As you can see, I have a problem. Let's forget the fact that I play way too many MMOs as it is because between these three games I can easily kill a weekend and leave no room for games that I need to write about. That means I need to pick a favorite. Let this be a shootout to determine which MMOFPS will be my home. My awesome, loud, deadly home.
I've nominated three categories and will pick a winner for each. May the best shooter win!
The Most Shooterness
This category is all about finding victi -- I mean, other players in your sights, and how it feels to take part in massive combat. This category measures skill required and gives a nod to the game that offers the most badass players per square inch. A better way to put it would be to call this winner The Game That Takes The Most Skill, even though I have only enough skill to barely survive.
I'm going with PlanetSide 2 for this one. It's massive player-vs.-players battles mean that you will be directly confronting some of the most aim-bot-like players (who are not actually aim-bots) in MMO history. I have known the game's community manager, Margaret Krohn, for years now, and every time I play alongside her for a livestream or other event, I am amazed at her ability to discuss the game, address my silly questions, and save my butt all at the same time. It's a simple formula, really: Take a massive, open space and give the players a bunch of weapons, and then you have a war on your hands. Some players just excel at it.
PlanetSide 2 is also one of the best-looking games that I have ever played. Night-time fighting still fills me with giddy pleasure. If you want to play an MMOFPS for a real challenge, play PlanetSide 2.
This category is all about massive, open-world gaming, and not just gaming, but gaming with other players who are working together to accomplish a goal. Or a dozen goals. At the same time. This game gives me that feeling that I can only get in a massively multiplayer game, the feeling of actually doing something with players from literally all across the world, in real time.
Defiance is most like an MMORPG, even within the relatively snobby definition that many of us oldies tend to use. Yes, there are co-op missions that take players away from public spaces. Yes, the chat box is so screwy that it makes communication with fellow players a hassle (a new fix is supposedly coming soon!), but chit-chat is not that common in any of these games anyway because players are too busy shooting things. And yes, the dynamic events that come in the form of Arkfalls and enemy spawns are not really that random or deadly.
Still, Defiance feels more MMOish than these others, and it even feels more MMOish than many other MMOs, especially because it's third-person, not strictly an MMOFPS. I can group with other players (or not) and can accomplish very specific goals with them. If I feel like chilling out, I can jump in and just find trouble because the game does not split players into groups that are based on levels. Even though some co-op missions require a certain "level" called an EGO rating, there is so much to do that doesn't have any requirements at all. Then there's the fantastic, open lore that is accessible throughout optional questlines. Defiance is a good example of a themebox.
Defiance spreads is massiveness to other forms of entertainment, as well. I love watching the series and discussing it on social media. Sure, the crossover between the television series and the game could be used much more effectively. Still, Defiance is the only IP that allows me to attend a convention to listen to Grant Bowler -- one of the leads in the series -- discuss his love of EVE Online and gaming in general, then to go home and log in to kill some of the very creatures he just described, using a gun that is very similar to the one he uses in the series.
The Most Gunnable
This category is all about that satisfying feeling that is brought on only by pulling a virtual trigger. There's just something about that RAKKA RAKKA RAKKA sound that gives me the happy feelings as if I were a kid playing with robots in a mud puddle. The way I feel during a spectacular firefight is so primitive and familiar it makes me wonder if I was an e-sports pro in a past lifetime. One of the most important factors in this formula for happiness comes from how weapons sound and feel. Do they respond quickly? Are they accurate? I haven't fired a gun since I was a teenager, and these weapons might not be particularly realistic, but I still feel that some virtual weapons are just more satisfying to wield.
Firefall has been surprising me lately. I got into it only within the last month or so, and one of its greatest attributes is its weaponry. I don't know that it firearms are quite as varied as those you'll find in the previous two winners, but it definitely feels much better at a base level. From the beginning, the weapons I equip in Firefall feel quicker, zippier, and more deadly. Its unique gathering mechanic, called thumping, is a unique blend of guarding and target practice. Players can call down a thumper, and it falls from the sky and starts, well, thumping just as the thumpers used in the Dune series. Instead of calling forth a sandworm, the thumpers in Firefall attract all sorts of local wildlife. The challenge varies depending on the location and size of the thumper.
Blasting things in Firefall feels just about as good as it gets, and switching out weapons and combat chassis is quick and easy. If you consider the amazing graphics on top of the satisfying thumps, booms, snaps and crackles that surround you in game, Firefall is a shooter worth caring about.
And the winner is...
Each of these games offers something unique from the others, and each is satisfying because it lets players jump in, kick butt, and jump out without annoying class or level requirements. Having only a few restrictions should the be the essence of MMOs but can really only be found in the games I have just mentioned.
It looks like I'm sticking to all three.
Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!