MMO’s In 2021 Retrospective: PC Edition
MMO’s made a bit of a comeback last year. True they never went anywhere, they just hung out under the radar for a bit. But they spent that time languishing, with fewer and fewer new titles releasing. Maybe it was people having less and less free time, other genres taking the spotlight, probably both. However as the pandemic took over, people turned to MMOs once again to fill their free time and connect with people digitally when they couldn’t physically. This ended up being exactly the kind of jolt the genre needed for people like me who never lost the MMO dream. Things definitely started to look up, especially in the PC MMO scene. Where everything started.
The MMO dream was born on PC and is where it remains strongest. Mobile is a place to play MMOs while on-the-go or relaxing away from the PC. Console is where you play when you don’t have or don’t want to PC. But you honestly can’t consider yourself an MMO enthusiast and not be involved in the PC MMO scene. The two terms are near synonymous, with plenty of MMOs considered PC staple games. RuneScape, EverQuest, World of WarCraft, City of Heroes, Star Wars Galaxies, Guild Wars, Ultima Online, Neverwinter Nights (the 90’s OG), just so many classics of classics. So many games that changed and expanded gaming as a whole, until the genre faded from popularity. And it’s about damn time it started to make a comeback.
For the last time, this is a list of games I play. Games that I enjoy, find fun, and am excited for the present and future for. Not necessarily a list of the most popular games, or the ones you hear everyone’s playing. Especially on PC where the sheer number of games makes it impossible for one person to play them all, let alone enough to talk about. So I choose my games carefully, and I have my reasons for not playing the games I’ve skipped. As I’ve said before, one of the joys of MMO gaming is how much opinions differ amongst the playerbase. That’s especially true for PC MMOs, as you’d be hard-pressed to find a more passionate or varied community. So just sit back and enjoy, maybe you’ll find a new title or maybe you won’t. Guess we’ll see.
Oh boy. Ripping off the band-aid right at the start. We all know what WoW is, and I’m sure we’re all aware of the issues surrounding Blizzard and Activision. Formerly the MMO golden boy, it has since had a very public fall from grace. Ever since the phenomenal expansion Legion, which brought the overarching WarCraft plot to a close, the game has been treading water. Depending more and more on the strength of it’s IP, prestige of it’s developer, and dedicated playerbase to survive. Remove those and well, you get World of WarCraft in 2021. Ignoring all of the real world controversy, the game is just not there anymore. Insanely long content droughts, lackluster updates when they do come, and an overall lack of soul is WoW’s legacy now. And that seems unlikely to change. That’s all I have to say, and it’s not a title I play anymore.
Now moving on to much greener pastures. I mean that quite literally, as LotRO has always been famous for its gorgeous landscape. Recreating the most famous fantasy world is a heavy task, and Standing Stone Games has long since proved up to the challenge. It’s always been an absolutely unique gem of a game. It’s one of the largest games in gaming, absolutely colossal in size. A full recreation of Middle-Earth, from the shores of the Gray Havens into the depths of Mordor itself. That doesn’t even mention the true joy of LotRO: its faithfulness to the books and quality of the writing. Long before FFXIV was a thing, LotRO was making people actually read the Quest Text and care about the story being told.
This continued into 2021. First, there was the long-awaited (literally years now) revamp of the Legendary Item system. If you know you know, and if you don’t then you’re lucky. The headline though, was the release of the game’s latest expansion, The Fate of Gundabard. It’s the conclusion to the Dwarven plot that LotRO’s been telling since the conclusion of its main storyline. It’s incredible because it’s essentially Middle-Earth fanfiction that the playerbase, consisting of hardcore Tolkien nerds, actually accepts. And these people don’t accept anything. The writing just continues to be that good, the world design nearly unparalleled, and as always I can’t wait for more in 2022. The Scouring of the Shire awaits…
You ever have something you really wanted to love, but couldn’t? That’s me and Guild Wars 2. I remember when it launched. I remember the hype and the love. Then there’s me with a resounding…eh. It’s not bad, for sure. I wouldn’t keep playing a game if I thought it was terrible, or a waste of time. I’ve just never been invested, or seen what the love is for. To be fair over the years, a lot of the community has come over to my way of thinking. I never played the original Guild Wars, so maybe that’s the disconnect. Regardless, it’s probably my favorite casual PC MMO that I occasionally romp around in, enjoying the casual questing and lovely graphics.
