I have achieved different levels of progress for each of these MMORPGs:
"We make a pretty good team, even if we don't work together." - My sonWe put the "RP" into RPG!www.neverdarklands.net
Sword of the New World
and can place comment on each.
These are all Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing Games. A most unique form of entertainment if you have not played them before. Essentially, it is Dungeons and Dragons for the new millenium, where you assume the personae of some fantastic character, and are off for adventure and wealth, melee and experience. It is no substitute for tabletop gaming, but it has opened an entirely new market for video games, and is deserving of the lavish success it has earned.
THe MMO genre has been hallmarked almost single-handedly by World of Warcraft, (begun by Everquest and to some extent Diablo) which I must say is probably still the best example... however, there are virtues that these games above offer that set them apart from the mainstream. Not the least of which, they are ALL free to play.
They make their profit using a very clever business model, which was initiated by FlyFF (Fly for Fun, another MMO I have not tested); you can buy other-worldly items for game use (a magic sword, a magic cloak, and so on) with your REAL hard-earned currency. It is not mandatory by any means, but it will set you apart from the rest of your peers if you choose to do so. I have not pursued this, although I am considering it.
Other features that set these games apart from WoW, Guild Wars and the like- they have improved on many of the features that the mainstream titles offer, such as an expanded UI, superior graphics (almost every example above looks better than WoW) and a faithful community (if you can forgive the occasional Spam and Leet-speak) which spells greater success during playtime.
This is the "cutest" MMO I think, but that's one of the great attractors. Folks on this community are probably the friendliest I've come across in the list, and appear to be the most dedicated. The music is very hip, and puts you in the "mood", so to speak. VERY anime influenced, right down to the emoticons. This was the first I've tried, and may be the best... certainly has had me playing the longest sessions.
Highest marks to playability, as this one takes you by the hand with lots of cut scenes and simple language. if you've never played an MMO before, this is a good candidate. ANother anime influenced RPG, set in the Gaelic/Celtic tradition (not just another new-age spin-off, I speak some Gaelic and they do a fair job emulating the culture with town names and quest driven artifacts). I have played this the least, but am at the highest level compared to the other games on the list. The combat is satisfying, and even a bit clever. The animation and controls are very smooth, probably the best in the lot.
THis is what Everquest would be like today had it kept up with the times. I enjoy this one a lot, even though it has earned the weakest ratings on the whole. No new ground to cover, so it's a tad dated but a good place to start if you're not sure about the whole genre of MMORPGs, and want something outside of the anime influenced KRPGs or JRPGs. An excellent support site, and is constantly going through further development... this game will be around for a while.
PERFECT WORLD ****
A dynamite score, with a very cool soundtrack and authentic period piece (asian folk) music, this game takes itself pretty seriously. Set in European times, with an Asian flair, tHe graphics are top notch, although the refresh rate could be a little better... this is likely to be a function of how popular the servers can get (edit: after tweaking the texture settings I found a happy medium, enough to notch the playability score up a bit). This game sports a strong community base, who are very helpful to noobs and veterans alike, from what I can see. The graphics are very good, although I haven't found too much variety with quests at the low levels. But it IS a good land to explore, with just enough variety to set it apart from the average MMO. Some of the landscaping is downright gorgeous. Oh, and you can fly.
Another popular anime based game with a voracious community, this game is fun to play for any number of reasons, not the least of which it is the most challenging of the bunch. The community is one big chatterbox, for better or for worse, and seem to cater to a teen crowd, but again, they have proven helpful and provide more than just simple backdrop to the setting. The graphics are lush and thoughtfully executed in design and placement. The game offers a unique experience building engine: one for land based encounters and the other for sea based experiences.
SWORD OF THE NEW WORLD****
Far and away, the best graphics package in the bunch, this game rivals any subscription service out there, in terms of story depth, visualization, characterization... virtually every tenet one looks for in a quality MMORPG. It is set apart from the crowd a bit, being a tactical, turn-based game, therefore it is less a sand box game and more a strategic one (think Balder's Gate). But the layout and logic of this game is quite a treat, really, and one that also takes you by the hand at its beginning. This game has a huge following, and offers many unique and challenging gameplay mechanics that others do not have. Not for the feint of heart, but highly recommended.
THere you have it. As you can see, not a loser in the bunch. I also downloaded Silkroad (based on the trade routes in the historic dark ages) but have not played it yet.
I tried to play Scions of Fate, but after a number of confirmation requests from their automatons, I've heard nothing back, so to hell with them.
Two other lackluster games for me were Rappelz and Rakion. The former was too choppy to be an enjoyable experience on my somewhat high-end lap top, and didn't have too much identity for me. The latter, was essentially like playing Soul Caliber I, only without the fun.
So the best I can say about the six MMOs I've reviewed: they are clean fun, with a lot of heart and a suprising amount of production value for a free product. I never once felt like I was playing a second-rate product, which sometimes chases more than a few shareware/freeware packages out there. No bugs from what I could tell. It also serves as a dynamite way to meet up with friends, who want to do more than simply "chat" away the time. And these games are just as addictive as you, youself, allow them to be; a true "dopamine" goal for video game designers everywhere. Again, some of the subscribers to these games number into the millions.
The worst I can say: I am still relatively new with these "game worlds", but they seem to lack the depth of storytelling that say, WoW could afford. It's not through lack of interest or trying, some of these (Shaiya, Mabinogi and Sword... in particular) have a very strong storytelling premise with which to build, but I haven't seen them emerge in game play yet. THis may reveal itself over time, however.
Anyhow, I hope someone finds value in this as the point is to meet up with anyone who ventures into this gaming system, and earn some shared experience. They are quite a lot of fun, and let me tell you, if any of these had been around 10 or 15 years ago, I would never have left the dorm.
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