So here we are, the annual pre-MAGfest tradition that’s only 3 months late. I think I speak for many when I say “Fuck 2016” and not just due to the climate of current events, or swath of influential celebrity deaths… the MMO Market was pretty dead this year, with the most expected and anticipated titles being half-decade old titles that only lived up to various levels of hype.
As far as the show is concerned, Patreon moved to a monthly schedule instead of per-video, in order to reflect the “one episode a month” shift that occurred later in the year, which didn’t exactly pay off in the long run. On the plus side, my effort with Sidequests and Backtracks doesn’t feel completely wasted anymore. (And they’re far more fun to do than full episodes anyway. Well, Sidequests at least.)
Streaming was rezzed after I decided to embrace the absurdity. I’m still telling the random parades of sycophants, coaches, and fanboys to sod off, but there’s a core group showing up more often, and we had a lot of fun with games like Black Desert, Riders of Icarus, and recently, Revelation Online. Also, there’s that indie game stream I do sometimes… and I got a capture card for my Switch. There are options now, and I don’t entirely hate it anymore.
Like last year, Dreskar will be adding his own take on a few of these categories, (and other members may stop by to offer more thoughts.)
POINTLESS DISCLAIMER: It’s all subjective. Praise or damnation of a title is utterly meaningless in the grand scheme of things. I do not claim to be any authority on the matter or what’s good or bad in an MMO, just what I like or don’t like. Never let anyone tell you how to think. Just share opinions without pretending like any dislike of your hobbies equates a personal attack.
Biggest Surprise: Battleborn
Like apparently the entire gaming community, my initial reaction to this game was… “What the hell is this?” I only heard of it because Nate had suggested it to us and after looking up what it was about, I was far more intrigued by it, especially since unlike the OTHER arena shooter people were flipping their shit over, it had a robust PvE mode.
Then I played it and fell in love with ISIC as a character. Probably my favorite character out of every game I played last year, Aaron Linde did wonders bringing about what would basically happen if you took the spirit of the Nihilist Arby’s Twitter and gave it sentience. ISIC hates life with a joyous glee. He knows existence is meaningless, and can’t wait to make everyone suffer for it, yet comes across as one of the most pained and charming characters in the game.
As for the game itself, I adored most of the writing and character interactions, and the gameplay was a lot of fun. Sure there was plenty wrong. An inflated price-tag, a random loot-focused improvement system, some unbalanced PvP, and the fact that absolutely no one wanted to play the game. Seeing this game get basically eaten alive by Overwatch was unfair, and despite neither game being an MMO, this was essentially 2016’s version of “Two games coming out at the same time in direct competition with each other, despite being vastly dissimilar.” Like 2012’s GW2 vs TSW, and 2014’s Wildstar vs. ESO. Except in this case the loser was completely destroyed. I still wish this game would come back to some form of life, but the ghost town playerbase and the fact Aaron Linde quit the writing team and the company leaves me little desire to keep playing. So much so I already uninstalled it. But I really liked what I had played, and hope some level of resurgence would possibly come about.
Dreskar’s Pick: The Division
For myself the biggest surprise would easily have to be The Division, as before I had played the beta I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and give a shrug, “Oh good another Ubisoft game, and oh look they downgraded it again.” While both of those statements are embarrassingly true they also don’t mean the game can’t be good on its own merits. The Division has tons of problems, the story is about as Ubisoft terrible as you can expect, the concepts don’t really work, it has nothing to do with Tom Clancy in style or substance, the enemies are bullet sponges and tedious to fight, but through it all, it isn’t a dumpster fire. It is pretty surprising when a game simply not sucking ass comes up as a merit in its favor but Ubisoft have built up a reputation for failure to deliver so often that merely being okay is a huge shock to me.
However they didn’t rest when the game launched, again another surprise, and we may well be visiting this game later down the list as well.
Biggest Disappointment: Tree of Savior
Those bad framerates and weird graphics bugs are just a Closed Beta issue, right? …right?
These are the thoughts running through my mind when I looked at the game back in Closed Beta, but I felt what I was looking at was something that would be ironed out. What I got was far, far WORSE when the game hit its launch. Even the fun I had during CB, thinking it was a grinder title I might be able to get into, faded fast and the classes felt weak and uninspired. The issues remained present, and the pace was painful. Plenty of stream moments were had, giving us such wonders as “The Rave Cave” but overall something I initially planned to do as an “Open Beta-Tester Event” would have been the worst option for one, as parties were horribly limited, and guilds were a nigh impossibility with the most asinine guild system I’ve ever seen in an MMO. Grindstone was split into groups just to play it, and options were polarizing beyond belief, but it seems time settled on this game being a major failure in all aspects. People clamoring for another Ragnarok Online, are best off just playing Ragnarok Online again.
Dreskar’s Pick: Black Desert
Without a doubt in my mind, Black Desert slams itself home in this category. While Jon may have Tree of Savior, I never really had any hopes for the game to begin with, so I couldn’t really be disappointed in how it turned out. That wasn’t the case with Black Desert where I seemed to be on a rollercoaster of ups and downs all throughout, hopeful that I was going to get a sandbox game, realising it had too many themepark elements in it, repulsed by the awful animation quality and the lack of care in translation and general systems usage. I eventually decided to make my own fun doing trade runs and crafting and to the game’s credit those systems are well implemented, save for the naming of objects completely wrong, but the main bugbear I have is that Daum are so scared of bots, which they have no grasp on handling, that they completely gutted the idea of community within the game. We were met with the phrase “I would but I can’t.” far more often than should ever be acceptable. “Hey, do you want to gather resources for me so I can build us a ship? “I would but I can’t. We aren’t allowed to trade anything, even in the guild.” Hey, do you want to do a Guild Mission, get some comradery up and earn ourselves some gold as well? “I would but I can’t. I don’t have access to that area and therefore can’t help trade or do anything at all.”
