A decade of MMO gaming – Part II

Happy new year, folks!

Last time I talked about the various MMOs I’ve played between 2010 and 2014. Now let’s have a look at the past decade’s latter half.

2015

Decade14

ArcheAge won my heart instantly, but alas, only to go ahead and break it soon after. I’ve talked at lenght about all that here.

The realization that the game was basically rotten to the core hit us pretty early on, nevertheless we continued playing for quite a while. We just couldn’t let go. Its great aspects, those we had so much fun with and that made us feel like we’d found our new virtual home, meant too much to us.

Having started in September ’14 we held on until about July ’15. What finally tipped the scales was the announcement of server merges later that year, meaning that everybody on affected servers – including ours – was going to lose their land. That made us drop the game like a hot potato.

Decade15

I’d read about Marvel Heroes from time to time, but wasn’t all that interested for some reason. Mainly because I thought (and still think) that I don’t really need another ARPG when I can play Path of Exile any time I want, I guess.

Quitting ArcheAge left a huge void though, and we’d just rewatched a couple of great Marvel movies – my favourites are still the first Iron Man, the first Avengers and the second Cap – so it seemed like the perfect time to try it. It didn’t even come close to knock PoE off it’s throne, but it was cool and I miss it.

Decade16

We went on vacation in September, and while we were away we pondered which proper MMORPG we might play next. WoW aside one of the the last AAA titles we hadn’t tried yet was Final Fantasy XIV. Lakisa was up for it from the start, I wasn’t so sure. Reading about its gathering and crafting systems won me over pretty much instantly though, and we ordered the boxes so that they were already waiting for us when we returned home.

The game took a bit getting used to, but we had fun and played it straight all the way until the end of the year. However by that time I was absolutely sick of the game’s stubborn gating of content behind the main story quests, the mandatory group content bits to advance said main story, and also burnt out by the crafting grind, so I decided to quit before we’d even seen the first expansion’s content.

2016

Decade17

Some time during spring I felt drawn to EVE again after a nearly five-year hiatus.* As usual I did some mission running to get into the groove again and pad my wallet. When Lakisa watched me doing that she got interested, played a bit on my account and eventually created her own.

We gave her character a little jump start by injecting skill points I’d extracted from an alt of mine who didn’t use them anymore and tried a bit of everything. Missions, exploration, mining, production. The ultimate goal was to get into PvP of course. By that time I’d read that the Mercenary Coalition, one of the game’s first large merc groups many years before, had reformed and Noir., my former corp, had joined them. They even had a training corp for newbies, Noir. Academy.

Long story short, we joined them in March. Perfect timing that was, because World War Bee was just getting intense and we got to see some really big fights. As academy pilots we weren’t allowed to fly “real” ships though, and having to move your base of operations every two weeks or so gets very tiring, so once WWB fizzled out in late June we decided we needed a break.

* I’d last played in 2011, which I totally forgot to mention in the preceding post. Oops. I was in Noir. Mercenary Group from March until about July, a relatively small merc corporation mainly operating behind enemy lines for their contractors. It was the first time I actually received a wage for PvP – we got a cut of the contract payment depending on activity instead of the usual ship replacement – which was pretty great. I didn’t stay longer for various reasons however.

Decade18

In October we returned to FFXIV. The next expansion, Stormblood, had been announced, and being a huge fan of all things Asian I thought, well, if we start now we should easily be able to get through the story until it arrives.

Yeah…no. I’m sorry, but playing this game is work. I mean, we played on and off (more on than off) until August ’17…

2017

…and we did have some fun, don’t get me wrong. But everything takes so much time here, and, more importantly, you have to do things just the way Yoshy P and co. have envisioned it. I’ve never felt so much like being held on a short leash by an MMO. Of course we did not actually make it through Heavensward and subsequent patches until Stormblood arrived, which meant that despite having bought the expansion we couldn’t even fricking go there and have a look at the new zones and housing districts.

It’s sad because there’s also much to love here, but…I’m sorry…screw that game!

