Top 10 Biggest MMO Disappointments
The antithesis of a favorites list: a list of disappointments. I’ve played almost every major MMO on the market since 1999. I’ve seen some good games, some decent games, and some bad games. But, honestly, mostly bad. Here’s my depressing top ten.
10. Age of Conan
Hype Factor: LOW-MEDIUM
Suck Factor: MEDIUM
If anything was hyped about AOC, it was the combat. This was supposed to be the MMO combat revolution. It was a nice step in that direction, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t that action packed: it just required a little bit more tedious button play and positioning than most other MMOs. Melee combat animations *looked* fantastic, but the gameplay itself just wasn’t that fun. It’s a game that started off great through the newbie areas, but failed to capture my attention much more after that. I think this was the case for a lot of people. The rest of the game was just not very well developed, and to this day I’m still not sure if there’s any good reason to play. If there’s any consolation, this title helped pave the way for somewhat successful “action” MMORPGs like TERA Online.
9. Star Trek Online
Hype Factor: LOW
Suck Factor: HIGH
A total waste of Intellectual Property. I expected more from Cryptic. Cryptic made City of Heroes after all–not too shabby of a game. The trouble was that it’s difficult to have an MMO that can encompass both the space and ground combat we’d expect in a decent Star Trek MMO. In STO, the ground combat was kind of fun – in a sort of extremely simple and shallow way. The space combat was tedious and repetitive. Travelling in space through that grid-like map was almost a slap in the face to Star Trek fans (which I would absolutely classify myself as). I will say that it was a valiant effort on Cryptic’s behalf. But valiant effort or not, this was still a disappointment (though not an unexpected disappointment). At least there’s EVE Online, which is more than enough to satiate the need for a decent spacefaring MMO.
8. Final Fantasy XIV
Hype Factor: LOW
Suck Factor: HIGH
Having played but not being a very big fan of Final Fantasy XI, I was not terribly excited for this title. But many were, and since Square-Enix had some MMO experience under their belt by this point, I thought they might have done something more interesting this time around. It didn’t take me long to jump into this game and realize that they’ve learned little, and in fact, produced something barely qualified as a game. They themselves seem to have acknowledged this through the fact that they are relaunching the game in the form of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Even the title just screams: “We fucked up. Please let us try again.” We’ll see, Square. We’ll see. Hint: Make a half-decent UI for PC users for us to even CONSIDER playing this re-launch.
7. Star Wars: The Old Republic
Hype Factor: HIGH
Suck Factor: MEDIUM
I think many others would prefer this to be higher on the list. It was an extreme disappointment, especially for fans of Star Wars and/or Bioware. However, I did have a lot of fun getting to level cap in this game. I thought the core of the game that was advertised–its soloable, story-driven experience–was well-executed and fun. The problem was that everything else was mediocre or bad. End game was flat and predictable, and the first major game content update was entitled ‘Rise of the Rakghouls.’ Seriously? That’s what you created to hook players who were just getting to level cap and about to quit? A new dungeon centered around some random trash mob without any franchise gravitas? PvP was tolerable, but lacked variety and balance. If there’s one thing in life I can be content about, it’s the thought of never having to load into another game of Huttball again.
I wish Bioware had just made another single player KOTOR title. They wouldn’t have had to waste resource on things like PvP and, you know, a massively multiplayer component.
6. Warhammer Online
Hype Factor: HIGH
Suck Factor: MEDIUM
A mid-tier disappointment. Warhammer Online had two things propelling its hype: 1) It was using a great existing intellectual property, and 2) It was being developed by Mythic, who created the wildly fantastic Dark Age of Camelot. I’m not sure what internal fuckery caused Mythic to foul up WAR as much as it did (I’m sure EA had something to do with it). But for some infuriating reason, they took the things that made DAoC great and tried to “fix” them.