But what a year this game had. Like I said, the game’s been stagnating for a while. ArenaNet’s had a revolving door of developers, and the quality of content has been on a permanent decline. Until 2021. Fueled no doubt by the increased player count, ArenaNet finally got their house in order. And now with stable experienced leadership, ArenaNet renewed communication with the community, and announced the game’s next expansion. End of Dragons, set in the region of Cantha which is apparently holy ground for Guild Wars veterans. It releases early 2022, and will decide whether or not Guild Wars 2 is truly in the midst of a comeback. Personally, I think it is and for the first time I’m starting to feel the hype for Guild Wars 2.
To be completely fair, I don’t think this game has much of a future. At least not here in the west, though it will be fondly remembered. It came out of absolutely nowhere, and stole the spotlight for longer than anyone could have hoped. A rather poorly translated, yet incredibly fun, Chinese MMO. A premium one even, not even your standard F2P nonsense. It was so much fun, there’s no denying. The movement mechanics, the action combat, it’s all basically head and heels above any other MMO I’ve played. I’ve been playing it throughout the year, and it’s earned a permanent place on my hard drive. But it’s just not the kind of game that I’d call myself devoted too, and the content release schedule has been very light. It was massive fun though, and the time spent was well spent indeed. A lovely PC MMO affair in 2021 essentially.
Oh man, this game. It’s colorful story started long before release It spent seemingly forever in development hell, with a revolving door of talent. The game’s engine changed at least twice, and the game’s focus more than that. It started as a hardcore survival/PvP MMO. Then once Amazon realized that kind of game had limited appeal, they pivoted to a more PvE experience. However, the question of how much X and how much Y kept game direction hamstrung for literal years. As time passed however, things got better. The engine was decided on and proper work commenced. Leadership stabilized, and a quality team was formed. A focus for the game was found, even if it took well into the Alpha/Beta stages. Then finally in 2021, the game released.
And people liked it! Hell, I liked it. I liked it a lot actually, it combined so many things from MMOs I liked. It did it quite well to boot. There was some RuneScape in there, some WoW, some ESO, and it was arguably done better then any of them did it. But then, Amazon Game Studios stumbled. Unprepared for the demand, the servers suffered. While they fixed these issues, they simultaneously tried to update and expand the game, which led to bug after bug, exploit after exploit. Not pretty, and it took them way too long to realize they’d screwed up and back off. At which point, damage was done and the playerbase had shrunk.
Yet, all is not lost. Everybody seems to forget three important things. One, that the MMO community is both patient and incredibly forgiving of developer error. Especially when said developers take responsibility, which AGS has. Second, that people liked the game. The problem was too many people were enjoying it, not that it was rotten to the core. They built a game that people liked, and will come back to with the proper motivation. Which leads to the final point, the game is buy to play not sub based. Everyone that played the game, still has it. So in reality, AGS has lost nothing yet and 2022 is ripe for a New World comeback story. It’s up to Amazon Game Studios to follow through, and I hope they do.
PC MMO’s chosen “not an MMO exactly but still needs to be talked about in the same conversation” was always Warframe. The game started out as a power fantasy concept from an indie dev and grew into a whole other beast. On every console, with mobile and full crossplay coming in 2022. Gameplay mechanics ranging from standard run and gun gameplay to ship to ship combat in outer space. The community is huge and passionate, and the developers almost equally so. It’s been in a state of constant growth since release, and not always in a good way. There’s tons of almost unfinished and abandoned concepts throughout it, while DE marches forward. Still it’s a lot of fun, and I definitely enjoy it. 2021 finally saw the release of the long teased The New War quest, with more to come in 2022. Which I will certainly be playing.
For those of our friends who didn’t make it…
I know what you’re thinking, there’s so many games missing! But there’s a reason for them. Games like Final Fantasy XIV and Elder Scrolls Online are huge on PC sure, but I already talked about them. No use repeating myself. I already don’t play Neverwinter on console, PC is just another place where I don’t play it. Black Desert Remastered is in the same boat as Console, it’s just current in updates. Mobile is still more fun, less grindy, and simply more engaging for me. Dungeons and Dragons Online requires more friends online then I have, I’m one of those weirdos with more real life friends then virtual ones. I’m not a Star Trek fan, so Star Trek Online is out too. Also,I have a life and job already. So no EVE Online for me either.
That’s all folks.
Three articles later. A total of seventeen games. Even then, it’s still just a chunk of the total that is the MMO genre. That’s just the genre as it is now. Like I said at the very start, MMOs are having a bit of a comeback now. Games that have been languishing for years are stirring, revamps and updates starting to become more frequent. Cross platform launches, crossplay being added, and new games releasing everywhere. Hopefully this will continue into 2022. There’s still quite a few upcoming expansions and games on the horizon. Most notably End of Dragons, Zenith: The Last City, and Lost Ark. Beyond that though, who really knows? Personally, I’m hopeful. So I guess we’ll see, this time next year how it went.