I’m surprised that I found this many games in my list of things I played in 2015. In the spirit of Listmas during the season of giving, I’m going to give you a brief rundown of the eight MMOs that I played this year and what I thought of them. And by brief, I mean condensed walls of text. I’ve placed them in order from “most to say” to “least to say.”
1. WildStar – I’ve been playing this game pretty much exclusively for the last couple of weeks after having taken many, many months off from it. I paid for a month’s worth of Signature status which increases currency gains and cuts down on the need for farming, i.e. it now takes me 2.5 days of dailies to cap out my Elder Gems as opposed to four. Healing via Ventari’s Tablet on my Revenant in Guild Wars 2 paved the way for a return to my PvP roots in the form of my Healslinger who has been farming up prestige, the PvP currency, in battlegrounds. There is little left of the competitive PvP scene in WildStar after Drop 6; I am nonetheless mindlessly engaging in an old, familiar game mode which was my mainstay for the better part of a year and a half during the era of Wrath of the Lich King.
I am still in love with WildStar. With that said, it’s going to die in 2016 just as City of Heroes did in 2012. The cash shop offers nothing particularly attractive; the recent addition of a mount which is available as an account-bound option for the low, low price of $34 recalls tales of EVE Online’s monocle and the proposed hobbyhorse from Lord of the Rings. Those games, however, are solid on their own in many different aspects and therefore still exist. WildStar, on the other hand, may be thought of as an individual who lives a rather modest life that is not going anywhere. They are not dying – it is neither a dead nor dying game – any more than you and I have been dying since the day we were born. They work an uninteresting job for a moderate amount of money. Domestically, they are rather mundane. Take them out to parties and dance clubs and they are an absolute blast. When the night is done and they head back to an extravagantly decorated home that appears to be beyond their means, they are nothing special.
And so it will be that one evening WildStar will be watching television with the lights off when there is a sudden knock at the door. A very polite knock. WildStar will answer and will be met by Bob Hoskins reprising his role as Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday. He’ll be wearing an “NCSoft” pin on the lapel of his immaculate, three-piece suit. Turns out it’s a revenge contract from the afterlife for having made Super Mario Bros. Up comes the barrel of an old-fashioned revolver and BAM! No fanfare, little warning, just a sudden sunsetting after the sun’s gone down on yet another day in WildStar’s rather pedestrian life. The revolver goes back into the waistband and Mr. Hoskins is at peace. “Video games? I’ve shit ‘em.”
2. Guild Wars 2 – I’ve gone through spurts of play balanced by periods during which I log in only for the daily login reward. The game remains an enigma to me after two years of engagement, much to the delight of those who take delight in such things. I predict in 2016 that I will not be able to predict anything about the direction of this game or its developer post-Heart of Thorns. I am no longer interested in speculating on whether the Public Relations department of ArenaNet lives in a vacuum or whether Mike O’Brien is the meany-pants dictator that former employees claim he is in the treatises they leave on glassdoor. I do know that Elite specializations have fundamentally altered the nature of professions, that World versus World has been relegated to the Eternal Battlegrounds in the top tiers of play due to the massive scale and environmental gimmicks of the new borderlands maps, and that the new Leagues system for ranked PvP combined with the new immortal bunker meta for multiple professions including the heretofore “weird niche role” Mesmer have made tournament-level players despair and ragequit.
I’m not ready to uninstall as Roger Edwards has done, for there are still things in the game that interest me. It may be that I carry my rediscovered love of PvP back over with me from WildStar and return to play sessions in which I primarily engage in objective-based combat with other players. The only problem I have, however, is convincing myself that playing large amounts of instanced PvP in a game which offers a vast, beautiful, open world with a plethora of non-PvP activities is a legitimate way of playing the game.
I see now why some people have moved on from MMOs and are playing games which do the thing they like to do very well and let them go straight to it. The current offerings in many MMOs require players to engage in several other prerequisite tasks that they may not enjoy in order to play an inferior version of their preferred thing which may be one of many things on offer in that particular game.
3. The Secret World – My play sessions have been rather desultory. I did manage to make it out of Kingsmouth during a “binge” session and am slowly working on filling out the inner ring of the ability wheel. Hands down best story 2015 even if my icy heart doesn’t react to most of it. The blood showers in The Black House in The Savage Coast, for example, I found to be gratingly comical in an otherwise super-creepy environment.
I’m going to make a confession. You’ll probably hate me for it. I look up every single investigation mission. If it’s not fun or I can’t figure it out in a few minutes, I use a guide. I’m not Sherlock Holmes. I’m here for the World, not the Secret. I soak in the ambience of the environments. Being murdered because I didn’t spell out part of a Bible verse properly is not an immersive experience.