For example: class balance. What made DAoC so great was that the classes did not mirror each other. Classes were unique between Albion (King Arthur’s peeps), Hibernia (Mystical Celtic peoples), and Midgard (rugged Norsemen and women). This gave the game not only great variation in each realm’s appearance and style, but also how they played. This caused people to feel connected to their own realm, and opposed to the other realms. It was a wonderful community to be a part of.
In Warhammer, they took the mirrored approach. I think that approach works fine for a game like WoW which is built around PvE and “structured” PvP, but for a game that wants crazy, unpredictable, competitive RvR… such rigid balance becomes boring. They also wanted all players of the same class to have the same “silhouette” making them easily identifiable on the battlefield. Cute idea, but it just made everyone look alike. Boring.
The nice thing about imbalance is that it often causes players to use interesting strategies, redefining what the metagame is. It’s a tricky thing to “balance” imbalance, but DAoC had the right mix. Warhammer did not. When there were imbalances, they were gross. The Shadow Warrior class, for example, was borderline useless. Tanks and Healers were unkillable gods on the battlefield.
I digress. Warhammer Online did have some great ideas, such as its Public Questing. That concept has been found in other recent games like RIFT and Guild Wars 2. I actually still think Warhammer’s version was original and fun, especially its “lotto” at the end of each PQ, which gave you a better chance of winning something based on how well you contributed. But PQs weren’t enough to save this game from itself. This game still has a core community that plays, but I can’t imagine why.
5. Tabula Rasa
Hype Factor: HIGH
Suck Factor: MEDIUM/BUGFEST
This MMOFPS embarrassment from Richard Garriott is a sad tale. I was personally not pumped up for this game as I’m not the biggest fan of shooters, especially of the MMO variety (although the early days of Planetside 1 I found to be stellar). You could tell that Garriott put a lot of love into this game. And honestly, the game itself wasn’t that bad. But this game spent way too long in development for it to *still* be so buggy and unplayable on release. Perhaps this game was just ahead of its time. You need extremely low latency and great server code for MMOFPS games to work because shooting things depends on accuracy. Lag is not your friend. But far worse, bad client-server interaction made this game borderline unplayable at times. This probably caused a lot of players to lose interest before the game even got its foot off the ground. It didn’t take long for the servers to shut down and to eventually become just another item on a list of shoddy games.
4. Asheron’s Call 2
Hype Factor: LOW
Suck Factor: HIGH
Many newer/younger MMO players might only find this title slightly familiar. A little history: Back when the only MMOs around were EverQuest, Meridian 59, and Ultima Online, Microsoft decided to jump into the industry through a little developer called Turbine (who would go on to make Lord of the Rings Online, which received mixed success). The result was Asheron’s Call, and it was surprisingly refreshing, fun, and original. It didn’t seek to rip off EQ or UO. It had a distinct art style and flexible skill builds. It also the most in-depth magic system ever seen in a MMO to this day.
AC2 would only have a high hype factor for fans of the original Asheron’s Call. I mean, who isn’t excited for the next version of one of their favorite games? But where AC1 was complex, AC2 was simplified and dull. The game’s beta and launch were also ridden with some of the worst bugs in a MMO I’ve seen in such late stages of development — and I’ve seen some bad launches. It is perhaps the biggest technical/performance failure on this list. AC2 went cold QUICK. It didn’t linger around for 8 years only to get picked up by a Korean publisher for a second life in a F2P model. It came out. It was shit. It got shut down. End of story.
3. Horizons: Empire of Istaria
Hype Factor: DRAGONS
Suck Factor: SHIT
This game was proposed to be a glorious PvE fantasy world with tons of playable races and classes, including dragons and angels and demons and giants and who the fuck can remember what else. Its lush world was supposed to be so detailed and immersive that you would literally forget you were living on Earth. You would become one with the world of Istaria; your body would be sustained by the holy radiance emitted from this game on your monitor.
Nope. It sucked shit, and it didn’t take people but a few minutes after being in the game to realize it. This was one of the first and biggest flops in MMO history. We should have remembered it, but we didn’t We thought this was a fluke. It wasn’t. We’re sorry, Horizons. We should have learned the lesson you taught us when we were so young and stupid. A good MMO only comes once every other generation… if we’re lucky.
