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Is it Time to Say Goodbye to Sword and Sorcery Fantasy Games? | One Good Roll

Steven Weber Updated: Posted:
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Whether you’re roleplaying Dungeons & Dragons, or taking a jaunt around a Tolkien-inspired online world, it’s abundantly clear that the vast majority of MMO’s seem to dive heavily into the mythological and literary sword and sorcery ocean that has accumulated over several decades. As much as I personally am a fan of fantasy settings, I feel like lately developers have become complacent with the sword and sorcery combination. I think it’s time we branch out into new horizons, because honestly, I don’t know how many more elf archers I can take.

The influence of fantasy tabletop games, novels, and films has rocked the gaming world to its core. Over the past several decades, we’ve come to find some really unique fantasy settings, like Hyrule from The Legend of Zelda, alongside some worlds built after some of our favorite novels, like Middle-Earth in Lord of the Rings Online. These worlds have been built and have grown over decades, and some of them have matured into expansive universes of their own, like The Elder Scrolls series. In each of these iterations, we’re given a familiar backdrop to some unique stories, but over the past several years, it feels like fantasy games have started to get a little stale. The ideas and premise just don’t hit the same way. We especially see this in cases where smaller developers are trying to break through into the genre, or foreign developers are attempting to copy the traditional World of Warcraft MMO formula.

Can We Do Better Than Fantasy?

Where is the inspiration? There have been a handful of games in the past where I really looked hard at the lore, characters and world and thought, “They’ve really put together something unique.” Say what you will about Wildstar but that game truly pushed the boundaries of a science-fantasy setting in ways that we nary have seen in an MMORPG since. The team at Carbine Studios really embraced the idea that an online world could be really strange, with expansive lore that doesn’t dip itself into a mediocre derivative of another world, just repacked, rebranded, and resold. Of course, as we look back on Wildstar’s closure more than 4 years ago, it’s apparent that great ideas and new intellectual properties, even when executed well, won’t always succeed.

The long line of curious MMO’s that have taken the road less traveled haven’t exactly faired too well. We do have some IP’s that have stood the test of time, such as Star Wars: The Old Republic, DC Universe Online, EVE Online, and Star Trek Online that strike out into MMO worlds with less of a fantasy feel, but there’s still a vast majority of games, both released and in-development that want a renaissance replay. Sure, there are a few beacons of hope out there that depict settings apart from fantasy as being successful long term. I just don’t know how many orcs and elves we really need before we’re ready for a universe that’s going to transcend what we’re used to, and build something that’s refreshing in every facet of its world and lore.

Zombie apocalypses, dystopian cyberpunk futures, alien invasions, or hell, give me an old western game, there are plenty of alternatives that developers have been diving into when it comes to action and survival games. I would love to see more MMO’s push those boundaries a little bit. I do not believe that we’re going to see the fantasy genre disappear. If anything, I believe we’ll just continue to see it grow until the lords of technology unify us with the virtual singularity and we’re all battling over a +2 codpiece of arrogance, but until that day comes, I’d like to see developers expand their imagination of what our online worlds can be. In the very least, if they can’t do that, can we please get something more unique than an elf archer in a crop top?

fallen earth classic

Are you also tired of seeing MMORPG fantasy games, or do you prefer fantasy and want to see more of them? Are there any game settings you’d like to see developers tackle? If you have the strength, join us in the comments and tell us your opinion.


Steven Weber

Steven has been a writer at MMORPG.COM since 2017. A lover of many different genres, he finds he spends most of his game time in action RPGs, and talking about himself in 3rd person on his biography page.