What’s The Best Subscription-Only MMO?

What’s the best subscription-only MMO out there right now? If you could only pick one to maintain, which one would it be? (By the way, the possible answers are: WoW, EVE, WildStar, ESO, or FFXIV.)

This is pretty easy for me to answer, actually: Final Fantasy XIV. Hands down. No need to even talk about it. It’s beautiful, it’s fun, there’s a lot to do, it’s updated often, it does every MMO mechanic (that matters) exactly right, and it’s cheaper than the others at $12/month. The only down side is that replayability is low if you ever want to make a second character. (You don’t need to, though, since you can play any class.)

Somewhere in Final Fantasy XIV.
Somewhere in Final Fantasy XIV.

In second place I would probably put WoW. It’s more expensive but it’s hard to beat the sheer magnitude of content available. For me, though, the lack of modern MMO features gets on my nerves and the gameplay gets repetitive after a month or so.

WildStar and ESO are both great games, too, but only for a limited time. Each one becomes repetitive quickly, so there’s no need to keep a subscription going all the time unless you have friends that play it.

EVE? Come on. Do I even have to say? That game is just not fun. It’s barely even a “game.” It’s more of a point-and-click adventure. The only reason to subscribe now is if you somehow got invested in the game years ago and built up tons of skills to the point that now you have to subscribe because you can no longer learn any skills in under 6 months.

This is not to say that I wouldn’t subscribe to WoW, EVE, WildStar, or ESO ever. I just would only do it for an occasional month here or there. What I’m saying is that FFXIV is the best one to stay subscribed to all the time. At least for me. Opinions may vary, of course. :)

Mid-June MMO Status Report

Not much to talk about, so here’s a non-WildStar MMO status report!

ArcheAge. I’ve only logged in to pay the taxes on my measely 8×8 farm, and occasionally grow aspen trees. I don’t expect to play this any more until after it launches.

The Secret World. I have logged in every few days to grind through a mission or two in the City of the Sun God zone. I’m attempting to collect AP and SP so I can fill out my skills better, which will better prepare me to go back to the Besieged Farmlands and continue the main story quest, which will then eventually allow me to get to Tokyo perhaps sometime in 2018.

ESO. Subscription expired. I could see myself subscribing for another month sometime down the road, though, after they implement more changes.

FFXIV. Subscription expired. I’m almost positive I will re-subscribe sometime later, because they keep adding cool stuff to the game.

Rift. I saw that they were doing the Temporal Flux thingy or whatever again so I logged in to do the daily for that. Then I promptly forgot to log in any other days. I’m about 500 days behind on earning that currency anyway.

Guild Wars 2. Waiting along with everyone else for the Living Story Season 2. I don’t expect to do much but log in and watch the cut scenes, though. It’s kind of interesting to have an MMO where you "tune in" to see a new Living Story episode every couple of weeks like it’s a television show. I like that concept even if I don’t particularly want to play the game.

Age of Conan. I haven’t gone back since my brief foray a couple weeks ago. Now I play TSW to get my Funcom fix. (The menus in those two games are eerily similar.)

Bonus Report: World of Warcraft. I’m not planning to buy Warlords of Draenor, but for some weird reason I keep seeing people talk about it in my Twitter feed like it’s going to be the greatest thing ever, so I feel a lot of peer pressure to buy it anyway. :) It would be the very first WoW expansion I’ve bought and played when it launches, so it might be worth it just to have that cultural experience. I’m sure I’d have to buy my way to level 90 though. I’m sure it’s possible to grind my 60 Mage or 72 Hunter up to 90 by the time it comes out but that doesn’t sound terribly fun.

Weekend Versus Weeknight Characters

It just occurred to me that I am a completely different MMO gamer on weekends when compared to weekdays (weeknights, actually). For me, weekends are about exploration and discovery and lore, but on most weeknights, I just want to "grind" and avoid a lot of mental engagement.

This WildStar launch weekend has given me a great example of the distinction. On Saturday and Sunday I spent a fair amount of time reading lore and quest text (or trying to, with that microscopic, reader-unfriendly font) and looking around at things.

But on Monday night I was pretty tired, and when I logged into my main Esper, I was staring at the beginning of that zone east of Thayd with all that warfare going on, and I couldn’t remember who was fighting or why, and I just didn’t feel like dealing with any of it. So I logged out and played with my Engineer and Warrior alts, mindlessly running around shooting things and/or clicking on interactable objects in the starter zones, and that ended up being more satisfying.

This could definitely explain why I’ve drifted away from ESO. That game is best played with a strong mental engagement with the quests that you’re doing, and I can’t muster that after a typical work day.

So perhaps I need to revise my character strategy. Instead of "main" and "alt" characters, perhaps I need to make "weeknight" and "weekend" characters. Weekend characters can do all the crafting and exploration and housing stuff, whereas weeknight characters would simply kill stuff and gather resources.

May, The MMO Crisis Month

May has been an MMO crisis month.

I can only stand to play ESO for a quest or two at a time. There’s nothing wrong with the game (except the horrible inventory management and dungeon grouping tools). I accept full responsibility for my lack of enjoyment. At level 41, my stupid Two-Handed Templar build feels weak and ineffective, and it has almost no AoE damage capability. Everyone around me in public dungeons is burning down big groups in seconds, but I have to wack on mobs one at a time.

And honestly I’m getting a bit depressed from listening to the quest stories from the NPCs. Almost every single person you meet has lost a wife or a husband or a son or a daughter to some kind of horrible fate. I kind of miss the ol’ kill ten rats quests. Nobody’s family and future was ever destroyed by rats.

Rift 2.7 was kind of a bust. I thought that was going to be a lot more interesting, but there wasn’t enough new-ness to draw me in.