Decade19

In June I started this blog, so from here on out it will be much easier to get the timeline right, and I’ll also have posts to link to in case you would like to know more.

Decade20

I don’t remember if it was Lakisa or myself who first expressed the desire to return to EVE in earnest, but by April we were back in New Eden. To make things easier for us this time around we wanted to join an all-German corp, preferably one operating in low sec. It didn’t take long to find Holy Cookie, and we joined them in May. Through the rest of the year we fought in Alliance Tournament XV, moved to a new home and scored lots of kills in low sec.

I also played Destiny 2 when it came out and had some fun for a while, but its problems soon became too blatant to ignore, and I haven’t touched it since.

Decade21

In December I made my third attempt to get into Black Desert Online. This time it really clicked, and hard. I still don’t know why I couldn’t get into it before only to absolutely fall in love with it then, but I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes.

2018

Consequently I played a lot of BDO whenever there was no action going on in EVE. This two-headed dragon absolutely dominated my gaming time until we went on a long vacation towards the end of March.

Decade22

When we came home I seemingly needed something different, so I picked up Path of Exile once more. Discovering how fun and strong a summoner build can be in this game made me stick to it much longer this time around. I even played a challenge league somewhat seriously for the first time and reached hights I’d never reached before in an ARPG.

Just like in 2017 the summer months were also heavily shaped by preparations for EVE’s Alliance Tournament and the tournament itself. We fared relatively well once more, but were again put in our place by more experienced teams in the end.

Decade23

In August I returned to Everquest II after a very long break, wondering why the heck I hadn’t played it for this long. Revisiting Nights of the Dead and Frostfell was a real blast from the past, with additional content I didn’t know yet to boot.

Decade24

Come December it drew me back to BDO though, which carried me well into the next year.

2019

Black Desert is a really exceptional MMORPG, and during the year’s first half I played it almost exclusively.

Our corp joining NC Dot in May gave us another big push to play some EVE again though, and it was a pretty fun ride. Lakisa and I didn’t want it to end either, but many corp members didn’t like living in null sec as much as they’d imagined and left, so leadership decided to leave the alliance again. Unfortunately that whole thing was handled very badly by our CEO in our opinion, which made us pretty unhappy. Thus we ultimately left the Cookies after over two years. Lakisa joined one of NC Dot’s corps, Blank Space, and is still having fun in null sec. I haven’t played EVE since.

Decade25

In August a seemingly minor article over at Massively OP made me finally try out Warframe, and I liked it from the start. I see many parallels to Path of Exile here, which is always a good thing, just in the form of a 3rd person shooter. It’s great!

Decade26

That same August also gave us the announcement of ArcheAge Unchained. I dismissed it as just another cheap attempt to rob us blind at first, but as time went on and its release drew nearer I couldn’t resist and tried to inform myself about it.

Well, I’ll be damned! It’s the real deal, and it’s awesome.

If it works, that is.

By now it mostly does though, and we’re having a lot of fun. I played it every day and didn’t touch anything else for the rest of the year.

Honorable non-MMO mentions

Decade27

Despite my huge fondness of the genre I didn’t only play MMORPGs and MMOs during these ten years of course. I won’t (and probably can’t) name all other games I’ve played, but the ones I liked the most, in no particular order, are:

The Uncharted series (2 and 3 are the best), Resident Evil 2 Remake, Limbo, Inside, GTA V, Heavy Rain, Vampire: Bloodlines (playthroughs four to six or something), Batman: Arkham Asylum & City, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Overwatch, StarCraft 2.

Here’s to the next ten years of gaming!

R.I.P. Marvel Heroes

I know, I know, it’s been almost two years since Marvel Heroes was shut down unceremoniously by our cruel overlords at Disney. What’s more, I’ve never actually talked about the game here before. So why now?

Well, since I’m currently quite hyped for Lost Ark but can’t play it yet – Naithin’s glowing tales about the game don’t make it any easier either – I was looking for a somewhat similar substitute (an accidental alliteration, awesome). That’s when I realized that of all games I’ve ever played Marvel Heroes might have been the one with the most similarities to Lost Ark, at least in some regards.

