The MMO Grinder 2012 Year-in-Review
Behold my totally subjective list of the MMOs I’ve reviewed from January to December of this year. In no particular order, I’ll be listing several of the games I’ve reviewed and events of the year, along with arbitrary “awards” that have no meaning other than a reason for me to talk about them more. Remember all games looked at BEFORE January of 2012 will not be counted, so Maple Story is STILL my highest viewed video, and Eden Eternal is still my favorite overall, at least out of the actually F2P games. Let’s get this shitstorm started!
Biggest Surprise: World of Tanks
I’m going to admit it right now, even if I already did in the beginning of the video, but I chose the game simply because I though it would be another simple arena shooter that I could play and drop without missing it. BOY, WAS I WRONG. Something about the more realistic control of the tanks, the excellent feeling of landing the last hit on a tank, and watching it explode into a hulking metal wreck. Yeah, there’s a bit of a learning curve, and it’s got a lot of aspects that make it legitimately arguable “Pay-to-Win” title, but if you’re not looking to be the top dog, and just want to hop in to lower tiered matches on occasion for the fun of it, you’ll have a good time.
Biggest Disappointment: Lineage II
I wanted to like this game. I THOUGHT I would have liked this game… I was starting to get into the game… right as I was nuked by a high-level player who killed people for the fun of it. I just can’t stand this kind of system. If you allow people to be dickheads people WILL be dickheads. The “penalty” for it is so low-key it might as well not matter, and it makes a barely tolerable title outright unbearable. My outright disposition of PK systems is the sole reason I’m so apprehensive of looking at “Mortal Online”. The entire game seems built around this kind of “Fuck everyone, I’ll get mine!” attitude, where it not “You and your allies against the evil forces” but “You against everyone ever.” It’s also why I have no interest in Day Z or War Z. I’m not asking a game to be “carebear” but playing alongside someone who going to act like your friend up until they need something from you, and end up screwing you over, or killing you for the same of opportunity doesn’t seem fun to me. People act like it a thrill, and if that is, more power to you, but I get enough of that shit from ACTUAL LIFE.
Biggest Controversy: The Shutdown of City of Heroes
Besides the DarkBlood shutdown, this definitely is one that “no one saw coming”. CoH was a feverishly loved game, lest I remind everyone how much pointless backlash my POSITIVE review of the game got last year, and with the developers actively teasing new content and offering up yet more improvements to the game, the extremely sudden “We’re closing down the game in 3 months.” The lack of detail led to rumors abound, from the blissful exercise in futile hope: ” It’s a marketing stunt for the next patch” to the conspiracy-laced: “Cryptic Studios is sitting on the license in order to kill the game” to the universally accepted truth: “NCSoft is kitten-drowningly evil” no game has seen greater efforts to get it revived to no fortunate avail. CoH remains one of my most watched episodes, the article I wrote on the matter is the second most read and commented article on this site, and “city of heroes private server” is the third most common search term that leads people to this site. The fans are still at it, looking to create and fund a new title, fire up private servers, or even find the game a new publisher, and despite NCSoft’s official corporate replies of “Cool story, bro” the community soldiers on. Some have bit the bullet and moved to Champions Online. Those who valued creative freedom over a “superhero world” have taken to The Secret World. For the rest, keep fighting the good fight.
