Thursday, August 20, 2009

Non-Warcraft Adventures

World of Warcraft is the game that occupies most of my online time but is far from the only game I play. I have a lot of older PC games that I play when I'm not feeling particularly social. One example is X2:the threat, a space sim I picked up at the bargain bin recently for $3 or so. Pretty cool title.

I also dabble in a number of other MMO games. Even before I took up Wow, I was and continue to play Eve online. This well established space game is pretty awesome. Its not one for the faint-hearted though, as the PvP can be pretty full on even in the "safe" zones, and the cost of death is much steeper than in most games. Eve is great fun when you get yourself into a decent corporation. Solo play is fine too but it can be hard and lonely. Most of the web reviews for this game are many years out of date; the game is much more stable and polished now than it was back near release. I maintain three active subscriptions to this game even though I'm currently not playing it a lot.

As a person with a pre-order in for AION, I was able to play in its latest closed Beta this last weekend. The visuals in this game are absolutely beautiful! Gameplay seems ok too, though at barely level 13 I've hardly touched the surface. AION features flying characters once you ascend at level 10. This adds another interesting aspect to fights and travel. My little taste in the beta has got me hungry to try more though I doubt it will steal me away from wow for too long.

I've also investigated a number of the free-to-play MMO's. A long time ago when my PC was old and pathetic, I played Runescape. People seem to hate this game and taunt anyone who plays. I re-activated my account about 6 months ago just to see how it was going. Its visuals have improved somewhat but its gameplay has all the annoying features that made me leave ages ago. I guess there's still some appeal to people since the server was quite busy and the price is right but I doubt I'll be back.

Another free to play game is Archlord. This game has been out for a few years now. It got mostly terrible reviews in the gaming press. I think it's been judged harshly. Its graphics and music are pretty good. It features PvP very heavily, with siege combat and control of castles by guilds being a big part of end-game. My rampant alt-itis is a big problem here since I never spend enough time on any one toon to progress very far. Archlord suffers from having poorly translated quests and lore. I couldn't make any sense at all of the storyline on the game's main page and quest text in-game is hardly better. The rewards from questing seemed fairly poor too compared to what I'd obtain from drops. The resulting grind-fest was tedious at best. Once a character gained some AOE abilities, usually around level 14, things went along better. WoW is leagues ahead of this game but if "free" is your price limit, its decent enough.

Also out in "open beta" now for a long while is 2Moons. This game is a fair bit more polished than Archlord is but also seems to be a grind-fest. Quests, while at least readable, aren't terribly engaging. All of the available character types seem viable and mostly fun to play. Graphics and audio are pretty nice, perhaps better than Wow in some ways but movement can sometimes be jerky and there doesn't seem to be any jump/swim third dimension.
I haven't played either this or Archlord consistently enough to be a member of a decent guild so a lot of the social aspects I've encountered so far have been negative ones. A lot of selfish dickwads on these free games. There was some licensing issue with 2moons and it seems that this is now restricted to North American players only, but since my account was created before the lockdown it still works fine.

The most recent free game I've tried has been Runes of Magic. This game is often described as a WOW clone. It certainly does have a lot of similarities but here are enough points of difference to make it interesting in its own right. Its a very polished game compared to others I've seen. I love the dual-class mechanism where you can access some of the secondary class's skills while in a different primary class, eg priest healing while a warrior. Quests, audio and visual, as well as game community seem generally better than the other games I've listed here. I've linked to the US site, but there's one for Europe as well on different servers. The micro payment options for this game are its weak point however. They are much more blatant about it, sending regular in-game announcements of "special" offers. It looks like spending some RL cash will be necessary to go far in this game. Other free-to-play games make items available for purchase that make life a lot easier but RoM seems to be making lots of "must have" items as part of their payment system - and they are hideously expensive. The player imbalance that results from this is a very undesirable aspect in gameplay. The game itself is the best of the free ones I've sampled here but this blatant cash grab is a real turn-off, to the point where I'm reluctant to play any further.

1 comment:

Pangati said...

I have to admit, I really do want to try Aion. I just don't have time for two MMOs, and with the new expansion stuff coming out for WoW, I definitely do not plan on quitting.

But I've seen some screenshots of Aion, and it's absolutely gorgeous. And I've heard nothing but wonderful things about it. If I were going to try another MMO, I think this is the one I'd head to.