World of Warcraft has, for over a decade, dominated the MMORPG scene. Heck, it made it what it is today. Taking the wonderful story-driven world of Azeroth slowly built up by the massively successful real-time strategy franchise Warcraft, World of Warcraft finally let players forge their own stories in Blizzard’s beautifully realized fantasy world. But times have changed. World of Warcraft might still be the king, but it’s no secret the crown is beginning to rust. In fact, earlier this year World of Warcraft was the subject of doomsday prophecies when it had been announced that, after the launch of its latest expansion pack, Warlords of Draenor, World of Warcraft’s subscription numbers had dipped to an all-time low of seven million in the months following.
World of Warcraft isn’t dying—not yet, anyway—but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t thousands who are potentially looking for an alternative. A decade is a long time to stay in a virtual world, even one as beautiful of Warcraft’s. If you’re on the fence and looking to hop sides, we’ve lined up some excellent games for you to jump right into. Here is our list of games like World of Warcraft.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
In a way, Final Fantasy XIV has been the comeback of the century for video games. Launching originally as a broken, unfulfilling mess, Square Enix took it back to the drawing board and handed the reigns over to the massively talented Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi P.) to set Final Fantasy back on course. The result is a MMORPG that has, since release, been wowing fans with its excellent content, gorgeous visuals, and gripping story.
In a lot of ways, Final Fantasy XIV hits the exact same notes that World of Warcraft does. Both games feature a raid tier progression system once you hit the level cap (with alternatives for those who want them). Every few months, a new tier of dungeons is released that you will need to grind for better gear to allow you to conquer the new raid tier, and then the process repeats.
But while Final Fantasy XIV will, at times, feel too close to home if you’re spent on World of Warcraft’s formula, it’s how masterfully XIV pulls it all together that really sells the game. Yes, XIV doesn’t really innovate or change the basics of the genre that we’ve been playing for years, but it manages to do them so wonderfully well that I’m not inclined to care. You’ll be tab-targeting, hotkey rotation-ing your enemies to death, grinding out those last few bitter levels until your next story quest, but you’ll also likely enjoy every moment of it.
Where Final Fantasy XIV does mix things up is with its excellent job system, which allows you to change classes on the fly and level each one individually without all the pain of creating a brand new character. Having one character for every class is a godsend for those who aren’t looking to roleplay or who don’t like the variety of character races—you’ll never want to go back.
Said simply, Final Fantasy XIV is likely one of the best renditions of tried and true MMORPG mechanics to date. It certainly puts its own twists, but if you’re hungry for more MMORPG, just not Warcraft’s brand of it, Final Fantasy XIV will likely be your best choice.
Rift started out as a subscription MMORPG like World of Warcraft but has since defected over to the free-to-play side of things—and benefited massively because of it. In many ways, Rift is the knock-off brand of World of Warcraft. That sounds harsh, but I mean it in the most affectionate way possible. Rift is the best kind of knock-off: much easier on the wallet and still plenty of fun.
At its core, Rift plays startlingly similar to World of Warcraft, but the more you dig into it the more you’ll begin to appreciate just how different the two are. While World of Warcraft still proudly bears the mark of its more seasoned design, Rift offers players the traditionalism of Warcraft with a much more flexible, progressive approach to playing.
Class customization is easily Rift’s strongest selling point (aside from being, y’know, free). Using the Ascended Soul system, players can forge their own unique classes with unique playstyles, further customizing them with over 12 different roles suited for different types of content. Though you may be a healer one moment, you can easily switch to a damage dealer or tank depending on what you want to do next.
Another unique aspect of Rift is the ability to customize a small housing space. Like Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, you too can have your own little slice of home to tinker with and adjust as you see fit. It’s an incredibly flexible system, and something worth checking out if you’re big into that aspect of MMORPGs.
Rift might get billed as a World of Warcraft clone (I’m certainly guilty of it), but the truth is that it has so much going for it that doesn’t exactly make it a ripoff of Warcraft as much as direct competition. If you’re just tired of the same old sights and dungeons, Rift will give you a whole new world worth exploring.
