Well, without much in the way of entry seeing as we know what is going on, let us get down to the nitty gritty – my 5 best MMOs of 2011.
5. DC Universe (PC/PS3)
Whilst it did have a blip, and I’ve said some horrid things about how the game paints players as sidekicks rather than superheroes in their own right, there is some really admirable stuff in DC Universe. The combat system is, without doubt, wonderful. The instances have a knowing and almost sharp wit about them, and the graphics are splendid. SOE have a lot still to do here, but it doesn’t take away that they have the bare-bones of a very solid game here.
4. Hellgate Global (PC)
Seeing Hellgate come back to life was something I never thought possible; but here it is, free to play (mostly), with most of the original dialogue rewritten to give it a more dramatic edge – but keeping many of the original voice acting parts, which adds a farcical comedy edge to it. Past level 30, it really does get grindy but as it is cheap, dirty and a lot of fun for the 15-20 hours most will get out of it, it’s a great return of a game which arguably should have done better first time around.
3. Allods Online (PC)
It’s odd to see a game that so desperately copies World of Warcraft on a list of the best MMOs of 2011, but Allods succeeds where so many have failed by making it warm, witty and free to play. For a game with so much content, and one that actually looks that good, it is surprising – and by and large seems to have gone unnoticed. And that is a shame, because Blizzard could learn a thing or two from Allods.
2. Everquest 2: Free to Play (PC)
Now, I know many will groan and bemoan this choice, so hear me out. I accept, SOE are hopeless at the best of times and I agree, going free to play wasn’t what people wanted. But you can still register for premium content. And, more notably, for relatively little expense, Everquest 2 has a simply VAST amount of content. Huge. Enormous, in fact. It’s a game that requires and encourages team play, but there is so much to do, it would be a shame not to point it out as a highlight of the year – because it just is.
And this years winner is…
1. Rift: Planes of Telara (PC)
If there is one game that impressed me this year, it is Rift.
For a start, it proved once and for all that an MMO doesn’t have to be released in an unfinished, broken, buggy state (BioWare and The Old Republic; take note!) – Rift was polished, assured, rich in content and verve, with a solid story and events that breathed life into the world.
And it continues to go on, and strongly too – a high subscription retention, and regular content updates, have meant that even new players can find themselves torn between doing one of any number of things – be it simple questing, a few instances, be that 2-man or 5-man, expert or normal, to defending areas and stones from invasions, to tearing open rifts to crafting, harvesting, collecting items strewn about the world which have a significance to the lore…
Rift does need some engine work – I still think the game engine chugs a bit, and it really doesn’t need to. But it’s such a minor niggle in the face of the triumph that it really is – a game that decided rather than try to avoid World of Warcraft by being odd, or different, or free, or freemium or any one of dozens of ways people have done their best to avoid Blizzard’s behemoth, it decided to take it on – at its own game, no less.
And whilst Rift may only have a couple million subscribers, for a relatively new MMO that’s a real achievement, and one that stands as an example to others on how to get a new IP into the MMO Market – quality, quality, quality. Quality always speaks for itself, and Rift is without a doubt quality work that Trion should be applauded for.