Asheron's Call 2 I Guild Wars I Anarchy Online I World of Warcraft I EverQuest II I Final Fantasy XI Freakin' Hot Rena Tanaka Picture of the Week
Issue #32 Heath's MMORPGuide, Part 1 May 14, 2005

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I get a lot of emails asking things like "I'm a single mom with about 12 hours a week to game...which MMO should I play?" I like all the emails I get from readers, and no one should hesitate to ask those same questions in the future, but this column will serve as a general guide to help people choose which MMORPG is right for them. The information given here is based on many things, including personal experience, news, reviews, conversations with players of the games, and various other forms of research. I hope you will find it useful.

So the format here is that a game is listed, then I talk about it with bolded sub-headlines. The games are not in any order or "rank" of any kind; these are not reviews. This is merely to provide information and a description of why certain people may or may not want to play the game. Since there are so many freaking games to cover with this, and I'm being held down by the man, and E3 will be taking my attention next week, this will be divided into two parts.

Patch notes, May 21: Categories now listed after game title. Soon, will add "So who should play this?" summary and more info for each game, subject to having the time.

 Asheron's Call 2 [Category: Traditional/Medieval]
Asheron's Call 2

Made by Turbine Entertainment, Asheron's Call 2 isn't always the big headliner in news, but still has an active community. The devs are still proactive in maintaining the game and keeping things clean, despite the fact that it's not the hottest MMO on the block. Click for promo movie and discussion.

The New Guy
The big caution one should keep in mind when getting into Asheron's Call 2 is the small number of players it has when compared to many other MMORPGS. The community in this game is loyal, but that doesn't mean there are too awful many members of it. New players don't walk into AC2 very often, so when you show up all guildless and awkward, you'd best start finding a friend ASAP. This thread on the official message board is an example of how the just-released expansion was advertised by existing players more than anything. Yes, the new pack comes with the full game, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to observe that no one expected new players to be flocking to AC2.

Those who do brave the somewhat lonely process of entry will find a satisfying game as the light at the end of the tunnel. The gameplay is just about as good as any other MMO, if you can find a player to experience it with and if you've got a processor that can handle the game....

Original Gangsta
The above community remarks can be applied to the first Asheron's Call, to a greater degree. That's why it's not on the list other than this one blurb.

 Guild Wars [Category: Instanced]

Guild Wars

Guild Wars is still a new item on store shelves, but many people are already declaring it one of the best PC games they've ever played. With heavily instanced play, some have become upset that it is still being called an MMORPG, but hey, what's in a name?

I Drink Alone
An element of Guild Wars that has been a center of attention is the instancing. There are a few MMORPGs out there that use instanced dungeons (meaning when a player or group goes inside, other players can not be found), but Guild Wars uses this through the entire game, with the exception of towns. This can be a great plus or huge downer, depending on how you like your gameplay.

One drawback is that Guild Wars is very young. Thus, there's not an awful lot of customization available yet. Perhaps patches an expansion packs will solve this problem.

Bills, Bills...oh wait...
One outstanding factor that will be a huge draw to Guild Wars is the lack of a monthly fee. People can talk about neat battles and pretty graphics all they like; the lack of a monthly fee is still one of the biggest reasons one can keep playing Guild Wars. The array of free, downloadable MMOs, just can't compete with the quality of Guild Wars. It comes highly recommended for those who don't have a ton of hours to pour into games and/or hesitate to dish out $15 extra dollars a month.

 Anarchy Online [Category: Sci Fi]
Anarchy Online

Ah, Anarchy Online. You might already be aware of the way Funcom is marketing this game. The base game is totally free to download and to play until 2006, but upgrade costs and monthly fees kick in when the player upgrades to any of the game's expansion packs.

It's alive!
IGN recentlt ran a series of articles you can check out here, detailing the community activities. It's a very social experience. Those looking for this in an MMO and dig the futuristic Sci-fi setting should consider Anarchy Online.

One thing I've noticed with AO is that every expansion makes the game better and better. The most prime example is Alien Invasion which added completely random Alien attacks to the game. This is not the same thing as a "raid" in other games, but a chaotic attack on anyone and everyone, forcing players who might normally kill each other to set aside their differences and fend off the threat.

Showing even more progress with expansion, the upcoming Lost Eden is going to introduce the game to mech-based combat. Come on man, mech combat. Sci-fi fans pretty much can't go wrong with Anarchy Online. It might have limited appeal to some others, but I can't imagine that would be very high. Download the free trial at the official website if this sounds like your thing.

 World of Warcraft [Category: Traditional, Fantasy]

I'll bet you didn't see this one coming. I know most of you probably scratched your chins and said, "Guide to MMORPG-buying? I'll bet he's gonna talk about Asheron's Call," but didn't predict this. Surprise! I'm talking about World of Warcraft.

Love me, hate me
The reason for my sarcasm is that World of Warcraft is like, the single greatest selling thing ever, selling something like 482 trillion copies just in Connecticut. Players can view this as positive because finding a party is easier and guild mates are almost surely kicking around somewhere. The downfall with this is some over-crowded servers and the occasional need to wait before being able to play the game.

I'm not going to say much more about this one. WoW has been awarded and praised all over the place for its gameplay and presentation. If you don't have a friend you can talk to directly about the game, then you probably don't have any friends at all.

 EverQuest II [Category: Traditional, Fantasy]
EverQuest II

EverQuest II is the sequel to one of the most innovative MMORPGs ever.

I've noticed EverQuest II to have an older, more mature community than your average MMORPG. No game is completely free of trouble makers, but EverQuest II seems pleasantly low in supply of these folks.

EQ2 is not for the casual gamer. This point has been the cause of many bad reviews of the game. Players of this game should ideally have few (if any) other RPGs going on when taking on EQ2, and be extremely hesitant to be subscribed to it at the same time as another MMORPG. This game is for players who are in for the long haul. The good part is that there is plenty of content in the game to keep people happy, no matter what level they are. Still, the audience to which EverQuest II appeals does not include passive gamers; those people are better off playing World of Warcraft or City of Heroes. Download a free trial at Fileplanet.

 Final Fantasy XI [Category: Traditional, Fantasy]

Final Fantasy XI takes the Final Fantasy series online for the first time. It has a very wide reach because of the ability to play on either PC or PlayStation 2.

As is expected of modern Final Fantasy titles, XI flashes some sweet graphics. But that's not all to FFXI's visual joy. The world of Vana'diel is beautiful, diverse, and lively. Exploring the game is a true joy, and got some slight improvements in the latest expansion.

Money Troubles
Perhaps the worst thing about FFXI is its wacky economy. Firemyst of the Midgardsormr server said it was "destined to collapse due to higher and higher inflation."

Speaking in Tongues
At some point in FFXI, you'll see some Japanese writing on your screen. Don't freak out; you're not getting hacked. The community in FFXI is made up of players from all over the world. This can be viewed as good or bad, depending on your personal preference, but you should be aware of it before you enter.

Life of the Party
After reading, another staff member asked me to quickly add the fact that if you like to solo, FFXI is not your bag. So when playing this, it's best to be cool with needing to be in a party to gain nearly all of your EXP.

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Okay, there's your first half-dozen. The second batch will come a week after E3 ends. I think that's the 28th.

Heath Hindman's eyes feel like they're gonna bleed

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