After reading all the positive feedback in the comments last week about what console RPGs we wanted to see rebooted I decided to take another stab at a personal list. This week I’m talking about the top 3 MMORPGs that have had an impact on my life. I’m not trying to sell you on these being the best MMORPGs of all time. This list is completely subjective. I’m not even going to try and convince you that they are good games. They are just the three that are the most special to me for various reasons.
Number 3: Final Fantasy XI
I can remember creating my first Elvaan character and joining the Federation of Windurst. This game was gorgeous and left a lasting sense of exploring into the unknown. It around Christmas and I didn’t realize that there was an in game event going on. I just thought the trees were dressed up beautifully and went along my way. Walking around Windurst in those early days and then venturing into Sarutabaruta left me with an impression of a game with a majestic world, Vana’diel. I then was killed by a rabbit. I spent a lot of my time doing /sea and looking for members to create leveling parties with. We would then sit there in place and spend more time chatting that killing.
This was one of the most social MMO’s I have ever played. To this day I love the concept of Notorious Monsters. Is it perfect or “fair”? No. Was it exciting to check different spawn points finding that Spiny Spipi had finally spawned then killing him and getting that cloak I wanted? Heck yes! I’ve never made it to the level cap with a single character class but I did enjoy this game immensely. The dragoon was my favorite class and I wish that at some point the dragoon would get a wyvern companion in a future Final Fantasy game. One can hope.
Number 2: Lord of the Rings Online
Besides the built in lore of Tolkien’s Middle Earth LotRO blew me away with its landscapes. The majesty of the Misty Mountains really sealed the deal for me and I felt Turbine had made a pretty faithful representation of Middle Earth. Much like FFXI the environments sold me on the game. At the time I loved to grind mindlessly whether it was for crafting materials or killing certain monsters to unlock character class skills. Fellowship skills were also fun. They reminded me a lot of Skill Chains from FFXI but they were unique and stood on their own.
My biggest problem with LotRO was the difficulty. The game wasn’t very hard. In fact it’s the only game in which I hold a world first in raiding (Clan Conviction, Vilya Server, Helegrod and Thorog) and I’m not that great. It was more race to get into the game and kill him as opposed to figuring out a solid strategy and mastering it. Once there wasn’t really anything left to do I found myself regressing back to the MMORPG mean which takes me to number 1 on this list.
Number 1: World of Warcraft
I didn’t so much play World of Warcraft as World of Warcraft took a hold of me and wrapped me in a big old bear hug and would not let go. It really became all-consuming of my free time. I first learned that there was going to be a World of Warcraft when I was on a deployment in the Marine Corps in late 2003. One of my friends showed me early photos of it that someone had mailed him. I remember thinking that Blizzard should have made a World of Diablo instead. Turns out I was wrong. Once we got back to the US in March of 2004 WoW had already been out a few months.
I was a geo-bachelor living in North Carolina and my wife and son was living in Texas. I had played MMORPGs before but nothing like what was about to happen. It was really a perfect storm of accessibility to the genre and A LOT of free time. I had a love affair with WoW until late in Burning Crusade. But WoW had lost its hold. From then on I immediately pick up the newest expansion and hit the level cap just to see what is new but don’t really spent time raiding. Except Pandaria. Pandas….
The single most important feature that stuck with me in the early days of WoW were the seamless continents. Being able to walk from one zone to the and not have to cross some barrier that would flash a load screen really impressed me. WoW wasn’t the first to do this but it was the first for me and really left an impact. There are games out there today that could still learn from this. Don’t break the immersion by slapping us with loading screens.
Honorable Mention: Dark Age of Camelot
All of the other games that I mentioned are primarily focused on PvE. While I did a lot of PvP in World of Warcraft that’s not why it made this list. Dark Age of Camelot and its uniquely defined roles and the interplay required between the classes to make effective war bands and then proceed to wreak havoc on your enemies will always have a special place in my heart. Hib for life. Also the herald and checking the status of the Realm wars was awesome.
I still have friends that I talk to today outside of gaming that I made inside of these virtual worlds. That’s special and something I don’t want to take for granted. I’m sure a lot of you can say the same. Let me know what your top MMORPGs are and why in the comments below. Try and limit yourself to only three, okay maybe four, and hopefully it ends up being a hard decision.