The last twelve months has seen some rather bold attempts to mix up the Massively Multiplayer Online genre after years of titles attempting to emulate the success of a certain Blizzard juggernaut. Some have seen more success than others in terms of sales, but each one has brought something different to the table, giving gamers the most varied choice in how to enter a virtual world than we've had in some time, and each of them (mostly) enjoyable games in their own right. However, only one can be crowned the best MMO of the year, and we've got the big hitters all lined up for the big occasion.
All that's left to say is "GL+HF".
NB. Click on the thumbnails for price comparisons and the game's title for the relevant review where available.
It touted a rather bold MMO manifesto in the run up to its release, and while it didn’t quite match all the claims they were hoping for, what they did deliver provided the biggest shake-up to the genre in years. With a huge world that was an explorers paradise, personal stories that went in the direction the player wished, a scaling system that meant no content ever got out-levelled, and more PvP options than you could shake a Quaggan at, it gave players a complete MMO experience, all without an subscription.
Proving that Free To Play could provide Triple-A gameplay, Sony Online Entertainment unleashed an online battlefield like no other with PlanetSide 2. With hundreds of players split into three factions fighting against each other, the online skirmishes not only never stop, but are some of the most intense in the FPS genre. Although the game does somewhat encourage players to spend a little on the microtransaction store, you can play for free if you wish to and still participate cinematic battles filled with soldiers, tanks and aircraft.
Although technically released last year, 2012 has seen almost all of SWTOR’s life span. The enjoyable storylines and solid base game were not enough to cover the broken PvP, poor initial optimization, and horribly slow content updates, culminating in a free-to-play option emerging at the end of the year. With it not living up to the potential it clearly could have achieved, its initial year hasn’t ended the way BioWare would have hoped.
It’s a bold move to go with a niche concept in a niche market (niche-ception, if you will) but Funcom absolutely delivered the goods with The Secret World. Although its deck system provided the freedom to build a character with the powers they wanted, the grind to keep up with the content was still there. However, exciting combat and the need to think whilst doing missions was a refreshing change for the genre, and now that the game has removed the need for subscriptions things are looking up (despite the end of the world.)
The latest expansion unleashed the new continent of Pandaria, providing the most varied and colourful addition to Azeroth yet. Story took a huge focus this time around, demonstrating just how entertaining the Warcraft series can be … but it came at the cost of some rather questionable changes to some of the mechanics. Still, Pet Battles gave us the Pokemon MMO we’ll never see, and it was one of the better expansions Blizzard have released for its behemoth online game.
It was a close call between this and PlanetSide 2, but ultimately the folks from ArenaNet got it in the bag thanks to an enjoyable return to Tyria that covered all aspects of online play. From traditional PvP matches with eSport functionality, to persistent World Vs World PvP that gave the feeling of an on-going war, to PvE content that encouraged co-operative play with strangers instead of competing with them for quests and resources - Guild Wars 2 got it all spot on and had fun gameplay to back it up. With more live events planned in the near future, the subscription-less MMO has a bright future ahead.
Also, GW2 winning Best MMO allows me to post this:
It is without a doubt Matt & Jon's favourite song outside of the Dragon's Dogma menu music. For reals. (I will end you Carl - Ed.)