I’ve played several MMO’s over the years. I started out with Disney’s Toontown Online, (which actually closed last year,) and I currently play Lord of the Rings Online on a regular basis. I’ve played at least half a dozen different MMO’s, and while my selection is limited, (because I use a Mac. I have access to a PC, but not often enough to really get into a MMO,) I’ve played some of the major ones. Not all, since a lot were just plain too creepy for me even to try. (Like WoW.) This is four of the MMO’s I’ve played, with pros and cons, in no order of preference.
1. Star Trek Online
I’ve played all three starting origins – Federation, Klingon, and Romulan. This game is very mission-based, at least early on, and it feels restrictive to me. Not so much on the Romulan (or even the Klingon) side, as the story, quests, and areas are far more user-friendly than the Federation. (It seemed like that to me at least – players who have played for years or even months may say differently.) I have heard that the game opens up a LOT once you get into later-game content, with festivals and such, but we’ll see as I level up. (yes, I’m still playing it. They came out with a Mac launcher, which I was thrilled about.) The graphics are decent, (not on the level of, say, LOTRO, though it could just be my computer not being able to run the game with better graphics.) For those of you who enjoy character creation, this has one of the most extensive character creations I have ever seen in an MMO. Go with a pre-made race, or create your own. Clothing/uniforms/ships are pretty extensive too. Practically every detail is customizable.
Pros – Good character creation and customizing, reasonably user friendly (for Romulans and even Klingons,) and they have a Mac launcher now. Also decently okay graphics. Plus, y’know, it’s STAR TREK. Oh, and it takes place in the prime universe. Not the alternate timeline in which Vulcan exploded.
Cons – The launcher took me TWO days to download. The Federation (which has the most people playing it, for the social types,) isn’t overly user-friendly, at least by my standards. It could use an overhaul. The quest tracker system is absolutely terrible. (If you can track a quest NPC somehow, by all means, let me know!) and the early game feels restrictive (at least to me – some people may love it. While I do like quest-driven stories, I also enjoy a certain amount of freedom.)
Overall? I’d recommend you at least give it a try. Play to level 10, at least. Game’s rated T, but I don’t remember any gore or anything. Maybe a mild profanity here and there.
2. Pirates of the Burning Sea
This is essentially a war-game set in the Caribbean. I enjoyed it, but probably won’t play it long-term, since they don’t have a Mac launcher. If they get one, then we’ll see. The character customization was decent, especially in the clothing department. The game feels far less restrictive, and while you probably don’t want to venture too far at the start, you CAN visit other ports at any time. There’s a bit of a political system, which was interesting, a decent (if a bit confusing at first,) crafting system, an Auction House, and some okay storytelling. (Would have liked a clearly marked main storyline, kinda like LOTRO’s Epic Quests. Maybe there is one and I just missed it. Haven’t played very far.) The graphics are also decent (for an MMO. They remind me a lot of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, which also closed last year.) Only thing I didn’t like was that since this is a war-game, you can’t play different allegiances. If you want to have characters of each allegiance, you have to hope someone wins the two-week (or more) war, at which point you can choose to switch sides. You can play different allegiances as much as you like for the peaceful weekend, but on Monday you get locked into the one you last played. I found that a little irritating, though it does make sense.
Pros – It has a decent crafting system, if a bit confusing. Character customization was good, and ship customization also appears to be pretty good. Gameplay is pretty open-ended in terms of where you can go. Battles are kind of fun, and it doesn’t take very long to learn how to fight.
Cons – Not being able to switch sides. I understand why, but it does irritate me. The story is a bit TOO loose. Maybe I missed something along the way, or just didn’t play long enough? Or maybe I’m unobservant? You also lose your ship if you sink. Realistic, but annoying too.
This is a T-Rated game, so you can expect some mild profanity and plenty of hack and slash combat. Oh, and don’t forget the blood spurts. Bit gory? Yeah.
Overall, it’s not for everyone. The launcher took me (I think?) 8 hours to download initially, which is pretty common. I downloaded it overnight for maximum speed. I recommend trying it if you enjoy war-games, or if you just want a decent pirates game to play on occasion.