Biggest Annoyance: The Guild Wars 2 Hype-Storm
In the internet, “new=awesome” and no game has mirrored such blind fanboy praise as Guild Wars 2. As far back as last year, I had people CONSTANTLY hammering on me to play, review, or give opinions on Guild Wars 2, a game which, at the time, for all intents and purposes DIDN’T FUCKING EXIST, giving me nothing to look at. People wanted to hear parrotted press releases, and every piece of news I heard on the game, from the fanboys to the actual news from the source, up until its ACTUAL release, made me want to punch the developers. Toward the end of the Closed Beta, I was offered by several people to have account passwords given to me but luckily I was able to get a beta key for the final weekend. For what I saw then, I enjoyed it and felt it really had potential. I didn’t feel the same way once I got to play the game full-time. What I stated in my Sidequest and my review ring true. The fanboys are COMPLETELY UNWILLING to say anything negative about this game, and it’s plainly suffering for it. Rather than address problems as problems, they make excuses for it. Camera is shit? “Oh, that’s part of the challenge!” Game completely infested with bots? “Well, it’s not like they are hurting anybody!” OK, hypothetical chucklenuts, remind me to show you the e-mail I got telling me my account was nearly accessed by someone in CHINA and tell me again how many people they aren’t hurting. It’s shit like this that makes me outright despise this community, and while I will never be one of those people who touts Guild Wars 2 as a “terrible game” or places it on their “worst of 2012″ list in an attempt to be “edgy”, but I will say that it’s not the fantastic WoW killer everyone wanted it to be. Dynamic events prove problematic when you build your ENTIRE game around them. Waiting for things to happen isn’t all that fun. Placing invisible walls on platforming areas because it’s not the way the developers wanted me to get up that mountain reeks of poor-planning. Is it THAT hard to put a rock in the way? Ditching the trinity without leaving in some logical form of aggro table, and making self-heals almost completely ineffectual seems like a case of “idea first, execution later”. The game has PROBLEMS as many games do, but as long as the community continues to give them a free pass, this is a title that will stagnate for everyone far more likely than it stagnated for me.
My most backlashed review: Shin Megami Tensei: IMAGINE
Oh, the backlash wasn’t QUITE as bad as CoH, but this was probably the one that got the most attention for a title that not many people even know exists. I HAD played the game in the past. I DID play it for “more than a day” as I was oft accused of. I can keep the excuses up and it’s not going to matter. If you like the game, great. I didn’t find it as enjoyable. It’s not for me. I’m not saying it doesn’t have an audience. I’m saying it’s not for me. Also I am fully aware I pronounced “Tensei” wrong. Because if there’s one thing people wouldn’t shut up about, it was that.
My most well-received review: DC Universe Online
I went into this one fully expecting it to be this year’s “City of Heroes” and the opening skits with Rob “Tyger” Rubin were a collaborative effort in the works for a LONG time, especially as often as we discussed the fervor behind the CoH review. I was ready for a storm of people knowing that despite how quickly this game went Free-to-Play, it was still very much liked… and for once everyone agreed with what I said. It’s an interesting blend of action combat with a painfully limiting set of powers and skills, and a story that shoehorns you in as a copy of an existing superhero. You didn’t gain superpowers, you contracted a robot disease. The only detraction came in a mild form of those who disagreed with my “You’re a sidekick” assessment, and to that, I wonder if they ever played the other superhero games. Yeah, you occasionally have another hero ask you to do something, but most of your quests and missions come from average joes on the street, or cops in over their heads. It’s not Superman saying, “Yo, my hands are tied. Mind taking on this little problem for me? I’ll be back later to take the credit once you’ve softened them all up.” Still, people loved Rob’s cameo, and overall the video went better than I expected. It’s also, unfortunately, the LAST video that broke the 10k view mark this year.
My most watched review (of this year): World of Warcraft
I could probably place this under “my most redundant review” but I’ll get to that in a minute. This was a video of necessity, and I’m glad I did it. I was finally able to show people WHY I kept alluding to WoW in all my videos, and despite my aversion to hype, I did my best to talk this one up, and keep it a secret up until a few days after it was released, going as far as initially only titling it as “Episode 20″, and removing the title card. It also helped me realize that the game I once loved is no longer my favorite game, and cemented the fact that I wasn’t going to go back. Even with the new expansion release, I haven’t bought it, and this is coming from someone who bought 3 out of the up-until-that-point, four Collector’s Editions, even when they became increasingly expensive with proportionally less content. I wouldn’t go calling it my favorite MMO, even though it unquestionably WAS for a long time, I still appreciate all that is it, and was, and had it not been for this game, there would be no MMO Grinder. End of story.
Best Community: La Tale
When I saw that ad on La Tale reading “the best community in all MMOs”, I honestly was ready to prove it wrong. I didn’t foresee a simple 2D platform MMO with so many similarities to Maple Story having not only a decent community, but “the best one.” Man, I was glad I was wrong…. for the most part. Yeah, while in-game the people are helpful, polite, and humble, it seems my YouTube video on the title became inexplicably popular compared to the rest of my YT vids. (I’m guessing it was forum linked somewhere, but I can’t track that like I can on this site.) That seemed to bring in the YouTube crowd, and a few of the more “YouTube like” fans and detractors of the game came in to nitpick the hell out of what I was saying. Despite it still being a positively received video it kinda soured me a bit. I still hop in every now and again, and as much as people keep touting the upcoming Season 2 revamp, I’m more than willing to check it out again… as long as the people are still as nice as they ever were.
