MMO’s In 2021 Retrospective: Console Edition
MMOs made a bit of a comeback the last year. True, they never went anywhere, they were just hanging out under the radar. But they spent that time languishing, with fewer and fewer new titles releasing. Perhaps it was people having less and less free time, other genres taking the spotlight, or most likely both. However, as the pandemic took over, people turned to MMOs once again to fill their free time and connect with people digitally when it was near impossible to do so physically. This ended up being exactly the kind of jolt the genre needed for people like me who never lost the MMO dream. Things finally started looking up. Even for Console MMOs.
As far as I’m concerned, console MMOs have always been in a weird place. PC is where the main game is most popular. MMOs were born there, work best there, and have the vast majority of titles. Mobile is then next in line, with touchscreens and portability that adds something new while functioning well. Console gaming, on the other hand, is not portable (for the most part). Plus, it uses a controller, which is not the best instrument when your control scheme requires a thousand buttons and a cursor. That being said, there is an audience, and where there’s money to be made, publishers find a way. So here we are with some of the biggest console MMO games and how I feel they handled 2021.
Again, quick disclaimer. Just like last time, this is a list of games I play and think are fun. It’s not necessarily a list of the most popular games, or the ones you hear about everyone playing. Especially not here, as I will fully admit that consoles are where I do the least MMO gaming. I still play more than my fair share, however, so you’re sure to see the big names featured. And for those not featured, again I usually have a good reason that I at least find valid. There’s as many different MMO opinions as there are MMO players. It’s one of the joys of the genre. So just sit tight and read through the list of games you already know if you’re into the genre (the console MMO space is not that big), and enjoy the show.
I love superheroes with a passion of a thousand suns. I’ve always been more of a DC person then Marvel, at least when it comes to the actual comics and heroes. So DC Universe Online has always quite literally been a dream come true. A full 3D recreation of two of the most iconic cities in fiction, with tons of other locations added via DLC/Updates. Full action combat based around the powersets and abilities of iconic DC superheroes and villains. Best of all, the ability to create your own brand new DC character. It’s not perfect, but I’ve loved it regardless. When it launched on Switch, oh boy talk about the perfect match made in heaven. Honestly, as someone who’s played for years across PS4 and PC that was the start of DCEU’s comeback.
The last year has been EXTRAORDINARYILY good for DC Universe Online. Continuing their Free Episode campaign from last year, they worked on making it not just an event. After all removing the paywall that was this game’s biggest issue was such a huge boon to the game, it would be dumb to not capitalize on it. And capitalize they did, by making all playable content free as well as stating that all future updates would be as well. Cosmetics, new powersets, and typical microtransactions would be more then enough. Not just settling with that though, they improved their membership perks, revamped content progression, and did a full scale rebalance that actually worked. Going into 2022 the onus is on them to continue the hype. Diehard fanboyism aside, I really only see good things ahead.
Speaking of games I’ll die on the hill for, ESO is probably my favorite Elder Scrolls game. It was absolutely not always that way of course, I made ESO work for its place. But work it did, and through a stupidly long update trail, Zenimax Online came from the blunder that was launch to arguably doing more with the IP then Bethesda proper ever has. The absolute breadth of the world and content available, the character customization being unparalleled in MMOs, and the story and lore, are top of the line. Elder Scrolls Online was the first game in the series that actually made me care at all for the world and lore of the actual game. As it’s expanded year by year, I’ve only grown more and more invested in both the game and it’s world.
At this point, Elder Scrolls Online has found its footing. I was quite suspicious of the Year format originally, but am now a true believer. It allows for succinct storytelling, focused themes, and consistent content releases without getting bogged down in any of it. If you don’t care for a specific Year’s theme, there will be another one relatively soon. And in the meantime there’s so much to do you can ignore a full year of new content and be fine. That being said, I feel like each year has been fun and exciting, with 2021 being no different. Blackwood was fantastic and felt more then just a callback to Oblivion. There’s been no word yet on what 2022’s Year will be about, but I know I’m already there for it.