Of course I can’t play MH either, what with it having been shut down and all. Sucks to be me I guess.

Anyway, what I can do is give the game a proper, if belated, fairwell. It’s the least it deserves because it was a really great game, and whatever reasons they had for pulling the plug, the gaming world is the poorer for it.

MH_Title

By all accounts the game wasn’t actually that good when it released in 2013. I wouldn’t know because I only started to play in July 2015, and it had been heavily improved upon by then. I picked Iron Man as my first hero and had a blast from the get-go.

Of course the MCU train had accelerated to full speed at that time and I was eager to play my favourite heroes, so the game obviously got bonus points for that. But to give credit where it’s due, they got the look and feel of characters like Captain America, The Punisher and the aforementioned Iron Man just right in my opinion.

Cap’s shield attacks, for example, felt really strong and impactful. Of all ARPG melee characters I’ve tried he was the most satisfying.

MH_Klong
Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about

The ranged characters also had some cool tricks up their sleeves, my favourite being ‘beam weaving’. The term was invented by the community and referred to skills you channeled by holding down the corresponding hotkey and aimed with the mouse. You basically weaved the beam/bullets/whatever over the enemies until they were all dead, like Iron Man does here. Fun stuff.

MH_Beams
Basically like this, just more effective

What really set the game apart from pretty much every other game I’ve ever played was how much mayhem was going on at all times.

MH_Mayhem
This is actually a rather tame example, unfortunately I don’t have a better one

So many enemies, so many effects, so much loot. The game almost felt like a bullet hell shooter, except that you usually didn’t die from just one hit. ‘Patrol zones’ were the most intense in this regard because those weren’t instanced just for you or your group. Consequently, whenever you spotted a boss spawn on the map you could be sure that at least half a dozen other players were already there, throwing everything and the kitchen sink at it. Of course those encounters’ difficulty was tuned accordingly, so you had to be quick on your feet to dodge telegraphs, take care of countless adds and burn down the boss at the same time.

MH_Boss down
And here I thought Path of Exile showers players with boots…err…loot

It could be almost stressful at times, frantically zipping from one bossfight or ring event to the next (noticed that Next Event timer on the screenshot above?), hoovering up tons of loot and reward-containers with even more loot, until the inventory was completely full and you had to take a break to manage all that stuff. But it was a lot of fun and felt pretty epic.

I quite liked the graphics too. The style was, unsurprisingly, somewhat comic-like, but not too colourful for my taste. Most heroes’ default costumes were modeled after their classic (read: old) looks from the comics though. If you wanted them to resemble their MCU counterparts or more modern comic versions you needed to be extremely lucky with costume drops or buy them in the cash shop.

MH_Costumes
Default Cap and Rocket on the left, Avengers-The-Movie Cap on the right

I was ok with that though because the payment model was pretty fair overall. As far as I remember there were no P2W aspects, and many shop items could also be earned by playing a reasonable amount of time, additional heroes being a good example. Of which there were 63 towards the end, so there was something for everyone, and you could level every single one of them up to level 10 before deciding whether to unlock them or not.

MH_City
One of these in-engine cinematic moments that remind me of Lost Ark

Another unique feature the game had – unique among ARPGs that is – were raids. I didn’t experience these myself, but from what I’ve seen they provided series of bossfights for groups of ten people, much akin to raids in MMORPGs. As per usual for such types of content the gear requirements were pretty high, which is why my rather casual way of playing the game didn’t get me there in time, but I would have loved to smack those bosses with a big round chunk of vibranium in the face.

Overall I didn’t spend a huge amount of time with the game despite all its virtues, at least when compared to the countless hours I’ve sunk into Path of Exile and Diablo II. I think the main reason for that is the aforementioned stress level the game tended to induce, which was a bit too much for me at times. Still, it was a great game and I miss it a lot.