Sometimes you’re sitting there, staring at your desktop, and you just have no idea what you want to play. It can be tough; everything exciting hasn’t launched yet, and everything available is somehow repulsive. We’ve all been there. But guess what, there is a wide world out there of games just dying to be played—maybe even games you’ve never considered.
The great thing about MMORPGs is that, given enough time and some tender care, they evolve and change. You might have played a game at launch, only to walk away shaking your head in embarrassment that somewhere out there a project director played the same game you did and said “launch it!” Either way, you might be surprised how many of those less than stellar games have picked themselves up and stepped back into the ring. And guess what: Some of them are total knockouts.
Lord of the Rings Online
Alright, I realize that a paragraph ago I was implying that these games are ugly ducklings that have turned into beautiful swans, but let’s just pretend I never said that. I don’t care what anyone says—The Lord of the Rings Online has always been a beautiful swan. But, sometimes even beauty can get swept under the rug when it isn’t decked out in all of the production values and hot marketing that can drive even the worst games to become massive successes.
The fact of the matter is, The Lord of the Rings Online is that MMORPG you can always depend on. It might not be exciting as some of the other MMOPRGs you’ve played, but when you finally settle down to play it and give it an honest chance, you realize that true love has been in front of you all along.
Few games have treated the source material they are based on and treated it with such tender care. Tolkien was kind of a grump, so I doubt he’d ever give this game his blessing, but I have to believe given the choice between this and Peter Jackson, he’d choose this.
What might surprise you is just how much Lord of the Rings has grown. This isn’t just a World of Warcraft clone, despite what its opening hours might suggest. The Lord of the Rings Online has been readily introducing elements like mounted combat and an awesome PVP mode that lets you play as the forces of darkness, not to mention a steady stream of new content that slowly sees you following in the footsteps of the Fellowship of the Ring. I can’t wait for the Mordor expansion pack in 2022. All of this contributes to a vibrant and wonderful little gem often lost beneath the titanic successes of more popular games.
Furthermore, Lord of the Rings Online is free to play and the microtransaction model is surprisingly friendly. You certainly won’t see everything the game has to offer without a serious effort or coughing up some cash, but this isn’t a game that offers to buy you a drink and then leaves you in a bathtub full of ice with a kidney—I mean wallet—missing.
Marvel Heroes 2015
Everyone loves a great superhero comeback story, right? What about a superhero based video game comeback story? Because that is exactly what Marvel Heroes 2015 is. Launched in 2013 as Marvel Heroes, this game wasn’t exactly the smashing success that its developers, Gazillion Entertainment, had hoped it would be. In fact, the reception was lukewarm at best.
Last year, the game relaunched under the new name with 2015 attached as a clever way of putting its disappointing past behind it. Though the tactic might be kind of shady (both iterations actually have separate entries on Metacritic), I’m willing to forgive it because Marvel Heroes is actually great.
To be fair, this wasn’t just a rebranding to coincide with a little balance patch, Marvel Heroes has changed significantly. To begin, the new version of the game aims to incorporate more of the best elements of its similar brothers and sisters in the ARPG genre like Diablo 3 and Path of Exile. Player customization options are much deeper, and the combat received some important tweaks to make it more of the furious killing that the genre is known for. Furthermore, while Marvel Heroes initially offered a rather scarce amount of content, 2015 introduces regular updates that can really go a long way in keeping the game feeling fresh.
When you layer on loyalty rewards, new heroes, costumes, and a free to play financial model that doesn’t make you want to run headlong into a chain link fence, you have a game that is absolutely worth your time—especially if you’re all about capes.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
When The Old Republic went free to play, you could almost hear the collective scoff as the internet joined hands in perhaps one of the world’s largest “I told you so” moments. EA’s attempt to rekindle the love of Bioware’s classic Knights of the Old Republic was a disappointing and half-hearted venture, which left fans of the series feeling disenfranchised. The basic building blocks were always there, but the game was mired in ho-hum design that was so by-the-books there were times where you had to wonder if this was just Azeroth with lasers.
While The Old Republic hasn’t changed much of what makes it feel similar to World of Warcraft, it has successfully created a game that builds upon that foundation to explore new and interesting things. Now, more than ever, it benefits from a renewed focus on what makes it unique, instead of focusing on what makes MMORPGs popular.
Several expansion packs have released, adding a wealth of new content for your character to work through. All of it is top notch. Furthermore, unique aspects have been introduced like starship combat, which really help break up the monotony and give The Old Republic a voice of its own.
Speaking of voices, the game is almost a must play for the main story alone. Though fans of Knights of the Old Republic might still be a little sour, no one can deny that the main story quests aren’t incredible. The Old Republic perfectly recaptures the breadth of consequence that the original series had. You might look at the somewhat cartoonish character models and think this is a game geared towards a younger audience, but you won’t think that after you’ve taken the dark side choices in a few stories missions. It’s the kind of stuff that will wake you up 20 years later in a cold sweat.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited
Tamriel Unlimited is yet another attempt at rebranding as a way of escaping the negative press that haunted the original release. And, just like Marvel Heroes 2015, we’re willing to forgive the clever marketing tactic because Tamriel Unlimited is actually quite good.
When The Elder Scrolls Online launched last year, its opening weeks had a wet blanket tossed on them by a staggering number of bugs and a game that was, honestly, just not that fun to play. Zenimax Online Studios wasn’t ready to roll over and die, and instead went to work trying to tackle as many problems as they could.
The result is a game that, a year later and now free from the tethers of a subscription fee, feels like a night and day difference. What’s interesting about The Elder Scrolls transformation is that, looking back over the development history of the past year, its renewed sense of fun cannot really be attributed to any one thing but rather a horde of tweaks and changes that helped round out most of its rough edges.
All of this results in a game that feels far more enjoyable and playable than it ever has. Though the price to buy your way into the game is still rather steep, the lack of subscription fee really frees you from the responsibility of feeling that constant need to get your money’s worth. Now that its on consoles, it might be the perfect time to dive back in and give it a second chance.
The Secret World
The Secret World‘s biggest problem was that the game just wasn’t mainstream enough to warrant the subscription fee. Of course, there were all sorts of issues The Secret World suffered from during its tenure as a subscription based MMORPG, but few of those problems were unforgivable. Yet, without the stopping power of an established brand and the gall to be set in a world that isn’t fantasy-based, The Secret World slowly faded from the public eye. With a small following keeping the dream alive, you might be wondering if returning to give The Secret World a chance is even worth it. The answer is, of course, yes.
The greatest strength of The Secret World is that so much of its content simply doesn’t expire because the game has moved on. To a new player, each quest will be as fresh and exciting as the day it was first launched. The Secret World is one of the most unique MMORPGs on the market, and the way it tossed out the playbook to introduce a main story that requires actually using your brain is something that no one should miss.
Furthermore, the game is now available at a great price, making it the perfect way to spend an evening with a few friends looking to explore a dark and mysterious world.
It can be hard to avoid getting excited about the hot new game on the market, especially with E3 and convention season in full swing. But if you’re looking to experience a brand new world, you don’t have to always jump on the bandwagon. With the way MMOs evolve over time, there are plenty of games that are absolutely worthy of your investment, even if you initially wrote them off for one reason or another. I mean, everyone deserves a second chance, right?Related: Column, Listed, Lord of The Rings Online, Marvel Heroes, MMORPG, Star Wars The Old Republic, The Elder Scrolls Online, The Secret World, Top List