Ahh Final Fantasy XIV. The Console MMO I could never get into until my go-to main MMO home since forever decided to self-destruct. Even now I wouldn’t say that I’ve seen the light or anything, just that it scratches the itch I need. Still, I would never even try to deny the impact it’s had. Or that what it does right, it does so very well. While almost every MMO has seen immense growth, Final Fantasy XIV has been dominate. For good reason it’s very high quality, with passionate developers, and a high level of polish. It was always one of the major players, but it has emerged as the big fish in the pond.
Still though, with this sudden growth comes issues. 2021 was huge for the game, there can be no denying. The long awaited PS5 upgrade released, and I can say it’s the definitive way to play the game on console, for sure. Then there was the release of Endwalker, which brings the end of the game’s current main quest. Which I have to add that despite what the internet thinks, is far from a new thing. MMOs have been doing this for a while. LotRO is a easy example, with an obvious start and end to it’s main quest. WoW‘s Legion expansion actually ended the entire franchises’ overarching arc as well. Still it’s always a big deal, and from what I hear it was as spectacular as it needed to be.
The problem here though was the server congestion. Much like New World learned, to its chagrin, servers can only hold so many people. Unlike New World, Final Fantasy XIV is still plagued with these issues. They’ve even had to go so far as to stop sales of the game while they try to solve their issues. Again, the internet has taken this as some kind of win. Another reason one should never listen to people on the internet, this site notwithstanding of course. The idea that it’s a good idea for an MMO, let along a quality one, to no longer be able to acquire players is ridiculous. So FFXIV‘s journey into 2022 begins with the critical mission of upgrading it’s servers and actually becoming available for sale again. Which given the chip shortages and other issues, will be no easy feat. We will see.
Is there really any other candidate for biggest not MMO MMO-like game on console? I mean sure maybe, but Destiny 2 is the biggest. For good reason too: the gunplay is absolutely phenomenal. One of the best feeling shooters I’ve ever played, and the core gameplay loop is sublime. When Bungie does something right and designs content that takes full advantage of Destiny’s strengths, the game is phenomenal. When it doesn’t? Oh boy. Destiny 2 has spent its life seemingly at war with itself. Vaulting, Seasons, Sunsetting, Transmog, every thing the game does feels like four steps forward fifteen steps back. But still I play, and I am quite eagerly awaiting 2022’s Witch Queen expansion. But seriously, you’d think after seven years of Destiny, Bungie would have finally figured it out.
Oho, you thought Destiny 2 was the last entry did you? Well you thought wrong, because all this talk of 2022 has put the future on my mind. The year is 2022 and the world anxiously awaits the release of the first proper VRMMORPG. No that’s not just the premise of Sword Art Online, it’s quite literally Zenith: The Last City’s reality. A VRMMORPG coming to Quest, PCVR, and PSVR it’s poised to be another killer app for the burgeoning platform. After this last year where VR grew by leaps and bounds, it stands a legitimate chance of becoming a thing. While I missed out on an Alpha key myself, the beta is approaching so maybe I’ll get lucky. Regardless it’s releasing later this year, and I cannot wait to see how it turns out.
Another one bites the dust…
“Where’s Neverwinter?”, you might ask as you realize you’ve reached the end. The answer is not here because while I did play it, I hate it so I don’t anymore. Sure combat’s fun, but I didn’t enjoy anything else. Likewise Black Desert is popular, but I prefer the Mobile version. So that’s that for my opinion on Console MMO gaming in 2021 and what it might look like going into 2022. Not a whole lot, but quality over quantity for sure. Damn I cannot wait for Zenith, literally one of my most anticipated titles of 2022. Anyways, keep your anticipation for the final piece of my trilogy in check as my PC MMO article is imminent. Now that’s gonna be a large one; I certain my editor is will love me.