Hype Factor: HELL YEAH!
Suck Factor: …HELL NO.
This game was the Open World PvPer’s wet dream. It was so hyped up that even PvE players had a lot of interest in its world and large selection of classes. The game was supposed to have city building and sieging and sprawling kingdoms. Before release, based on the game’s description, I envisioned a marvelous experience. I imagined myself arriving back to my home city after a long day of adventuring, only to discover we were under siege. I imagined seeing the ladders flinging up on the keep’s walls with bloodthirsty ruffians on their way to sack the city, and minotaur players killing innocent newbies and NPC shopkeepers. I imagined taking the secret back way into the city to try to help defend from within, only to be attacked by an assassin from the darkness. After barely surviving, I would make it into the city. But it would be too late. The city was gone. From this day I would pledge revenge against our enemies. I would join up with a clan and lay waste to their homelands. The war would last years. New cities would rise and fall. Friends would become enemies; enemies would become friends.
Instead, I logged into the game, saw how absolute shit the controls, combat, and UI were, and never logged in again. Actually I did log in again a few years later only to see that it was still shit. But then I never logged in again.
1. Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
Hype Factor: The Second Coming
Suck Factor: Hey, this isn’t so bad. It just needs a little polish. And content. And it needs to not suck. Wait. SHIT! <cancel account>
If this game lived up to its hype, I wouldn’t be typing this right now. I would still be playing the game, six years after its release. I wouldn’t have a girlfriend. A job would be questionable. I would be dedicating my entire life to maximizing the amount of time I could extract from my own existence into my Elven Psionicist.
This was the title that all EverQuest 1 fans waited for 3 years with drool pouring out of their mouths. We had faith in Brad McQuaid, who was one of the creators of EverQuest and the face behind Vanguard. He was our Messiah. He knew what we wanted in a game: a heavily detailed world with vast, layered dungeons centered around risk versus reward. Hardcore raiding. Extremely long quests and camps. This was the game that would show WoW players what a real MMO was like. They’d fear the game, but respect it. It would be the one true king of MMOs.
That’s what made it so disappointing: our expectations. The game itself wasn’t a complete trainwreck. It actually had a lot of what we were asking for. I played the game for several months, and I enjoyed some parts of the game. But there were definitely issues. I was willing to overlook them at first, but over time, they started gnawing at me. The game’s combat just didn’t feel right. There was a lot of risk which occasionally resulted in reward but most often resulted in bugs and quests or spawns that were just broken. It’s pretty frustrating spend an entire day working on something only to have to be broken in the end.
If you explored the game’s mid to later content much, it was left with a lot of skeletal zones. The structures were there, but they wouldn’t be populated with quests, sometimes even lacking NPCs at all. I guess that should have been expected, especially considering that the game was clearly rushed out the door. There really was no way for Sigil (Brad McQuaid’s company) to ever finish what they started. They set themselves up for failure early on when they decided the scope for the game this vast with a start-up as small as Sigil was. They bit way more than they could chew.
These factors turned a lot of people off early. Before I knew it, I was logging into a world that was also lacking content, but lacking any kind of player population. If it weren’t for the real life friend I was playing with and the few other hardcore devotees we grouped with daily, I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did. But it was a lonely, desolate, depressing world. It should have been thriving — surely not as much as WoW was, but at least as much as EQ1 was in its heyday. Speaking of EQ1 and therefore Sony, it was completely embarrassing that Brad/Sigil crawled back to SOE to try to have them save their game after Microsoft (smartly) jumped ship early, realizing that it was going to bomb.
But alas, this game’s faults were way more obvious to others than they were to us. We still had the dream fresh in our minds. We still knew what the game could be. And I swear, the dream of that game is out there. But today it’s a soulless husk of a game. Sorry to end on such a depressing note, but that’s what disappointment is. After Vanguard, I have never been truly excited for another MMORPG. There will always be that feeling in the back of my mind that no matter what, it will probably end up sucking.