I’ve always been interested by MMOs, but every time one had come along that looked amazing enough to get me to saddle up ready for an adventure I was always stopped by the first unreasonably large boss, and its name was always Price. But now, armed with my free-to-play sword and my shield of micro-transactions I’ve been able to finally slay the Price demon and begin my quest proper .
Champions Online ★★★★☆
Champions Online was the first MMO I played and I got into it because its transition from subscription to free-to-play was advertised heavily on Steam. The main theme of the game is superheroes, and being a huge comic book fan I thought it’d be a good way to get into MMOs and so I gave it a go, and 50+ hours later I’ve not looked back. Rather than having different races like other MMOs, Champions has 10 different classes of powers you can specialise in (with another 12 available for paying members) and along with your costume there is an insane amount of customisation that you can get lost in before you’ve even started playing. You can really go to town on your character and give them the exact look and feel you want. The game itself has a unique visual style that works very well with the comic book inspired theme and the different regions of the game world are detailed and unique. There are lots of missions to do and lots of areas to explore (although some are only available to higher level players), however I have heard that there are only just enough missions to progress, so that eventually you have to do all of them. So far I’ve always had a good surplus of missions but maybe when I get towards the higher levels I’ll find that they start to run out. The only downside to the game is that it can feel quite grindy at times, but I think that’s something you just have to accept with most MMOs. If you’re a fan of comic book superheroes then Champions Online is well worth a try.
DC Universe Online ★★★☆☆
DCUO was the next MMO I tried and once again was superhero themed, however unlike the generic Champions Online all the content for DCUO is lifted straight from the pages of DC comics. As with Champions your character is defined by one of 7 possible power sets and there is a wide range of costume pieces to personalise them, although it seems not quite as wide ranging as Champions which is a shame. Where DCUO really shines is the content. As it’s been worked on by the guys at DC they’ve not missed out any of the mythology and all the stories are really well done. The visual style is based off the work of Jim Lee and the comic montages/animations at the end of each mission are brilliant. In terms of gameplay it plays very much similar to Champions however a bonus is that it seems to have a faster levelling system than Champions or any other MMOs I’ve played. This makes it feel a lot less grindy and has lead me to consider a second play through with a different character build as it seems like it would be a smaller investment of time than in other games. The only real downside, for me at least, is that there are only two main areas to play in, Gotham and Metropolis (unless you buy some of the expansions). This means it doesn’t really take very long to see it all, and as they’re both just big cities it can get very same-y and boring quite quickly. Luckily most of the main missions take place in their own individual environments which does help to spice things up slightly.
EVE Online ★★☆☆☆
I tried EVE online recently after, again, noticing it on Steam. Unlike Champions or DCUO it isn’t free-to-play, but it does offer a free trial period, constrained by time rather than a level cap, giving you 2 weeks to play before having to pay up or get out. Unfortunately I only made it through about a week before giving up. EVE is a space based MMO that seems to be centered around combat and economy. The game starts with 5 different tutorial missions: Business, Industry, Military, Exploration and Advanced Military. Because you can’t fly your ship manually all the missions start and end in the same way: picking your destination and then waiting till you get there, and waiting is how I spent most of time. I can kind of see why they did it like that in terms of mission generation, when someone starts a new mission you can just generate it in empty space and only give the location to the person doing the mission. This way it won’t interfere with others and it retains the feel of everything happening in the same place, there’s no changing of instances or loading screens. However I feel it automates the game far too much, especially when combined with combat, which just involves selecting the enemy ship and letting your ship do all the work. The other main aspect of the game that isn’t space travel or combat is economy/management. And while the space travel and combat are very dull and automated, the economy/management aspect is very fiddly and confusing. There are far too many menus and boxes, as one of my friends puts it “It’s like using Excel”, and most of the skills require hours to train with it not always being clear what you need to train up something or where you should be looking for it.
There are a few good points, I like the idea of being able to pay for your subscription using in game currency; it seems like the price they set was low enough to not be insurmountable, but not too low that everyone could play for free. I also like the idea of the game having almost no rules, it seems to make for a more interesting ecosystem. The game also looks very pretty, but these things are just not enough. EVE is a game that I spent most of the time running in the background, either waiting to arrive somewhere or waiting for a skill to level, while I did other things and that’s not something I would ever consider paying for.
Ever since Star Wars: The Old Republic lost 25% of its user base, and Champions Online saw a 1000% increase in users and revenue, it seems pretty obvious to me that free-to-play + micro-transaction is the future of all MMOs.↩