MMOnday: Heart of Thorns Impressions

gw2-hot-logoOne of the most anticipated releases in the MMORPG world this year has been Guild Wars 2‘s first expansion Heart of Thorns. It came two years after the game’s initial launch and boasted the  first raid, new class specializations and even a completely new class (in addition to plenty more). Last week players flooded into the new region to face the game’s recently awakened elder dragon Mordremoth and his hordes of minions.

So how is it? As someone who’s been playing for the last two years, the expansion feels very enjoyable so far. The class specializations take awhile to unlock (too long, according some of the most vocal critics of the new system), but the Hero Points needed offer a nice alternative to simply grinding enemies to gain experience for a new level as many MMOs opt for. Another new mechanic is gliding which feels smooth and offers a great way to traverse the new areas. Very reminiscent to Aion, another NCsoft-published MMORPG released in 2008.

Music and art direction are also strong. The background music is quite enjoyable and gamers may find themselves turning up their volume a bit to enjoy it. Plenty of new enemies have also been added and many feel unique and foreign. One of my favorite additions are the bipedal mushrooms which are happy to dive at players as they cross the jungle. Looking forward to discovering more as I venture further.

I can’t comment too much on the story, but playing the introductory sequence that brings you into the new region felt exciting and also set the tone for the story.

One special note I have to make is about the expansion’s launch: there was no downtime, no queues and little lag. Online games seem rarely prepared for hordes of players at launches or expansions, but ArenaNet did a great job of keeping the experience smooth and pain-free. I remember the launch of Warlords of Draenor and what a nightmare that was, so it was extremely refreshing to be able to play as usual even with such a surge of people.

Have you played yet? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

MMOnday: What are your MMO pet peeves?

Many game genres have certain tropes or reoccurring mechanics which can cause frustration among the playerbase. MMO’s are no different, so today I’d like to ask, “What pisses you off in massively-multiplayer online games?

FFXIV-quarrymillSpeaking for myself, I find complicated maps and backtracking to be one of the most awful elements I consistently see and which irk me to no end. The original release of Final Fantasy XIV was perhaps one of the most frustrating examples I can pull from recent memory. The map to the right, pulled from Aleczan’s site, shows exactly how convoluted and annoying they were to navigate. Luckily this was fixed in the massive A Realm Reborn update.

Another pet peeve of mine is poor auction house or trading interfaces. World of Warcraft doesn’t have the most amazing one, but it’s an example of a game that can be expanded upon by players themselves through addons. Other titles which I enjoy playing, such as Aion, don’t allow such customization and thus deliver subpar experiences.

Enough about my opinions though, what do you hate to see? How about killing 10 rats? Or a very limited set of skills for players to use at a given moment, such as in the Guild Wars series?

MMOnday: How do you MMO on the go?

As smartphones and tablets have improved, in terms of both processing and graphical power, so too has mobile gaming. Gameloft has recently released a sequel to their game Order & Chaos, which was largely seen as a clone of World of Warcraft, except for your pocket devices. Clones don’t usually look so impressive, but back in 2011 it was no minor feat to a huge 3D world at your fingertips without ever having to boot up a computer. At launch it did sport a WiFi requirement, as well as a small monthly subscription, but it was nonetheless a remarkable technical achievement.

Nowadays we take such games for granted and there are plenty of MMO titles on iOS and Android to choose from. Not all feature 3D characters or vast worlds, but many have addictive gameplay that is suitable for short instances such as commuting to work or school, taking a lunch break or even distracting yourself in the restroom.

Do you prefer 3D MMORPGs such as Order & Chaos? 2D sidescrollers like MapleStory? Or even strategy titles? What are you playing while away from your favorite PC games?

MMOnday: What’s your favorite in-game holiday event?

MMOs have a long history of incorporating real holidays into game worlds in many creative ways. Next month we’ll see many titles roll out Halloween-themed events, undoubtedly sporting spooky aesthetics and ghoulish rewards. This year will be the first time gamers get to see WildStar’s Shade’s Eve event which was unavailable last year when the game was first launched. Now that it’s free-to-pay there’s no excuse not to check out the festivities!

Of course, Halloween is only one of the many special days that make it into these games. You may prefer Christmas or winter-themed events, such as Wintersday in Guild Wars 2, or even the eggs-cellent Easter events like Noblegarden in World of Warcraft.

Some might contend that games which incorporate real holidays into the lore are really stretching the immersion factor of the universe though and would prefer to have unique events based on entirely new holidays. What do you think?

MMOnday: What am I subscribed to?

The MMO genre is filled with enticing free-to-pay games; enthusiasts these days don’t have to pay a cent to enjoy high quality titles. Even those releases that were originally subscription-based have instead become buy-to-play or completely F2P, such as WildStar which will be re-launching on September 29th as a game that can be enjoyed without opening your wallet. With so many free options, why opt to subscribe to anything at all? I’ll explain my current choices below:

EverQuest II: One of the reasons I thoroughly enjoy dabbling in EQII is the nostalgia factor. Not because I played the game when it was released in 2004 (I didn’t), but because the graphics and atmosphere capture a certain style which has fallen out of favor in modern games. It reminds me of classic fantasy games such as Morrowind and the robust game systems show the amount of love put in by developers.

It is also F2P now, but there are certain advantages to subscribing. When they released two brand new servers based on the original game (and perhaps the first couple of expansions) they also put a subscription requirement on them, which is completely fair. I wanted to try them out and get a taste of the grind life, so I was willing to lay down the $15 for a month in August. Unfortunately, I just don’t see myself having enough time to dedicate in order to justify paying each month to play those characters. They did get a second month out of me though; I just re-subscribed today to take advantage of the double XP on normal servers and I also needed to use the expanded character slots offered to subscribers in order to re-roll a new character.

World of Warcraft: Friends shouldn’t let friends play World of Warcraft (an expensive and time consuming habit if there ever was one), but my interest in WoW’s upcoming Legion expansion made me susceptible to re-subscribing and a friend returning to the game pushed me over the edge. Been enjoying leveling a new character with him, but I have not made up my mind on whether or not I’ll be playing for another month. Subscription games are the best deal when you have time to play every day (only 50 cents a day!), but if you’re only logging in a few times a month the cost is suddenly much harder to swallow. I’ll keep my ears open for information on Legion, but I’m leaning towards not renewing. Aforementioned friend is also planning to let his subscription lapse after being kicked out of a raid on the last boss in LFR (Looking for Raid).

What are you currently subscribed to and why?