I think I can no longer deny that I’m an MMO-hopper (not that I ever did deny it). I need freshness to keep logging into a game, whether that is in the leveling experience or in the endgame. If I’m just logging in to do the same thing I did yesterday, I have a hard time keeping my mind from wandering to other games, even if they are still in alpha or beta.

So I’ve been logging into ArcheAge to tend a tiny farm and trade strawberry jam to Marionople. I got kicked out of a guild because apparently I wasn’t participating enough. Which is true. They randomly invited me while I was standing at a vendor and I only joined so people would stop randomly inviting me to guilds.

By the way I think the best way to approach ArcheAge when it launches is to level to 50 really fast, then work on commerce. (As opposed to leveling to 50 using commerce.) Because you’ll need to be able to defend yourself against the endless hordes of griefers and gankers that are drawn to PvP games.

I’ve also been logging into the WildStar open beta more and more in the past week. I’m starting to see the appeal of it now. I think you have to shift your mindset in order to get the most out of it. You can’t go into it thinking you’re going to get a rich, deep, immersive virtual world. I find it a much better experience if you go into it thinking you’re playing a mindless, button-mashing Mario Bros. game that doesn’t matter.

Unfortunately, the more WildStar I play, the more unsure I am which class and path I will play. I have a feeling I’m going to have three main characters in WildStar. Probably Spellslinger+Settler, Esper+Scientist, and Warrior+Explorer. But then I sort of like the Engineer too. Decisions, decisions.

I wonder if I can reach level 50 in ESO before the WildStar head start. That is officially my main goal for the rest of May, even if it’s the most boring, painful, non-fun gaming experience in the world. Goals must be met!

ESO – Complete One-Eighty On Subbing

So, yeah, I changed my mind and subbed for one month of ESO. I did it after I played the Arbiter in Rift for a night, and realized to my horror that there was no way that I would be able to fill all of my gaming time between now and the WildStar launch with Rift tanking.

I sort of forgot to factor in my terror of tanking high-level dungeons in PUGs. There are only a handful of low-level dungeons that I’m comfortable with, so it won’t be very long before tanking becomes a hellish, stressful nightmare, regardless of what I think of the soul.

I suppose I could try the other new souls in 2.7, but they aren’t as interesting to me.

So I think I’m going to need ESO for a little while longer. And like I said before, I only need to play it for a handful of hours for it to be worth $15.

I'm back baby! Actually I never left.
I’m back baby! Actually I never left.

As of this writing I have reached Templar level 40. I have a love/hate relationship with my Templar Two-Hander build. Sometimes I find myself ridiculously out-matched, and other times I mow down enemies like a hot knife through butter. It’s a bit frustrating at times.

ESO – The Power of Looting Barrels

When I first started playing ESO, I detested the idea that every barrel, box, and urn had something in it. That was one of my least favorite parts of Oblivion and Skyrim: Picking up cheese and vegetables in every barrel. You didn’t have to, but the healing from a big stack of corn could save you in a pinch, because it was too expensive to buy health potions.

The possibilities are practically endless!
The possibilities are practically endless!

At first it seemed that ESO only put food-related ingredients and recipes in the environment. I wasn’t interested in provisioning, so I cheerfully ignored them, only clicking on a barrel or crate now and then if it happened to be right under my cursor.

Then I started to notice more in those barrels than just supplies for provisioning. Sometimes there were racial crafting items. Sometimes lockpicks. If you’re very lucky, sometimes a racial motif. In other words, sometimes you find good stuff.

So now, curse you ESO, I have to click on everything. But since bag space is at such a premium, I can’t pick up everything. So I have to click on the container, see what’s in it, and decide whether to pick it up or not. It’s a bit like a lottery every time you get to a box or barrel.

And I like it. Because it is like a lottery every time you click on something in the environment. It’s just like when you kill a monster and run up to see the loot it dropped. Most of the time it’s nothing special. But sometimes it’s good stuff, and there’s a tiny thrill when you find a nice blue plate chest piece after killing some random mob that happened to be in the way. I get the same little thrill when I click on a wardrobe and find an Argonian Flint trait piece. Oh! I can use that!

I miss it when I go into other games. I never would have believed how much of a psychological benefit it is to have a chance at finding small useful things lying about in the environment of an MMO. Everyone should do that. Fine-tuning the percentage chance is key, though. It has to be a significant chance, like 5-10%, not like 1 in a million.

ESO – Sub Cancelled For Now

I went ahead and cancelled my ESO subscription. I’ve got a few more days left but I suspect my Templar will stay at level 36. I think I will wait two or three months and return to see what changes have been made. I like the direction I’m seeing in the roadmap; I’m just itching to do other things right now.

Go to the light!
Go to the light!

In the meantime, I’m planning to play Rift 2.7 when it drops on May 7 until the WildStar head start. I have created a Defiant mage and leveled him up so that I can start him tanking in Realm of the Fae and Iron Tombs. I haven’t seen anything about how the mage tanking soul works yet so it should be interesting.

Oh I think I forgot to mention that my FFXIV subscription lapsed a while back, too, so my slate is pretty clean right now.

Of course I’m still putzing around with ArcheAge. It’s a very nice game but it has some flaws. For example, the gank-or-be-ganked style of PvP (otherwise known as “all PvP ever”) is not terribly appealing, particularly when it infringes upon PvE zones. It’s a bit like Aion, in that eventually your PvE questing will lead you into PvP zones. However I feel like if you’re careful you can generally avoid it.

P.S. I know I said I was going to post a short fiction thingy on Sundays, but, uhhhhh, I meant starting next Sunday. Yeah, that’s it. :)