The game is just flawed, though I would still argue people try it but if I am honest I was profoundly disappointed with the title. It could have been a great sandbox game and instead, it was just an okay sandbox experience with awful writing, dialogue, and design mixed in, not to mention Daum being completely incapable of understanding when to use a sledgehammer and when to use a scalpel for design. Also, that character creator is the biggest load of bullshit I have ever seen, it is the single most limited character creator I have seen in recent memory, thanks devs for ensuring we can’t make the face we actually want, we have some stupidly arbitrary hoops to jump through instead. Fucking wrinkly assed wizards…
Biggest Non-Starter: ASTA
What tried to be the second coming of Vanilla WoW just felt like a hyper-generic Asian MMO with a ton of outdated systems. We only bothered looking at this game as it was dubbed something that should get more attention. “A WoW-Clone, but in a good way” was the consensus of its defenders, but it felt more like Generic the MMO, with absolutely nothing to set it apart from dozens of better titles. A forgettable story, forgettable combat, forgettable crafting, and forgettable questing, only the use of the game’s engine to add significant shine to the turd of broken textures, and garbage character models, didn’t hold our interest for the absurd amount of time and quests the game expected you to complete.
Most amusing was the fair amount of showings from “Buddy Tsabeda” dismissing issues as “problems with the Open Beta” only to have them realize for once… no. It wasn’t. The game was in full launch status… and then was unceremoniously shut down months after our review came out. Are you sure you want me to give attention to your favorite ignored MMOs?
It least it birthed us our “Achieved with CryEngine” meme.
Dreskar’s Pick: ASTA
There isn’t much more for me to add, I just enjoyed the fact the community thought the game was in Alpha, or maybe an early beta and didn’t even notice the game had fully launched without ceremony. It is rare to find a game so MEH that even the people playing it don’t know about major events.
Worst Community: StarBreak
This is a tentative “Worst Community” because while I’ve seen some to this level in many games, it’s exactly what they can do to you in this game that edges them far over the railing into “winning the category” territory. For a refresher, StarBreak is an MMO Metroidvania Rogue-Like… which means it has permadeath. All you keep is money and whatever items you stashed at home, while your character, equipped weapons, levels and upgrades all get reset to zero upon any of this game’s many easily suffered deaths. (Even paid cosmetics vanish, for fuck’s sake!)
Now consider that the community in StarBreak is purely public. You open or enter a portal, people can and will follow, adding to the epic clusterfuck that’s already happening on screen. Then some people will dash far ahead, scooping up all your potential upgrades just because they want to boss rush. Others will follow behind you, letting you do all the work, and scooping up their unearned share of the spoils. Players will get mouthy with you for not predicting their exact movements or following their one-word text speak instructions like “wait”, “why” or “don’t”. I had players get unreasonably mad at me over the slightest perceived wrongs (when the text box was so tiny I didn’t notice they were even mad until after I left). I had player abandon me at the boss when it was nearly defeated after taking a solitary hit that still left them in good states. Most egregious was the almost traditional manner in which players would watch a player die, and then spend the time spamming the RIP and HA HA HA emotes in repeated succession, just to throw insult to injury. It made a pretty rough experience outright intolerable for a lot of us.
Just an absolute garbage fire of a community, which make the few diamonds-in-the-rough who will flag health drops, give you powerful weapons, and escort you to secret areas, all the more appreciated, even if they’re not even remotely the norm.
If you’re wondering where “Best Community” is… nothing stood out in any remarkable form this year, sadly enough.
Starbreak, I have words for you later as well but your community gets special mention in my book. In a game where you can’t help each other, where your interactions with other people are simply to keep with the herd and spam emotes you manage to stand out for being terrible. In a game so frustrating to play giving people the ability to spam HAHAHAHAHA at someone just adds that extra layer of GO FUCK YOURSELF that just doesn’t come around often. Starbreak, your community wholeheartedly deserves this award.
Most Backlashed Review: Paladins
If it walks, swims and quacks like a duck, it must be an Overwatch Clone. Dear god, don’t ever let people know what seemed like an undeniable truth. Excuses came from left and right, from poorly researched, and falsified videos “exposing” Blizzard for “stealing Hi-Rez’s concepts from Global Agenda” (when the point of Todd Harris’s Reddit post stemmed more from “there are very few original ideas when working in certain genres” than “Blizzard copied us you guys!” though I can see how you’d think that.) to needless claims over “what game was announced first and when”… I thought it was pretty cut and dry. When you go from a card-based level-up system, and an interesting, but hard to balance tank siege escort mode, using strategy and timing to escort the tank, and take out the wall’s defenses, to literally taking the Payload map from Overwatch/TF2, adding Ultimates, and a “Definitely Not Play of The Game” bullshit animation at the end of the match, only the most delusional can deny that Paladins was sneaking a peek or 20 over at Blizzard’s term paper. But deny they did, throwing a wave of dislikes over the video, if not outright whining about it in general. The Us vs. Them, binary bullshit, “There can be only one!” mentality bred by decades of shitty console marketing strategies manifesting in the most absurd way possible.
Now they hate the game again and decided they’re just mad about loot boxes for cards or some shit. Nerds are stupid.
Hey, I still liked Battleborn the best of all the arena shooters this year. What the fuck do I know?
Most Well-Received Review: Riders of Icarus
This is absurdly low bar this year, as you’ll find some… choice comments in that comments section as you tend to do, but when it comes to overall view-total combined with Like to Dislike ratio, not to mention that weird bump the game was given by some high profile Youtubers, there was general interest, and general agreement overall pertaining to my Riders of Icarus review. I felt I came across fairly positive with the game admitting it didn’t steer too far outside the box, though it’s weirdly short lack of content left a lot to be desired. A remarkable showing for a fairly unremarkable game. At least it showed Nexon was starting to come around past its Maple days.
Most Watched Review: Black Desert
While I honestly thought Blade and Soul had a larger hype-train behind it, I forgot how much people are sold on convolution. The character creator became an overhyped meme, the combat was being overly praised by many, and the shitty decision to go Buy-to-Play in the NA market may have forced a lot of eyes this way once the review came out. The constant streams with large groups from Grindstone probably helped, too. Riders of Icarus came a close second, and neither game came anywhere near the juggernaut that was Elder Scrolls Online’s viewcount, netting a mere 56k for Black Desert, and 48k for Riders of Icarus, Black Desert still pulled in some impressive “far over my subscriber count” numbers.
