplay and experience. Unfortunately, many of the dissatisfied players decided it was better to just wait for the other big releases of the year instead of returning to a game that burned them once.
Here's a familiar scene. Cheating the disconnect system by using the training dummies to remain logged in. This techniques was used to dodge login ques on launch, and is now used in the winter event to cheat the system.
Here's a game I was really looking forward to. I played quite a bit of the ArcheAge alpha and enjoyed the systems the game had in place. But, there were two factors that hurt this game: the cash shop and the lack of preparation by Trion at launch. Just before launch, a few items were snuck into the cash shop that completely ruined any sense of achievement players would have in the game.
The other issue was just poor management of servers. ArcheAge had one of the worst launches I have seen in my history of gaming. I'm talking worse than the 3102 issue of FFXIV, and even the over-population issues of WoW's Warlords of Draenor. From launch, I spent a good two to three weeks just trying to log into ArcheAge only to get disconnected halfway through 13 hour ques, because there weren't enough servers to handle the over population. Trion's lack of resolving this issue in a timely manner quickly destroyed player interest in the game.
1. Elder Scrolls Online
Anything that could have went wrong with this game, did. This game was not ready for launch when it came out. I could go on for days about how quests just didn't work, or how player phasing made group questing impossible, or even the slide-show style PvP where nobody could do anything due to non-stop lag in the battles. ESO was just a poor showing all around for Zenimax. I only know of four or five diehard fans that still play ESO out of a play group that was originally 40 to 50 players deep at launch. The only way I'd ever reinstall ESO is if the game went free-to-play and they truly fixed the things they claim to have fixed.
Not Quite Making The Worst of the Worst List: Tera Rising
The Ascension and Wounded World patches just left players wanting and likely should have just been released all at once instead of separately. The Fate of Arun expansion didn't do much to remedy this issue. Tera stole a page out of WoW's book with the recent level increase scroll, but implemented it poorly by taking you to 58 and leaving you with no gear and no way to acquire it for new players. They also adopted ArcheAge's middling crafting system. With all of this combined, they just barely missed being one of the top three worst for the year.
Now that we've made it past the worst the year had to offer, let's take a look at the best.
3. Elite: Dangerous
This is the only game out this year that I didn't get my hands on personally. From what I've seen through streams like Londongaming4fun since its recent release, this game has serious potential. Elite: Dangerous has open world space exploration and combat that looks visually amazing. I'm impressed considering this is a game that kind of just sprang up out of nowhere.
There are only two downsides I noticed when checking this game out, that prevented it from getting placed higher on the list. The first was just a lack of population, or the feeling of population to be exact. With as vast as the game is, it requires a lot of searching to run into other players in some of the regions. The other issue is the fact that to get the true immersion this game can offer you need third-party programs; programs like Voice Attack that allow you to program in voice commands for the game. Elite: Dangerous seems completely playable without them, but they make it feel much more real.
2. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Since it's release late last year, FFXIV has steadily released new content and patches every three months or so. These patches make Tera's Fate of Arun "expansion" look like no more than a bug fix with the sheer amount of content disparity between them. FFXIV introduces more story, at least three new dungeons, a new Primal, and endgame continuation in each patch. I can't really think of a bad thing to say about FFXIV for the year.
1. World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
I'm sure most people aren't surprised, and are liking thinking this is a biased opinion. However, if I was being biased: FFXIV would have ranked higher as I've always been a FF fan. Now before I get into what makes WoD the best release of 2014, let me start by saying I literally started playing WoW for this expansion. My official start in WoW happened around 2-3 weeks before the expansion launched. I got to experience a bit of Mists of Pandaria before journeying to Draenor. Up until WoD launch I wasn't really impressed with the game.
Now, let me explain why I speak so highly of Warlords of Draenor. A big thing for me getting into this expansion was the beginner friendly approach that first quest-line before you get your Garrison has. Blizzard took into account that there would be a lot of new players with the returning players and made it so that they could get a feel for the game as well. On top of, that the story actually has a genuinely epic scale to it and it makes the player feel like their character is really making a difference in the story's progression, even though the flow and events are linear and scripted.
I'm never left with a feeling of a lack of things to do in Warlords of Draenor. It actually comes down to me trying to scramble around and get things done at the last second more often than not. Keeping your Garrison productive and not stagnant requires constant attention. Whether it means going out and gathering materials for your craft buildings or tracking down Garrison Resources for that building upgrade, it's almost like having a second job (in a good way).
The last thing I want to mention is dungeons and raiding. As this article shows, I play quite a few MMOs. I've never experienced an MMO that has been as personally challenging as this expansion. You have to constantly be aware of at least five things at once, and during a three-hour raid session that can be very taxing. It's a refreshing change of pace to most MMOs which favor the casual idea, "Let's make content that anyone can clear." These raids are designed with the understanding that not everyone can clear the Mythic difficulty, giving those that do that huge sense of accomplishment.
Honorable Mention: Blade and Soul: Taiwan
I got my hands on the Taiwan version of Blade and Soul the moment it launched back in November. I must say that it's everything I'd hoped for in Blade and Soul.
Fast-paced combat that requires skill really brings excitement to the game. Blade and Soul doesn't have healers, meaning players will live or die based on their own merits. It's nice having a game in which there is no one to blame but yourself for failing.
The reason this placed as an honorable mention instead of the top three is due to the fact that it requires a third-party translation patch to understand for english speaking players. GameSkinny writer Ashley recently wrote about a site that provides these translations.
It's time to take a look at, "What's Next" for the MMO world. The next year or so is going to be really exciting, from what I've seen so far. As a lot of what's involved in these future releases is shrouded in secrecy, I'll share videos for each one.
3. Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward
The first expansion for FFXIV is slated to launch some time in early 2015, I'm willing to bet sometime between March and May. This expansion brings three new jobs, flying mounts, Ishgaard, and so much more.
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2. Tree of Savior
Tree of Savior is the spiritual successor to Ragnarok Online. Everything I've seen on this game has made me sure I want to play it. It takes a step back from those fancy, realistic 3D MMOs without taking away from the beauty of the world.
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1. Black Desert
Another game that I decided I had to play after only seeing one video. This game reminds me a lot of the combat style of Blade and Soul, but on a more epic scale.
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Honorable Mention: Lineage Eternal
This is a game I stumbled upon more recently, and I know very little about. It looks very Diablo like, but I'm not really sure of anything outside of that. I do know this game isn't expected until late 2016 though, so it'll be a long wait if this is the game you're looking forward to.
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That wraps up my year-end review of MMOs and what to look forward to in the future. I'm very open to your opinions on what you think are the top three in each category. Be sure to share this with your friends and leave your opinions in the comments section below.