Now that you’ve discovered that I’m a terrible monster, you probably don’t care that I’m passively racking up AP/SP while running about the countryside looking for new and interesting people to meet. This is why I’m here. Why does this guy who sits up in a light tower all day writing horror novels have so much unfinished work he needs me to do? These are the real mysteries of Solomon’s Island. I’m happy to solve those. A gem of a game that needs to be discovered by more people.
4. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – If this game had action combat I would still be playing it and nothing else. The world is beautiful, I love my character, the community is fabulous, and my Free Company is fantastic. In contrast, the game play is slow, static, and boring. It’s my fault that I chose to live the life of a dedicated Paladin tank. It is not my fault, however, that the rotational complexity of a Dragoon does not make up for the persistent, on-rails vibe I get no matter what I do or where I go. When it comes to fluidity, it’s on the other end of the spectrum across from the double-jumping, floaty, borderline ice-skating physics of WildStar. Plodding away from one-shot telegraphed attacks and weaving off-GCD abilities into the space of a 2.5 second global cooldown make me feel slow. This simply will not do.
Heavensward would be my pick for the best expansion of 2015. Truth be told, there wasn’t much to choose from. It added an interesting story that was hell-gated by ten of the longest levels I’ve experienced since Everquest’s Ruins of Kunark expansion and a metric ton of prerequisite quests. No, I don’t watch to fetch your damned lunch or help orphans solve mysteries. I’m here to run Neverreap and The Fractal Continuum a hundred times for my item level + 1 gear.
On the other hand, my room in the Free Company’s estate looks positively fabulous. It’s a shame I can only have 50 décor items. A minor quibble with regard to one of the few games left out there that are worthy of charging a mandatory subscription fee.
5. Star Wars: The Old Republic – A formulaic game that boasts class stories whose story arcs and conversation choices rival the storytelling weight of The Secret World. I did not enjoy the filler bits between the story; it felt too much like World of Warcraft in space to me, down to the hotbars loaded up with abilities and the level-gated talent selections. There are an unhealthy number of collections to acquire and achievements to chase. It’s a completionist’s dream come true and an obsessive completionist’s worst nightmare. Make a five dollar purchase of Cartel Coins if you don’t want to be absolutely crippled when it comes to actually playing the game. Better yet, subscribe now and gain the ability to do everything most other free-to-play games offer…for free.
I subscribed for a month and stretched my wings out as far as they could be stretched. Nothing new or special in this one. The 12x experience boost allowed me to experience the stories I wanted to experience. It was worth the price of admission. I don’t see myself picking this one back up, not even for the PvP. As for the PvE, the gear grind is real, the instances are clones of things I’ve done in the past, and I just can’t be bothered to commit time to a world in which Twi’leks ride their speeders through cantinas at full speed with nary an eye-blink from those present.
6. TERA – TERA is an unmitigated wankfest with some of the most tactile, animation-driven combat I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying. Thank you for giving us damage numbers that pop up when weapons and/or projectiles actually contact other pixels. No thank you for the airport hangar full of bikini armor.
I didn’t get to the part where you do dungeons or fight BAMs. Neither of the healing classes interested me: Priest was too traditional for a game with a targeting reticle and Mystic was a no-go as I have never liked having to rely on other players to pick up and/or click on static, consumable healing objects I leave in the world. I may go back and give it another try some time. As I stated when I played it for the first time, it’s got some of the best, icy heart-melting visuals I’ve seen in any game. If I can compel myself to play it for any length of time in an over-the-top gaming world that’s been saturated with wack juice, I might get to see more of them.
7. Everquest 2 – I tried and failed. I don’t know how else to describe it. Numerous attempts to get this game to hook me have resulted in sliding down the slippery slope of a greased-up ocean rock face. I didn’t get initiated into the Cult of Norrath properly during the heyday of launch, having played a Gnome Illusionist up to 14 during the earliest days of the game and then quit in despair (I think I was playing WoW at the time). Whenever it was, it was long enough ago that I qualified for my own home on an island somewhere. I subscribed for a month to access the time-locked expansion servers and got my Guardian up to level 11 before calling it quits. Not enough nostalgia here to drive me to do anything in a storied game with a long history and content offerings which reflect that. Great game – it’s too bad we didn’t meet under different circumstances in a different lifetime.
Did I play a Warden once? Yes, I think I did. Makes for some good, sleepy bedtime musings.
8. The Lord of the Rings Online – Middle Earth has many roads to nowhere for a fresh-legged neophyte such as myself, and I have traveled but a few of them. I am not more than a passive fan of the Rings and could not find my feet when I tried my hand at roaming the lands of their Lords earlier this year. As I had been told by fellow bloggers, if you’re not already a fan, you’re probably not going to get sucked in. They were correct.
Merry Listmas to everyone! I’ll be spending my precious free time this holiday season continuing to play games more than writing about playing them. It’s what children do, anyways, and who am I to adult in a time of frivolous childing?