Most Divisive Title: StarBreak
StarBreak sat in an odd spot for us. It rang so many bells that I can’t help but have a soft spot for it. It’s an indie title. It’s 2D. It’s a Metroidvania. It’s a Rogue-Like, AND it’s an MMO. The game kept me coming back to it, far after the review was over.
But… not everyone felt that all fit together so well. Especially the way the game was combining these elements. Many of which I would agree with, but were outright deal-breakers for Grindstone.
Visual clutter was beyond unreasonable.
Instant death pits and OH-KOs should not exist in a Metroidvania, where exploration is normally encouraged and rewarded.
There was no way to have a room to yourself, as it was likely you’d get others jumping into the room and taking many upgrade drops and spawns for themselves.
Bosses would take far too long to kill, especially going solo.
But I was willing to look past all of these. I honestly liked playing the game better than Rogue Legacy, but getting anyone else to join in with me seemed a chore, so I was often left to parties formed at the will of the community… and we already went over how that could be a problem.
I still pop in on occasion… just very cautiously. I worked too hard on that Wildfire… and I’m never going back to Strands.
Starbreak is a title that just rubs me the wrong way in every regard, from its shit community that can’t help but still go out of their way to be assholes, to the fundamental flaw in design that makes up the entire game. This is one of those beating a wall with your bare fists until it finally relents but unlike a game like Dark Souls where you simply keep trying, learning and adapting as you play until you overcome an obstacle, in Starbreak you simply get shit on by some bullshit and get kicked all the way to the start with NOTHING. You can’t learn patterns or level designs because the former are too random and rely too much on enemy spam, while the latter is non-existent because the game is completely random in level generation. This is one of those games where no one brought a good idea to the table, you aren’t making constant if slow progress like a Rogue-like or Rogue-lite, and you constantly have to repeat the same tedious grind through the same starting levels over and over again simply to return to where you were. This is a game that I wish no one would play, and I think the developers should be ashamed of themselves for ever pushing this dumpster trash fire of a game out into the daylight.
It has cheap bullshit deaths, a system that overly punishes deaths, bottomless pit stages with precision platforming, an aesthetic where enemies blend into the background, one hit kill moves that aren’t telegraphed well, boss fights that are boring to fight while being overly nerve-wracking from bad mechanics, an over-reliance on people that have higher leveled characters to come back and destroy lower level content, and classes that are so imbalanced that picking the wrong one is a ball punching frustration but thankfully since death is often imminent you won’t be forced to slog through it for long.
Worst of the Year: Swordsman
Seriously fuck this game. I said it in the Tribunal, and I’ll gladly say it again. This game is the worst MMO I have ever played. The hands down most uninspired, poorly designed, terribly translated, badly programmed, tedious nightmare slog. I know I just looked at Revelation in 2017, but I’d STILL rather play that than this horrid mess of a game. Absolutely nothing about it worked for me. The graphics were lazy. The music was merely OK, and only at times. The world was empty and boring. The movement was stiff. Combat was so bad you could play the entire game effectively by hitting the “4” key or just clicking on the quest-log. Enemies were just lazy clusters of endlessly respawning clones standing around in open fields, specifically designed for AFK bot grinding, which was a fucking IN-GAME FEATURE. Every terrible feature we mentioned in Revelation was done WORSE in Swordsman, with a very close by release date. Just a god awful, boring slog of an experience. I didn’t want to play the game. I didn’t want to do the video. Every second I played was pure misery. I hope to god I never have to play something this terrible ever again.
Dreskar’s Pick: Winning Putt
Given my stance on Starbreak you would think it would occupy this particularly onerous spot but no, there is another game that earns my distaste all the more. Step up Winning Putt, a golf MMO that is pay to win, looks like shit, barely runs properly, has awful voice acting and dialogue, poorly thought out mechanics that get worse with memory leaks, an entire class choice that is THE WRONG FUCKING CHOICE, stolen assets, plenty of cash-grab schemes, and if I was told the game was simply made so Namco Bandai could launder dirty money I wouldn’t be surprised.
This is a game that should have never existed, and while we had some stinkers throughout the year I would gladly play any of them over having to even look at Winning Putt’s launcher ever again. If I had one wish for every year this would be the year I wish Winning Putt dies and is erased from the marketplace forever.
Favorite of the Year: Blade and Soul
Calling this category “Favorite Overall” was a bit of a misnomer, as I’ve still sold my soul to The Secret World, and Dreskar has a permanent home in Elder Scrolls Online, so I changed up the category title.
I am not sure what I expected from Blade and Soul? Weeby fanatism? A derailing hype-train? All the usual staples we’ve seen from these games that were available when Guild Wars 2 was new, but held over in publisher hell keeping it from the states for no logical reason. (Looking at you, PSO2) If anything I’d say I wasn’t really looking forward to the game beyond the fact it was another more traditional MMO, and they were starting to become a rarity.
But something about Blade and Soul STUCK with me. I wanted to progress. I enjoyed the combat. I enjoyed the Arena PvP. I loved that World PvP was purely “opt-in” with an ingenious usage of the costume system. I still have fond memories of running through the desert area with Dabeer, using our classes’ various skill sets to work together to chain-stun and combo enemies in a flashy and entertaining manner. The game was just a lot of damned fun. Yeah, some characters were bland or annoying, the story was goofily cliche “grr revenge argh” stuff, crafting was messy and convoluted, and that RNG upgrade system can eat my ass. (I have heard that’s been done away with now) But overall, I had not had that much fun in an MMO in a while, and it was another game that made me wish I had far more time to play these games overall, instead of always moving on to the next one. (Which in this case, was Swordsman. So imagine how I felt…)
I hear people decided that the game sucks now because of something to do with an expansion? Eh, I wouldn’t know. I still see a lot of charm in this game.