Worst Community: Brick-Force
There’s nothing inherently WRONG with Brick-Force as a game. It’s exactly what is says on the tin: A brick/LEGO/Minecraft inspired arena shooter that lets you design your own maps, and battle others within them. Unfortunately, it’s been completely swamped with CoD kiddies who actually aren’t old/good enough to play Call of Duty. Gone is the fun-lighthearted combat between players, replaced with curse spewing, trash talking children too busy arguing how “noob” or “OP” someone is, instead of actually playing. Gone are the creative, interesting maps that take advantage of the build system and bring it to places never thought before, now swamped with tiny one-room maps made for the sole purpose of experience and point farming. The players can’t wait all of several seconds upon entering a match before spamming “go” and “start”, even if they’re the only other person in the room, and the room is a team focused match. It’s as if they have 5 minutes before their Ritilin kicks in, and they’re trying to get in as many matches as they can before they have to go to bed. I log in, wondering why I don’t play more often, only to be reminded in the span of 2 minutes why I don’t. This is WITHOUT A DOUBT a game that you will need to bring friends along and lock the rooms to your friends alone, unless you want to be inspired to spend the rest of your life devising a way to electrocute people through the internet.
Best Combat: Vindictus
What essentially amounts to a 3D Beat-Em-Up, Vindictus a.k.a. Mabinogi Heroes takes the kind of combat expected from games like TERA and RaiderZ and shows you how it is REALLY done. I still don’t understand why people think TERA is the be-all-end-all of MMO Combat when this game is around. Sure, the game is heavily instanced, and not an open-world, but my god, there’s nothing cooler than grabbing onto an enemy, slamming the hilt of your sword into their faces a few times, before flipping them over and slamming them onto your knee, or into a nearby wall, all with the simple combo of a few button presses. There’s no “grab n’ slam” skill you have to use a hotkey for, no wasting a precious hotkey to dodge, or attack with simple abilities. It’s double-tap, space, left-click and right-click, and with those 4 simple commands you can unleash holy hell with the right combinations. Granted, the game was quite repetitive, and a beast to run, and people mostly spent the entire time harping about my computer, missing the point of this well made game. Nexonian or not.
Best F2P conversion (for a former subscription game): Aion
After what happened with Lineage II, I was quite wary of Aion touting the same “truly free-to-play” moniker. Luckily, this is a game that retains the quality of the subscription title, which again, I was actively subscribed to for a while, without sacrificing anything that made the experience more or less enjoyable. Sure, feelings about the game itself are mixed, and many want to blame the game’s apparent loses for the death of City of Heroes, but I can at least tell you that if you were a subber back when the game was new, or a free player now, you aren’t losing ANYTHING out of the process, and that’s how this sort of thing SHOULD be done….
Worst F2P conversion: Star Wars: The Old Republic
…much unlike this title. Man, not only did I see this coming (the restrictions, not the F2P conversion) but so did everyone else. I had a real hard time believing that EA would even let their “WoW Killer” go F2P, let alone THIS SOON. Then after dropping their hypebomb on the release of Guild Wars 2 and Mists of Pandaria, EA/Bioware hushes the hell up. Then when they return, they give us a list that everyone though was an elaborate prank. Despite allowing for full story content experience, the restrictions were so draconian, the game might as well marketed itself as “Free-to-Try”. Wanna use the mailbox? Sorry, you gotta pay. Ready to form up a guild with your friends? I’m afraid you can’t do that, Dave. Enjoying those space missions? Money lets you enjoy them more often! Want to display a title, hide your helmet, add a last name, or even add more than 2 quickbars? Lol nope, pay to unlock it! While the extreme backlash the game has received some victories, like the apparent removal of the quickbar restriction and the character creation limit of 2 only, there’s still a lot of problems that didn’t bring the people swarming back like Bioware hoped it would. Sorry guys, you’re either WoW or you’re not. Can’t have it both ways.