Wildstar? Isn’t that a massive failure that hemorrhaged subscribers within months of launching due to its downright oppressive endgame merry-go-round? Yes. And guess what? While we were all playing other games, Carbine, the developer, has been silently chipping away at Wildstar’s issues and now, with free-to-play scheduled to release later this year, Wildstar is quickly coming back from the brink of death and it’s got a new lease on life.
So, what’s new? Nothing much, how about you? Just kidding, a whole lot has changed. For starters, Carbine is working to revamp the entire 1-50 leveling experience. The whole thing is intended to be much less of a grind, which is a great thing if you ever played Wildstar at launch (spoiler alert: it was rough). Furthermore, Carbine has realized that thumping their chests about how “hardcore” Wildstar was might’ve been the thing that ultimately shot them in the foot. If you weren’t overly familiar, Wildstar was intended to be the second coming of the savior of MMORPGs: 40 man raids. Instead, dungeon content in Wildstar was brutally hard. Not the good kind either, the kind that makes you feel like you’re a worthless piece of trash who should just do your party a favor and unsubscribe for eternity. A new dungeon was added in at level 10, and the previous ones have been tweaked and moved around a bit to provide an experience that isn’t quite as masochistic.
But Wildstar feels like such a suitable replacement to World of Warcraft because, even if Carbine realized their dreams of reviving the vanilla World of Warcraft experience was a surefire way to create a ghost town, the game has so much baked-in Warcraft nostalgia. The art style feels like a natural evolution of a lot of the comic book themes of Warcraft, and the humor, music, and beautiful vistas of Nexus all make it a game that, like Warcraft, you could easily lose yourself in.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
The Old Republic marks just one more game on this list that rose to the challenge of taking World of Warcraft’s throne and nearly died trying. But it’s a good thing Star Wars is made of sterner stuff because despite never becoming the Warcraft-killer it wanted to be, The Old Republic is an incredible journey worthy of your time.
With the move to free-to-play, Bioware got their slice of humble pie and have since decided to focus on what makes The Old Republic work rather than how to take down the MMORPG king. It’s a good thing too because The Old Republic is now, more than ever, a unique and addicting MMORPG.
This biggest difference on display is that The Old Republic is all about story—your story to be exact. Each class has their own unique narrative that will guide them through the leveling process, and each chapter is bursting with memorable characters and, above all else, great decisions to make. Like the single player RPG franchise that inspired it, The Old Republic is all about choice, and guiding your character through each of their story missions, choosing how each event unfolds, is a wholly unique experience.
Of course, there is way more to it than that. The Old Republic also utilizes a unique Legacy system that allows you to string your various characters together on a server to form a family tree of sorts and unlock new bonuses for your characters. It’s a great system that encourages making as many characters as humanly possible, something too few MMORPGs properly incentivize.
The Old Republic pulls a lot of ideas wholesale from Warcraft, though. Combat, despite accounting for the prevalence of guns, is largely the same mess of abilities and tab-targeting. There is a cover mechanic that changes things up, however, but if you’re looking to step away from World of Warcraft entirely then The Old Republic might end up feeling too familiar.
Finally, the last thing worth mentioning is that, despite being free-to-play, The Old Republic features one of the more predatory financial models of the games we listed. Not only are a vast amount of cosmetic options locked behind a paywall, but even basic features like more ability bars, basic character customizations, and social features are held at ransom. If you’re seriously dedicated to the game, it’s recommended to drop a few dollars to earn preferred status to keep the microtransaction pressure off your back, but even still, The Old Republic will likely always remind you of what you’re missing out on if you aren’t coughing up the subscription fee.
World of Warcraft might still be the king banana, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives that are just as good. Hopefully some of these suggestions will appeal to you if you’re looking to finally step away from Warcraft and into something new. If you have your own ideas of great alternatives to World of Warcraft, let us know in the comments section!Related: Column, Final Fantasy XIV, Games Like, MMORPG, Rift, Star Wars The Old Republic, Wildstar, World of Warcraft