Dreskar’s Pick: The Division
Yep, my pick for Favorite of the Year is The Division, a game that was merely okay when it launched refined and pushed itself forward until finally releasing its second expansion which I argue should have been the base game from the start. They didn’t stop there though as they made the base game less about bullet sponge enemies and more about doing various dungeons, added in a gear score systems and sets so you could actually make a build for your character, and some new weapons and gadgets to play with!
The real meat of the game though is Survival mode and it is just a blast to play. While it can take an hour for a single match to finish, that match is always nerve racking, hunting out food to keep your body from burning through its energy reserve as the temperature plummets outside, fighting through buildings looking for medical supplies to keep the deadly pathogen growing in your body at bay, all the while scavenging weapons and armor to fight your way to the cure and then escaping on helicopter after an intense showdown with hunters is nothing short of amazing. We had a few times we streamed this as a duo group and I would be up for playing survival mode far more often! Please more like this in the future!
Oh and Underground was pretty alright as well, we can do more of that too.
And there we are, one-quarter into this year, and the latest year-in-review is completed. Let’s keep watching this genre fall the fuck apart while I gather the materials to start up a whole new show in the future! See you in early 2018. Or not. Whatever.
Despite my nature of being vehemently anti-traditionalism, I almost like making these, so here comes another Year-In-Review for 2015, a.k.a. “The Worst Year for MMOs (so far)” I don’t want to say it’s a dying medium, but I do want to say we’ll need to start accepting that loose definition of “MMO” if I want to have more than 4 episodes a year. Sheesh.
Keyphrase being “almost like making these” as the list is late this year for several reasons, most of which involves laziness, watching AGDQ and that weird feeling that I usually did this right before MAGfest, and it’s not happening until late February.
This year, we moved the official Grindstone VOIP from Raidcall to Discord when Raidcall pledged full allegiance to Mother Russia. It was a move most of us would agree was for the best.
MMO Grinder was officially upgraded to 1080p/60fps despite my webcam and framerate not entirely cooperating with that, as my PC is only a processor and hard drive away from undergoing the Theseus Paradox.
Streaming officially died in my eyes, and we’ll leave that stuff to the experts, speedrunners and infectious personalities that keep charm and wit along with entertainment, and not some grumpy asshole who can’t stand attention seeking cultures. I have no idea why I still link my Twitch channel in my videos. If you donated to my Patreon because you really wanted to see more streams come about from me… you’ve probably pulled that support by now.
Speaking of Patreon, the service, and support for my channel exploded in popularity this year, along with my Youtube channel. It might be due to Angry Joe‘s plug of my F.E.A.R. Online review in “Worst Games of 2014” that net me a massive subscription boost. Relatively massive for my channel that is. Like, if you compare the few thousand or so subs gained purely from that plug, against the literal millions of subs he has, that’s LESS THAN ONE PERCENT of his subs. It’s barely over ONE TENTH of a percent. YT plugs can help, but even with a frighteningly popular Youtube channel plugging you, you’re not going to get noticed off it unless you entice them enough to stick around. Food for thought.
For a few of these categories, I’ll also have Co-Writer Setch Dreskar chime in with his choices when applicable.
DISCLAIMER: With the exception of unquestionably factual categories (which is basically “Most watched review”), this list is composed of nothing but purely opinionated statements. All categories and opinions contained within are as meaningless as life itself. Disagreement is acceptable and expected. Blind rage is sad and annoying. Please find something far more worthwhile to get mad at.
Biggest Surprise: Heroes of the Storm
For a while, I was convinced the MOBA genre would be forever lost to me. Building games around competition is one thing. Building games around team competition is another thing. Catering to a preconceived, ever-evolving community-made meta is a third thing. Combining all three is a recipe for absolute mental misery. Every MOBA I played, from the genre originating DotA2, to trend-setting LoL, and the perspective altering SMITE all ended up with the same kind of game once the MLG-360NoScope-420BlazeIt crowd settled in, demanding every single one of these games play out the exact same way. I have several other MOBAs sitting on my desktop waiting to be previewed, and I dread having to try them out. To say I had little desire to see what happened with Heroes of the Storm is an understatement. This is exactly why I listed this game as my “Biggest Surprise.” For once I was seeing a game that actually understood what caused MOBA toxicity. It broke down the genre to a psychological level, understanding that the problem isn’t that toxic players exist, it what turns them toxic in the first place. Some players can’t focus on the fact that classes have differing roles, or multiple nuances of play, and might not be able to perform to their standard. HotS made it so no one team member or class was ever fighting for experience or gold, by having everyone on the team share experience, and removing the gold/item system completely. I’d say the same thing about the brilliant move to remove the tired K/D/A scoreboard by grouping assists and kills as “takedowns” but last I checked, K/D/A was placed back in for ominous reasons. (If this is no longer the case, feel free to tell me.)
Regardless many other moves make this the most casual-player/beginner friendly MOBA outside of Adventure Time Battle Party, with still plenty of interesting stuff to keep my interest. Also helps if you have any love left for Blizzard.
Setch Dreskar: I had a tough time picking just one game to take this title, but for me it would have to be Pirates of the Burning Sea. There are other titles like Armored Warfare where I was weary of the game back during its alpha stages but once I got a key I found a game I really enjoyed, but PotBS is the title where I and several other members of grindstone expected little to nothing of the game and found a title that we really wish would be remade on a modern engine and with a new company. The game had ideas that would be very interesting to see redone and the naval combat was decently enjoyable for a game we were expecting to be a filler title.
Biggest Disappointment: Dragomon Hunter
And here I thought XLegend was going to be a shoe-in for another fun time. Hell, Eden Eternal kept me attached for far beyond the playtime needed for the video, and Aura Kingdom was practically Grindstone’s second Wushu, with tons of players and constant dungeons being run regularly by us. Lightning did not strike a third time. I don’t know what it was, but Dragomon seemed like a tired retread of everything that came before it, with nothing new or refreshing to set it apart. Dragomon collection was just another version of mount collecting. Nothing to the level of interest or complexity involved in say, Dragon’s Prophet. Combat felt like a weaker retread of Aura Kingdom’s combat, but adding in cheap instakills as punishment for missing the (oftentimes broken or invisible) telegraphed attacks. The story was worthless, the graphics seemed like a downgrade, and everything about the title failed to keep my interest. I really was looking forward to this, and even reached that obnoxious point where I was convincing myself to like it. It just took a lot longer for me to see the cracks, and when they began to show, they made the Grand Canyon start to blush. Easily the weakest Xlegend title I reviewed on this show, and marginally playable for a game developer that had no trouble competing for my attention before.