Worst Timing: Hunter Blade and DarkBlood
Man, When I heard LUNA was shutting down, I was kinda shocked that a game I had looked at was going to be no more. I was even more shocked when I found out the same about City of Heroes. The key differences here is that both games had been out for a long time, and I’ve had episodes about them out for a while as well. Hunter Blade was out in open beta for only a month before I looked at it, and announced a shutdown only a month afterward. Saying “I felt like I wasted my time” doesn’t even begin to describe it. Then again, look at what Hunter Blade WAS. A literal rip-off of Monster Hunter, the title by Capcom, who’s notorious for upholding their copyrights. A game poorly translated and localized by a Chinese company that barely spoke English. A game with a Cash Shop that contained 400+ dollar items. This wasn’t a real shock to anyone.
Can’t say the same about DarkBlood, an original property that was being published by an established U.S. publisher. There was work put into the game. There was work STILL being put into the game, and yet, lo and behold a “Happy New Year” message is suffixed with “Oh, and we’re shutting the game down, lol. Go play Fiesta, k?” Leaving the community is scrambles wondering just what the hell brought this on, firing off theories and cursing the name of Outspark. Hell, Outspark has a title that IS ACTIVELY ABANDONED, and they’re still publishing it. What makes this one different is that the game was active, being actively developed, and overall was a TON of fun, and I’ve received many messages and comments from people telling me how much they loved the game when they tried it after seeing my review. Now having to tell just as many people that the game will be no more is really heart-breaking. If you can, give it a shot before January 15th, 2013 just to see what we’ll all soon be missing.
Favorite Overall: The Secret World
Shock of shocks, I know. Not since World of Warcraft has a game resonated with me so much. I honestly didn’t see myself liking this as much as I did. I was intrigued with the systems being presented, despite them all being ignored for the sake of Guild Wars 2 news. The setting also interested me, but once I found out it was a subscription game, I was beyond ready to ignore it. I was still annoyed with all the WoW killer talk Funcom’s other game, Age of Conan had, and the backlash from that kinda soured me on checking it out any further. Then after I signed up for a TERA trial for purposes of a Sidequest, MegaGWolf informed me he received an “Oh, I guess you can have this” style message from EA because he was an active SWTOR subscriber, granting him a few beta keys for the final Secret World beta-weekend, and he offered me one. I took one just so I would have another Sidequest to upload and OH MY GOD I did NOT expect to find what I found. This was a game that, in the face of the current “Let’s see what other color we can paint WoW” MMO market, said, “You know what? Fuck fantasy settings. This is taking place in the real world. You know what else? Fuck classes and levels. You progress through this game at your pace, unlocking the content you want to see, and playing to a style that fits you. You know what else? Fuck being the hero who saves the world from an invading force. You’re the bitch of a secret society whose sole purpose is to cover up the world’s dark secrets so the rest of humanity can live their daily lives not even knowing what you’ve done to save them.”"Breath of Fresh Air” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Combined with the best atmosphere featured in any MMO, a massive cast of interesting and memorable characters, deep, involving puzzle elements that will leaving you guessing or googling for hours, and an overall experience that hasn’t been done in any MMO to date. This isn’t a title you rush through to the end for, this is a game where you savor every moment, and take it all in. If you wanna rush, fine, go have fun spamming Agartha with the rest of the endless Nightmare Mode runners. I’ll be in Savage Coast reliving those AMAZING Amusement Park quests.
The game has only improved since its announcement of going “Buy to Play”, showing no content restrictions, and only charging (a small fee, mind you) for the latest Content Packs, which have improved drastically since they were first implemented, now granting you amazing overarching storylines, rather than a small pack of unrelated quests. Seriously, “The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn” was one of the coolest chain of events I’d see in the game, and it had myself, and the majority of my stream, on the edge of their seats. The game continues to grow and the Buy-to-Play announcement has resulted in a SERIOUS population boom, finally getting the game the recognition it deserves. Still, I can’t express enough that the game is NOT for everybody, but at least people are much more willing to find that out now.
The Secret World is HANDS DOWN my favorite MMO of 2012.
Fun fact: I would have listed DarkBlood as my “Favorite F2P”, if it wasn’t being shut down on January 15th. So lame…