MMOs have changed a lot in the past decade. Those men and women who were playing MMORPGs a decade ago would hardly recognize the titles of today, which are inevitably prettier, more polished, and…occasionally easier. Yeah, I guess not every change is for the better.
What if you’re looking for a bit of a trip to the past? Believe it or not, you’re actually in luck. Many of the games which laid the foundation for the modern MMORPG are still around (and still going strong) today. Even better, most of them are quite affordable – you can play them without breaking the bank. Let’s have a look at just a few of the choices available to you, shall we?
What can one really say about Ultima Online? It was one of the first MMORPGs ever made, and remains one of the largest and most expansive sandbox worlds in the MMO industry. Part of this is due to how simplistic the graphics/interface are. Appearance-wise, the game has changed very little since it was first launched. Of course, the trade-off there is that you can do…pretty much anything. Want to make a living traveling the world as a merchant? Go for it. Want to run your own tavern? You can do that. Ultima Online is the original Sandbox MMORPG.
Of course, I had to include EverQuest 2 on this list. Effectively the grandfather of the modern MMO, EverQuest 2 fell on hard times as it was replaced by more modern and popular MMORPGs. Some time ago, Sony made the decision to make it a free to play title. Yeah, I know – Free To Play leaves a bad taste in your mouth; I get it. EQ2’s isn’t done poorly, though; and the subscription fee if you want to become a full member is fairly reasonable, as well.
I can’t even count the number of hours I whittled away playing Runescape. Even though the game technically locks non-paying members out of a huge pile of content with a paywall (at the time, I didn’t really think much of it), there’s still a ton of stuff to do, people to see, and places to explore. Sure, it’s a fairly simplistic game graphics-wise, but it’s no worse for it. Truth be told, there’s a certain charm to the old game; I can’t quite place my finger on why.
Released back in 2001, Anarchy Online is one of the trend-setters of the MMO world. At the time of launch, it was the first in the genre to feature dynamic quests, free trials, instancing, and a science fiction setting. Of course, not all that pioneering was positive – it was also the first game to feature in-game advertising. The storyline of the game (clearly inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune) centers around the desert planet of Rubi-Ka, which is the source of a valuable mineral known as Notum. Players take on the role of new colonists to the world, none of whom have any specific goals to accomplish.
Since the game allows an unparalleled level of character customization, you can pretty much play your character however you choose; the game’s fourteen different professions means that there’s a style of progression that’ll suit pretty much everyone. Not only that, the game’s petty much free, thanks to the incorporation of in-game advertising (through smartly-placed billboards), and cosmetic micro-transactions.
Asheron’s Call is another of the longest-running MMOs in the market. Set in a massive, 500 square-mile heroic fantasy realm, the title is unique for a few reasons. First, it features very few of the traditional fantasy races; most of the creatures that populate the world are completely unique. On top of that, there are no loading screens (except in the case of a few instanced dungeons), with a viewing distance that puts many modern titles to shame. Without a doubt, there are two features that stand out.
First, there’s the Allegience System. How it works is simple. A player can swear themselves to a higher-level player. That player gains bonus experience based on the experience gained by their vassal; they are in turn motivated to assist and protect the vassal. The second is the magic system, which still remains one of the most complex (and deep) methods of spellcasting in the MMO world. There are also monthly events and content updates to keep the game fresh; and there’s a great narrative linking everything together.
Asheron’s Call is one of the few titles on this list that still requires a subscription; after a two week free trial players are required to pay a monthly fee of $12.95. Hey, it’s still cheaper than World of Warcraft.
[heading]Dark Age Of Camelot[/heading]
Dark Age of Camelot is widely regarded as one of the games that changed the MMO genre. Released in 2001, it offered incredible PvP combat, a deep and involved crafting system and player market, and a ridiculous selection of different races and classes. There’s also a rather staggering array of content to explore and experience, with impressive and expansive realm vs realm combat, to boot. Unfortunately, this is another one that requires a subscription fee, clocking in at $14.95 a month. Even so, I’d still class it as relatively affordable, since you don’t need to buy an account before you start playing.
At the time of release, Ragnarok Online was a completely new sight – it was an MMORPG whose world changed with the passage of time. The players, as such, were not part of a static, unmoving world – they were quite literally part of the world’s history. There’s also over fifty different jobs (basically classes) for each player to choose from, and a host of different activities they can join in depending on what town or city they currently occupy. Although it may not necessarily be as involved as Ultima Online, it’s still a fantastic game – and well worth picking up, if you’ve some time on your hands. There are two versions: a free to play and a subscription based game. It’s your choice which one you want to try.
And here’s 8.