Setch Dreskar: This is easily Skyforge for me, I mean what a mess of a game. I was interested in the title at first, it has one of my favorite developers, Obsidian Entertainment, at the helm and their story telling does begin to shine through later but everything around it is just so dull. The combat system which seemed interesting and unique drags on far too much, and the grinding just so you can grind on your main grind is just so maddening I can’t believe this level of grind passed into the main title, and can only hope this was Publisher jack assery. It really does boggle the mind about how crap this game gets as it goes on, and the weekly limits are insulting even more so when you are told to play the generic facebook game if you are capped on everything else.
I do however want to mention what title would have easily swept this category for me if we had reviewed it. Triad Wars is a game that outright lies about what it is to try and garner an audience, and clearly that audience gave them the cold shoulder as the title will be closing its doors before even leaving beta. This was a game that claimed to be an MMO but was little more than a single player game with characters named by other players that you never got to see or interact with. This is a game that used farmville level mechanics to force you to play constantly to get anywhere. The most amusing part was when they changed the entire combat system and screwed over the entire playerbase that had been playing for awhile while giving a huge advantage to players just starting out. It went from sub par sleeping dogs, to terrible sleeping dogs with enemies having levels that kicked you in the nuts if you weren’t geared, and if you had been playing for a long while your gear didn’t change from the base combat system and made fights nearly impossible. Fuck you Squeenix. Fuck you for ruining such a promising title and doing everything to manipulate marketing. We all know you are a shit company but this just smacks of trying too hard to be terrible.
Biggest Non-Starter: Echo of Soul
Ever know when something isn’t going to be a thing, even when people are trying to convince you it is? Echo of Soul, a.k.a. “Most Anticipated MMO of 2015” by
Incompetent Dipshit Gallery MMOSite, was every generic Asian MMO ever made. It did absolutely nothing interesting when looking at gameplay aspects alone… and yet this game didn’t offend me enough to not want to play it. It just exists. It’s about the best “Podcast Game” I’ve ever played. You know, the kind of game that you play while listening to a podcast or video because it barely demands your attention while still feeling like something to do? That kind of game.
While I’ll admit Aeria did some rather interesting things to keep the game’s palpably stale formula moving along as fast as possible, like lowering all item costs to 1 silver, and making the level grind fairly swift and simple, it wasn’t enough to keep any attention, or have me shower this game with any merit beyond “It’s not unplayable.” The PvP was kinda fun, too, but still not enough to make me want to keep it installed.
Setch Dreskar: This is a category with so many for me that picking one was rather difficult as I think a lot deserve this spot, but the one that edged the rest out is ELOA, mostly because it is the freshest in my mind. For the record the other dishonorable mentions would be Echo of Soul and Drift City, though all of these are games that we weren’t that excited for and looked to be doing nothing interesting and came out feeling the exact same way. I mean ELOA was so generic and dull I kept finding as many excuses as I could to not even play it, getting to where I did was a slog and was so draining that I can’t even imagine how non-bots actually stomach pushing through the title.
Biggest Annoyance: FFXIV Rage Runoff
“Umm, bro? This is from last year.”
Well, yeah the review is, but this thing certainly isn’t. I don’t know if this is the result of that boost in subs, or that thing that happens (in short, angry viewer misunderstands/dislikes video > angrily posts about video to game’s forum community > mob mentality ensues > shitstorm of nerd rage. See: City of Heroes) but I’m pretty much convinced I need to revoke the titles of “Best Community” and “Most well-received review” of 2014. But, in 2014 this wasn’t an issue. This stuff started cropping up a few months after, and crawls up occasionally to fart in my face. Go and look at the post on Youtube for FFXIV. Look at the dislike bar. Realize that’s the most disliked video I’ve ever done and wonder what the hell they thought I was saying.
In some self realization, I’m pretty sure this is on me for what I’ve been doing in every MMO Grinder intro. For those of you not big on picking up patterns, the intro to every MMO Grinder (the part that comes up before the titlecard) is a short anecdotal story about how I heard about the game, why I chose to play it, and what kind of history I have with the title, or things related to that title. The intro has gotten me in trouble more times than I can count. I tend to notice that most of the things I say in the intro tend to be the most discussed aspects of my video, despite the soft intro being completely irrelevant to the review.
I tend to forget this is the internet. This is a world where attention spans go to die. A world where Vine is a thing. These people likely saw me admitting my dislike of Squeenix (seriously, I think they’re terrible manipulative nostalgia-mining charlatans and I hope they go bankrupt.) and took it as if I was going to spend the entire video shitting on the game, and decided to stop watching. That or they let that fact tarnish everything I stated in the video, even blatant facts, as some sort of harsh critique… If I had a dollar for every time I saw a comment where someone took my mere observation of the fact tutorial tips were frequent and deep into levels, countering with “You can just shut them off!” as if I didn’t fucking know that, I wouldn’t need Patreon anymore.
And the excuses as to “why I didn’t like the game” or “why the video was wrong” just kept pouring out:
“You don’t like Square!” (They’re not Square anymore.)
“You didn’t get to endgame!” (That classic useless chestnut I’ve repeatedly explained in my show.)
“Your rotation was awful!” (Wasn’t aware I had to play a meta to enjoy a game. That would have been a valid critique had I said something like “combat feels weak” or “enemies are too hard to kill.” But I didn’t, because it wasn’t. They just kept harping on it because I recorded my gameplay at level 3. I’m certain they were all experts out of the gate.)
One guy actually linked my character profile in FFXIV “Totally-not-the-Armory” service as if this was somehow the smoking gun that rendered my video obsolete.
