Top 5 Current MMORPGs

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When most people talk about the MMORPG genre, it tends to be World of Warcraft that surfaces on the minds of the many as being the most recognised, not only by the gaming population but also by the mass including various celebrities who admit to playing said titles. Usually when we talk about MMORPGs in general they tend to be a commitment, as most gamers know that truly finishing one is an almost impossible task. So how is it that they've become so popular over the years, what direction has the genre taken, and where can we go from here; these are but a few of the topics we'll be hoping to give an insight on.

Specifically, this article is going to cover the current state of affairs in the MMORPG sector; the current games that are available, why they've been successful and just looking at why they remain so. We'll start by discussing the biggest of them all World of Warcraft.

World of Warcraft

World of WarcraftThe most renowned title as said before is Warcraft. It has been responsible for the countless MMORPGs that have started to appear after its release, from Lord of the Rings to Warhammer. Both have borrowed heavily and on the basis you could say that Warcraft has almost set an international standard. We're not going to go into actual figures but let’s just say this game has its weight in subscribers. The end of last year saw the launch of their latest expansion, The Wrath of the Lich King, which added a considerable amount of content. However, excluding the reuse of a 40 man raid instance called Naxxramas that was adapted for 10-25 players; their end game content was a bit sparse at launch. But seeing as they've gone the whole hog now and just released 3.10 on the 15th of April we've now seen the Rise of Ulduar, a totally new 10-25 man raid which boasts quite a few spectacular encounters. This along with the introduction of the dual spec talent option for anyone willing to spend 1000 gold, enables players to switch between various skill sets whenever they choose to. As always there have been balancing issues that arise during major content patches, and various bugs to iron out, but Blizzard's staff are fairly on the ball to fix issues.

Guild Wars

This title has also earnt quite a lot of respect despite being lesser known than some of its competitors, and it actually surpasses six million sales recently. Guild Wars is essentially an episodic series and there have been three episodes since its release and only one expansion. The biggest merit of this game is the fact that its subscription is free, unlike the majority of big MMORPGs. The game focuses mostly on Player vs Player rather than the typical Player vs Environment element of most MMORPGs. Guild Wars is currently set to break the mold by releasing a sequel, Guild Wars 2, which is planned to be released sometime in 2010/2011.

Lord of the Rings Online

Lord of the Rings Online is a game that purely capitalizes on the strongest selling point, by associating itself with the works of Tolkien. It’s been fairly successful and is driven by all the same mechanics that are used in most MMORPGs to date. While borrowing heavily from the ideas that made Warcraft work, Lord of the Rings Online places more emphasis on making quests a key feature. They had their first expansion late last year called, Mines of Moria, which added two new classes along with several new areas. Since its release, once every two months they have added a major update to the game adding various new features but mostly focusing on adding more quests. The new classes added were rather innovative. The Warden enabled players to set up combination attacks executed in a certain way, which then enabled the use of a special attack. The Rune-keeper gave the use of healing and damaging abilities. While focusing on one side meant they could access more powerful skills, their focus in the other side would diminish. This was interchangeable at any time, but it would take time to reverse the process. Mines of Moria focused on bringing the Fellowship of the Ring to life, and they plan on a second expansion elaborating on the Two Towers.

Warhammer Online

Warhammer is a very established franchise and its among the few that have had several games prior to its release. Some of these have been video games focusing on a different era - Dawn of War - but mostly the game is conceived from the old table top days of gaming with models and dice. Rather than focusing on the futuristic era that a lot of the games have done, this sticks to the traditional routes of the fantasy era. Much like Warcraft there is a focus on two factions, Order and Destruction. It also has plenty of class types - 24 in total. As far as expansions go there are no plans at present as they are focusing on improving the current mechanics in the game.

Final Fantasy XI

Final Fantasy XI: Treasures of Art ArhganThis game arose before World of Warcraft and subsequently nearly everything about its gameplay is totally different. It’s also the only MMO to date that allows for cross-platform play, having been released on Xbox 360, PS2 and the PC. Their servers are also fully international allowing anyone in the world to play with anyone from any country. This is possible due to an inspired auto-translate function which enables players to communicate, albeit basically, with people speaking in different languages via predetermined answers and questions. The major differences on Final Fantasy XI were the fact that everything was based around money or gil and it was necessary for just about everything. The economy on the game is unlike any other and it is one of its defining elements. One of the other defining elements is the emphasis on teamwork. Almost everything in the game requires the aid of a full party of players to accomplish, including leveling. If you wanted to play on your own 90% of the time it just wouldn't be practical and in some ways Square Enix should be commended for this, as comradeship isn’t such a bad thing. Other points of merit are its soundtrack, as it really lives up to the Final Fantasy franchise with music that just seemed to fit every single environment. Final Fantasy XI has had 4 expansions since it began and many of its job classes have been rather "interesting". Some provide support by dancing, while others base moves by rolling dice through a card system to create various beneficial effects.

There are plenty of other MMORPGs worth discussion and each has made its impact on hundreds of thousands of people. With more and more new games trying to entice players over to new experiences, they all have to keep their players entertained for as long as possible. For the most part this hasn't been a major problem due to the use of expansions, but is there going to be a point where that just won't work any further?

Come back in a week's time, when we'll look at the Top 5 upcoming MMORPGs that you should definitely keep on your radar.

by Nelson


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