3. Lord of the Rings Online
This is one of my favorite MMO’s of all time, so take this all with a grain of salt. It’s reasonably user-friendly, the players are fairly friendly and willing to answer questions (depending on the server you choose… I play on Riddermark, and the people there tend to be pretty friendly. I spend some time on Brandywine too, but I can’t speak for the players there, since I haven’t really played there in forever.) The character customization is pretty good, not on the level of STO, but not shabby either. The crowning glory of LOTRO’s customization system is their cosmetic wardrobe – no more mismatched armor that makes you look like you’ve raided a troll’s lair for it (even though you probably did.) And no visiting a clothing shop or anything – just open up the character tab, put together your outfit from extra armor or cosmetic clothing found, bought, or traded for at one of the many festivals, and wear it. You can dye nearly everything, and with the shared wardrobe (free for VIP, or bought from the LOTRO store with Turbine Points,) one item can hold multiple colors. Best part is it doesn’t affect your stats or your actual equipment – just makes you look nicely put together. The crafting system is symbiotic, with people with the farmer vocation supplying people like cooks with vegetables, foresters providing hides and wood to tailors and woodworkers, and so on. LOTRO also has gorgeous graphics and landscapes, a huge achievement system (called “deeds,”) and a really fun quest system, with the Epic Quests (the main storyline,) and dozens (sometimes hundreds, in the case of Moria,) of quests for each area. Once you reach Rohan (at level 75, and with the Riders of Rohan expansion pack,) you even get a War-Steed, usable anywhere as a horse, and usable in Rohan for mounted combat. The first few quest areas (The Shire, Ered Luin, Bree-land, and the Lone-lands,) are totally free. After that, you have to buy the quest pack for the area you want to play in, up to level 50, where you’ll want to buy Moria (the first expansion,) then probably Siege of Mirkwood, Rise of Isengard, then Riders of Rohan, and finally Helm’s Deep. (There are also quest packs to buy in between each of those too.) Yes, it’s expensive to buy all of these, but if you wait for a sale, you can get the first four in a quad pack for around 20-30 bucks from the LOTRO Market. Not a bad deal at all. (Or you can buy each separately. Honestly, I’d go for the quad pack.) Helm’s Deep is currently a bit more expensive at 20-30 bucks depending on the edition you want. They also have dedicated role-play servers for people who want to do that.
Pros – Cosmetic system, graphics, storyline, crafting system, kinships (guilds in other games,) lots and lots of gameplay, the music system, the soundtrack… and, well, you can visit places like the Bridge of Khazad-dum, see the remains of the Balrog, visit Weathertop… I could go on. Oh, and they have a Mac launcher.
Cons – Yes, there are some. Some servers don’t have a high population, though you can usually find people if you hang out in Bree. The game can get expensive, (though no more so than the Sims 3 – and people play that and buy all the expansions too.) The Epic Battles (the current end-game content,) can get old fast. The game has some major lag issues in certain areas, and the quests can feel repetitive after a few areas. (Go kill 10 orcs, go collect 20 crates, go kill such-and-such, pick some flowers.) The storyline in each area offsets that a bit, but still. If you decide you don’t like the server you’re on, you have to either start over or try to get a transfer (for about 20 bucks, last I looked.) The housing system is kinda useless, and non-social, but they’re working on it. And this game involves a LOT of running back and forth. Having a horse makes it better, but the world is huge.
Overall, (I am biased a lot, since I absolutely adore this game,) I’d recommend playing to level 20. Should only take a couple weeks for a casual gamer, and you’ll get a really good idea of how the game works, plus you’ll get to do the first group instances (the Great Barrow) at level 20. The game is rated T, and there is alcohol, smoking, and a bit of gore involved.
I personally did not enjoy this game, though I play it on occasion. It was a bit too simplistic for me, though my mom LOVES this game. It’s got cartoony graphics, a pretty good storyline, and the companion system is interesting. Character customization is really pretty limited, but it’s okay. The game has all sorts of little jokes in it relating to popular culture, like NPC’s named The Frogfather and Guy Fox (he’s even got a storyline complete with him trying to blow up the Armada fleet.) The battles are turn-based, rather than real-time, which can be nice. The game isn’t hard to learn at all, and it’s good fun for the whole family. Oh, and they have the single best housing system I have ever seen in an MMO. Giant houses (more like estates in the case of Crown (paid currency) bought houses,) lots of furniture… it has to be seen to be believed. Each area has to be bought past Skull Rock (the starting area.) You can’t even do the main story without buying areas.
Pros – Easy to learn, good story, hilarious little dialogue blurbs and NPC’s referring to popular culture, and the housing system. Oh, the housing!
Cons – People used to games like WoW and LOTRO will probably find it overly simplistic, and the graphics too cartoony. The turn-based system can become annoying when playing with other people who end up lagging and can’t select anything, making the battle take longer. Character customization is limited.
Overall, I’d still recommend it for people who want to play with their young kids. It’s actually a good entry-level MMO. Just expect a lot of “I need this to keep playing.” Buying a membership helps, because then you get all the areas.
Other games I’ve played, but didn’t talk about include:
Minecraft (if you get on a server.)
Toontown (A group of college students are currently rewriting it, updating the code and such. It’s in Beta right now. Should be open in a couple months.)
Star Wars: The Old Republic (It’s really laggy and has a lot of bugs, which is mostly why I stopped playing it. But it’s Star Wars, so it deserved a mention. No Mac launcher either.)
Club Penguin (I know, I know, but I have played it…)
DC Universe Online (Okay, I’m still downloading the launcher…. but I will have played it soon! Superhero stuff is awesome. No Mac launcher though, which is sad.) Edit: I finished downloading the launcher and started playing this afternoon. Other than some lag issues, and trouble finding an open name, it’s pretty awesome so far!