If not that, they’ll assure me that the game “fixed all of my problems”.
Oh, really? Are the first 45 levels still insultingly basic? Do the NPCs still say “mayhap” every 90 seconds? Does it still have a subscription fee? Is it still published by SquareEnix?
The sad part of this is… I don’t hate this game. I don’t find it special, and it’s honestly one F2P conversation away from being every Asian Fantasy MMO I’ve ever played, but this shit… this shit I predicted in the video itself, the very thing that’s spawning this shit, turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy, has irreversibly soured me on this title. I can’t stand to look at it anymore, and I’ve never been so pissed off at a game that didn’t directly do anything to piss me off… Besides that constant meme garbage, and abuse of the word “mayhap” of course.
Oh and that promise I made about giving the endgame a chance and putting up a Backtrack to give my thoughts about it? Yeah, not fucking happening. Consider that officially revoked. Muzzle your god damned zealots, FFXIV Fandom.
My most backlashed review: Dragon Nest
Oh hey! More zealots! I can’t get enough of Nexonites apparently. It’s that dangerous combination of youth, weebism, and wannabe MLGer that makes reviewing Nexon titles such a pain in the ass. “This game would be great if it weren’t for the players” just sums up Nexonites perfectly, and I am fully aware I said that once before. It’s seriously worth repeating.
Really the complaints came in the form of something I thought was pretty innocuous.
“This game is pretty easy.”
Early out, and fairly deep in, it IS. But somehow that translated into the players who think their performance and abilities in this game are an extension of their self-worth (read: penis) had to go on the virulent offensive because this somehow implied they were not so much “good at the game”, as the “game was easy enough for anyone to be good at.” So I was inundated with rant comments from people with Dragon Nest avatars and names like “Kenshiro Kikkoman” telling me I was wrong because PvP is competitive, or the end level fights are really tricky if you play on max difficulty and don’t have any armor equipped. Some real quality projection and reaching. I’m not claiming the game wouldn’t eventually become difficult, but everything experienced by us was simply very basic, and required little skill to accomplish. The fact it might get harder does not invalidate the earlier proclamation.
Sad part is, this really should go to FFXIV now, but that WAS last year’s video, and I need to be fair. I already said my piece earlier.
My most well-received review(s): ELOA/Vermintide
Ok.. technically ESO is this, but I’ll have that coming up a few times more, and as far as comments sections screaming pronunciation pedantries and Upvote to Downvote ratios go, these two games came out quite solid., so it’s kind of a toss-up.
ELOA, was recent, yet well-received due to it being a rather humorous review to make, as anything with plenty to mock is always going to be a hit. People love negativity, especially when the types who agree with it far outnumber the people who’ll defend the game with their lives. From the goofy ass announcer, and terrible voicework to the generic gameplay, ELOA was a game few seemed willing to play, but a review many seemed happy to watch.
Vermintide holds the opposing end of the attention spectrum. The game and video came out looking amazing, and there was plenty for Warhammer fans and L4D fans to be interested in. People seemed to like the detail and interest in the game seemed pretty high. My Halloween eps always seem to garner some form of attention, and while certainly a better title than I’ve managed to choose for a few of those eps, I hope this won’t be the last time I have a true horror title to look at for this show.
Common complaints among both seemed rooted to one thing each, my claim ELOA wasn’t a hack and slash, despite that term being used to describe Diablo Clones before, and the fact Dreskar’s fanboying of Vermintide caused it to be a strategy guide more than a review. My personal fav among the latter being someone angry at the fact we gave away the ending. Sorry if mentioning “the world is ending” gave away the ending for “Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide”. I can see how that might ruin the surprise.
My most watched review: The Elder Scrolls Online
Yes, I don’t have to suffix this category with “of this year” this time. Maple Story has been officially dethroned and in its place is something I doubt will ever be met with the same kind of viewcount (and comment repetitiveness).
Holy shit did this episode get away from me. I don’t even know HOW. Was it linked somewhere? Did it get listed on some YT algorithm. Did my timing actually work in my favor for once?
After all, this was the far predicted relaunch/”f2p” conversion of ESO. We knew there would be SOME interest. But holy crap, 300,000+ views?! For a channel with barely over 22k subs at the time?!
I’ll put this into perspective:
The rage that accompanied the FFXIV shitstorm? 144k views currently.
The tits game with tits on the titlecard that was about tits, and all subsequent rage trying to call me an SJW for calling out cheesecake for being a cheap lure? 141k views.
The game directly linked to by a popular Youtube personality with millions of subs? 44k views.
ESO? Current view total: 306,214. That’s INSANE. I have no idea how that happened. The only video on my channel with more views is an old shitty video of the GLaDOS boss fight from the original Portal, posted a week after that game came out NEARLY TEN YEARS AGO. To call the ESO video a runaway success would be putting it mildly, but I’m well aware that’s still pretty mild compared to many YT channels that looked at ESO. I’m not delusional.
Just wishing I’d stop seeing people complain about that “Nim” fuck-up and the way I pronounced “Khajiit”. It’s not even a real word, FFS.
Best Community: Heroes of the Storm
Whatever Blizzard was doing to lessen toxicity, it seems to have worked. I’ve never seen a MOBA where most players are more focused on fun than victory, kills, or metas… I’m not saying they don’t exist.. No idea why people are so binary about that shit, as if saying “people are generally nice here” means your story about “that one asshole that one time” is immediately invalidated, but when there’s less for teammates to fight over, they tend not to fight as much. I don’t play ranked. I don’t need scoreboards to measure my worth as a human being, or I’d give a lot more of a shit about subscription numbers. So I can’t really tell you how well this carried over to the competitive scene, but at least they aren’t leaking over to casual play too often.
I say “too often” because my earlier mention about K/D/A rearing its ugly head came about when some dipshit at Blizz reneged on that promise, claiming “the community was clamoring for ‘more competitive scores’ and ‘better assassin play’. I’m sorry which community was asking for this because the forum thread that accompanied that announcement was page after page of people telling Blizzard how terrible of a decision this was. Seriously, who are you competing against with that scoreboard? Your own team. Very little of that forum thread was clamoring for this awful change that’s nothing more than a last-hit/kill-steal counter, in a game where that doesn’t even matter, and the rest are not happy with this change. Time will tell if Blizz goes back to the team friendly “takedowns” counter or pulls its classic dismissive stance of “working as intended”.
I take that as a good sign for this community, though. People defending the change are being downvoted to oblivion, while those against it are very articulate in their explanations, and unafraid to call out people who make claims without evidence or spoonfeed PR bullshit. (One of the more popular posts was someone taking Blizz’s statement of “promotes better assassin play” and simply replying with “How?”)
If you want to play a MOBA where the likelyhood of someone biting your head off for making a simple gameplay mistake is at least in the lower digit percentages, HotS is your best choice.
Worst Community: Wakfu
I don’t know what I was expecting. This was pretty much the perfect storm of fuckery where communities are concerned.
Older game filled with grizzled veteran players unwilling to accept newbies? Check.
Faction based gameplay forcing needless tribalism? Check.
Sandbox world with open PvP? Check.
This, like ArcheAge, is another game that proves if people are allowed to be a dick with little consequence, they will be. The entire game’s economy is based upon whether or not other factions feel like deforesting your continent that day. High level and end level players would hunt down stray newbies and taunt their victims before murdering them for their personal amusement. The chats were an endless pile of insulting, immature, inane channer chatter, and it’s all a huge mess. It’s unfortunate, as Wakfu remains one of the more unique games with a fantastically involved world and interesting, deep combat mechanics, but the players make the “Massively Multiplayer” part of MMO seem like a really bad idea at times. Go in with a good group, as that’s the best you can probably hope for. Otherwise you’ll be digging in a lot of rough to find any stray diamonds.
Best Recovery: The Elder Scrolls Online
I… I don’t even know what happened here. As illustrated pretty heavily by the stupid intro I did, I didn’t want to play this game. I didn’t enjoy the beta (but not to the crushing levels of “fuck this game” quite a few people I know did.) I remember we started out expecting to completely mock and deride this game, even going around looking for technical flaws and other design derpery I remembered from the beta. Invisible friends. Endlessly farmed dungeon boss corpse piles. Weirdly repetitive dialog. And, sure, while we found some of those things, what we had to remark on is how much of it we didn’t.
We were all pretty floored when ESO beat out TSW for a “best MMO 2014” list on a website, thinking there was no possible way that could have happened. People from GW2 were just pissed off their game lost, and counter-voted, right? (Well, that did happen but it wasn’t a majority shift.) Regardless of outcome, public opinion of the title seem to have shifted, and after our second foray into the game, we were beginning to see why. This was a remarkable turnaround.
Yet, if you talked with the general gaming public about it, you’d never think it did. ESO still heavily lives with this stigma it received from the beta. Multiple sources openly mocking the game for having the gall to exist. I was still shocked to see a random tweet that came about when ESO announced its million dollar giveaway contest stating,
“2014: ESO will have a subscription. 2015: ESO will be free to play. 2016: We’ll literally pay you to play this game!”
Fun fact: Unsuccessful games clamoring for players don’t give away massive amounts of money in contests. They spam cash shop sales, and ignore all content updates that don’t involve those sales.
I get why some people might not like it, but I can’t help but commend a company that actually listened to its active playerbase, stopped trying to awkwardly fuse the fanbases of Elder Scrolls and MMOs, and worked on making it the best game it could be.
Worst Turnaround: Trove
What the hell happened here? I was all set for this to be my go-to hop-in-hop-out casual-play title for the year. Creating stuff for your cornerstone and club world was a blast. I loved the simple gameplay and community focus. The combat was fun, and the game was just a joy to play. In fact, for the most part, all of that is still true. There was just one problem.
Trion inverted the old philosophy: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” into “If it ain’t broke, fix it til it is.”
They just kept adding and adding and ADDING things. While most people might not understand why this would be considered a bad thing, lets just say that each new addition threw another wrench into the engine. The servers got laggy and unplayable. The grind grew more and more intolerable. Lucky boxes, and other “pay to enjoy” aspects were being steadily dumped into the game, each before the last addition ever had time to be thoroughly tested and ironed out within the community.
This made a game that I loved become steadily more unrecognizable, even after they pulled out of beta and went “full launch”, they refused to stop messing with it. After they turned the wonderfully minimalist UI into some sort of ugly Fisher-Price-meets-MSPaint looking nonsense, I was done. Have they improved since then? I don’t know. I hope so, but I’m not planning on looking back until they settle into a solid framework, and quite trying to Special Edition it up.
There’s PvP added recently, too. So that’s something else that didn’t need to exist.
Setch Dreskar adds: Speaking of Trion, what the hell happened to the company as a whole? Trion were the guys that took roleplay in Rift seriously and would help police roleplay on their roleplay servers to keep players happy. Trion were the company that listened to their playerbase and made it so both factions finally allied together because there were less reasons to remain separate in the face of an overwhelming threat, making them stand in stark contrast to that one arrogant company that seems to enjoy pissing on its fanbase and sticks its head in the snowbank whenever a suggestion is made. If you can’t guess that company is named after a destructive weather phenomena and enjoys making memes to ridicule its players.
Back to the point though, what has Trion done these days? Slowly eroded all its titles to milk them for cash, begun ignoring the playerbase, thrown in pay to win garbage into its titles, and flooding mediocre content into its titles to keep up the appearance they are giving good value. With that being said it isn’t hard to see how Trove could go from a Grindstone favorite into its current position where we are annoyed at how much Trion has squandered in the name of making quick cash. So much content is now required to have an enjoyable experience, pvp getting shoved in while being directly opposed to the playerbase at the time ensuring the friendly game where everyone could work together while be yet another generic meta-fest. I think I personally will miss the amazing musical club worlds that created intricate songs the most. Damn you Trion, just damn you.
Favorite Overall: The Elder Scrolls Online
I really did not see this coming. If you had told me the game I was most actively avoiding and dreading to play would have become my favorite overall MMO in 2015, I’d have asked you not to repeat such a pointless cliche… But I still would have thought you were making some pretty longshot bets. The funniest thing about it all is that I’m really not sure what changed or why my attitude did.
Again, we did play the beta and “we were bored” would be understating it a bit. Nothing felt special. Really, what changed?
I can’t explain it, but I can relay my feelings pertaining to both. Perhaps it had something to do with my initial choice in the beta of creating Ciann as a Breton (pronounced: ped-ANT) and forcing myself in the frighteningly boring Daggerfall Covenant opening areas. Eventually, I decided to make Liatania as a Nord, and even though “Bleakrock” was an aptly named area, I felt a bit more intrigued by everything happening in that faction (Ebonheart Pact). But by the time the beta was over and I hit unplayable quest bug after unplayable quest bug, I couldn’t be assed to pay to play a game I gave no shits about the lore and world of. I basically avoided it like the plague and chuckled at every rage review that I came across for the game.
So when we started up again expecting the worst, what we got felt so much better.
Combat felt interesting. While certainly simplistic, and not the best available to the reticle combat genre, something about that style seems to work, and we were able to avoid movements and perform attacks based upon the situation, not simply a rotation that should be applied to everyone we found.
Finding bits of lore and skyshards gave the world an exploration aspect that felt more freeing after we saw how the areas were being set up.
Questing plays out in a TSW style “Here’s a main story to funnel you down a path, but if you come across people to help along the way, do what you want.”
Taking the time to read and see what was at stake in many of the quests (most notably Ebonheart Pact) provided some of the most soul-crushing moral choices I’ve seen in a game. This is an industry awash in “moral choices” that can be decided with a coin flip. Choices that edge both sides of extreme. Choices that have basically spawned this entire idiotic culture of binary, black and white, kindergarten-level “morality”. Knowing that neither choice I made was the unquestionably “right” one, and it was up to ME to decide what to do, blew my mind. To see someone saying the game’s moral choices were bad because they weren’t clear cut, “right and wrong” options baffled and frightened me for that person’s social future. Life doesn’t work that way.
I can’t emphasize that enough. I can recall an exact moment when the game got to me. Without trying to spoil much, I was questing in an area where a town was host to a rather polarizing condition, with clear positives and negatives. Two separate NPCs had completely differing ideals on whether this was a blessing or curse, and when I was nearing the end of the quest chain, I told my wife I only had “one more thing to do” and I would be offline. That “one more thing” turned out to be my decision to, as one NPC would see it, preserve their condition and “let them live”, or to the other NPC, end that condition and “free them from torment”. I sat there for a solid 5 minutes, internally arguing with myself. I would nearly click on an option and then pull away with an audible grunt of doubt and frustration with myself, until I finally chose one. The other NPC then insisted I change my mind, sending soldiers to stop me from making my decision, begging and pleading with me to stop what I was doing, with a terrified intensity in his voice that wounded me to the core, even causing me to doubt myself a final time before carrying out the option for good.
I was undergoing an existential crisis over something that literally had no effect or consequence to the core gameplay and it wasn’t until Undertale (which would be my GOTY if I reviewed Indie games and not MMOs) that I would again be wracked with such conflict over my actions toward, for all intents and purposes, lines of code. Like Undertale, ESO can have a serious mental impact on you if you let it.
Beyond the above few paragraphs, I suppose I like this game because I really don’t care about the lore and world of the Elder Scrolls. I don’t have a fond memory of playing Morrowind. I didn’t play any of the other titles because I simply didn’t care to. They didn’t interest me. So I’m not feeling betrayed by simplified systems, lore retcons, or even where this whole thing is even supposed to fit in the overarching story, and I think that might be the best thing this game has going for it… which unfortunately was not their initially intended audience. I don’t think it should be made to suffer for it, and it certainly takes far more risks than that other anticipated MMO that it fought alongside its debut year.
Setch Dreskar adds: This one is a no-brainer for anyone that is within the grindstone community. Elder Scrolls Online has been one of those major shocks for me. I was debating having this up for Biggest Surprise but I knew full well I would be putting the title here and wanted to talk about some other surprises we had over the year. This was such a turn around for me, everything about Tamriel Unlimited just made the game feel so much better than when I was given press access to the beta. So this argonian savage will continue to play ESO, and I am looking forward to the continued support and expansions that are being added, especially Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood!
Signing off another year-in-review, here’s to remembering to change my credits to read “2016” in my next episode. We’ll see if I even still have a show to do by the end of this year.
Hey remember how in the past two years I put together a subjective list of meaningless MMO accolades and derision that ended up causing more internet arguments than debate and discussion?
Why not do this again! This past year had a lot of major changes. I dropped Blip for Youtube, something I thought I would never do. I ended up opening a Patreon campaign, which I was honestly expecting (and in the back of my mind, am STILL expecting) to go nowhere, despite reaching three goals within a few months. I was really bad about keeping up this year, considering both January and March went without any full episodes. Finally, this was the year we finally made Grindstone into an actual thing, rather than just a dozen regulars jumping into whatever game I was reviewing, going as far to get us an official logo now.
DISCLAIMER: The following statements are not based on any sort of fact. This is an onslaught of pointless opinions, observations, and anecdotal evidence, based solely on the concept that people really seem to dig this kind of crap at the end of every calendar year. I don’t get it either.
WARNING: DESPITE MMO GRINDER BEING A SHOW THAT DABBLES MOSTLY IN OBJECTIVE REPRESENTATIONS OF THE GAMES REVIEWED, THIS ENTIRE LIST FEATURES THE HOST’S OPINIONS AND SHOULD BE TREATED AS SUCH (I.E. “WORTHLESS”). READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED, AND STOP BEING STUPID. I’M ALLOWED TO LIKE AND HATE THINGS.
It’s that time again, time for my totally subjective list in no particular order, where 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 2013 will not be counted, and Maple Story is STILL my highest viewed video. Click the “more” tag below, to start, and thus begin the new rage.
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!