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Free for All: Five MMOs that deserve more of my time


There's only so much time in the world for playing video games. Yes, yes, I know it pains us to admit it, but it's true: We really can't sit around and explore MMOs all day long. Well, we could, but it probably wouldn't be very good for our relationships or health or finances. For me, this means that I have to balance playing MMOs for work and playing them for the sake of the hobby. I typically take one of my weekend days to jump into any number of MMOs. I might even spend a good hour just updating them all.

Let me tell you, it's plain painful to log into an MMO and realize just how much good content, events, and player interaction I have been missing. I'm sure this is a common issue though, right? In today's Free for All, I want to take a look at five MMOs that deserve more of my time.

RIFT screenshot
RIFT impressed me when I first heard about it, but I admit I was tough on it. As I play the game now, I am quite amazed at how tight it is. Its main selling point is easily its polish. The game looks complete, feels complete, and runs smoothly. It didn't run so smoothly in the betas, sure, and I took that as a chance to give the developers a hard time.

I've grown since then and know that a game needs time to mature, that I should never, ever trust only my gut instinct about an MMO. Like a good, long book, an MMO needs time to grow on you. RIFT took its time, but it eventually grew on me. Unfortunately, it is still a linear sort of themepark. I say "unfortunately" only because the sort of content you'll find in RIFT takes a lot of time to wind through it all. You can't really log in and just kill stuff for 30 minutes. A good bout of rift-running will take easily twice that amount of time.

Luckily for the time-strapped, the game features clever systems like instant adventures, which are easy-to-score quests that automatically teleport and group you to and with others of the same level because it all scales. I need to make more time to play RIFT. It's easily one of the most well-made MMOs to come out in a long, long time.

RuneScape screenshot
RuneScape begs to be played more than it is around my house. Sure, it is often cast aside by serious readers of Massively because it's a browser-based game or because it seems as if its audience is made up of 17-year-old grinders or because it appears to exude all-ages silliness. I beg to differ; RuneScape is often sophisticated stuff. The fact that it has been around for over a decade means that there are many, many hours of content to be explored.

RuneScape gives new (or maybe old?) meaning to the word "quest." There are quests or questlines that will spread out over your character's lifetime. It can be a bit daunting at times to work on a quest that requires your character to become better at certain skills, but I simply put those quests aside and come back to them when I am better at what is required. I feel as if my character actually grows in RuneScape.

Even with all of the quests, adventures, and monsters in RuneScape, I can log in and take part in world events or quests that put no emphasis on level at all. Jagex will often produce content that introduces brand-new systems that any player, from a newbie to a vet, can participate in.

Grepolis screenshot
A good MMORTS will easily take over your life. Don't believe me? Try playing a really good one like Grepolis and join an active alliance and see what happens when a massive war breaks out. It's painfully addictive. It's also very time-consuming. MMORTS titles are notoriously slow, but drama spreads like wildfire when you discover there is a spy in your group or when your neighbor decides to attack you for no reason. That drama will keep you awake longer than a forgotten song lyric.

Grepolis has a nice mobile app that helps with the time constraint. I've often bragged about how lovely the MMORTS genre is for those of us who are busily playing a dozen MMOs at once, but to truly take in all there is to see (meaning a lot of dead, tiny armies), you need to pay close attention. Building up your city is not the great timesink here; what takes time is zooming out on the map, planning an attack, contributing to an alliance, discussing strategies with someone else... the things that a real virtual general needs to do.

Wurm Online screenshot
I recently logged in to Wurm Online to see how the world had progressed since I was last in. My buddy Faeran had built up a massive city, complete with a castle or two and lots of farmland. Honestly, it depressed me in some way. I am happy for him and love the fact that Wurm Online allows players that sort of freedom, but it made me miss the days of complete and total immersion, of taking a small rowboat for an hours-long excursion into the fog, of feeling joyous at the moment that my friend Sam figured out how to make a fire for the first time. That's the magic behind Wurm Online, and it speaks to the power of MMOs.

Travel, building, and general survival in Wurm Online takes time. A lot of time. I sort of lose my lust for the game once I am part of a successful project. Once a city is built and there's water to drink and food to eat, I feel the urge to wander. I'll have to clear my schedule to do some wandering again.

the Secret World screenshot
As with RIFT, I was only half-impressed with The Secret World when it was released. The storyline was a bit cheesy. My first character was actually involved in one of the least sexy sex scenes I have ever had the non-pleasure of being involved in. The combat was noisy and distracting.

But now that I have spent time with the game and have started to see just how twisted some of the plots get, I really want to play The Secret World a lot more. While I cannot pretend to understand what is supposed to be motivating my character yet, the game feels unique within a genre that rarely makes the effort to suck you into an involved storyline. The voice-acting is sometimes brilliant, and even though I do not fully enjoy the combat, the combat system allows me to change it up a bit whenever I get bored.

Perhaps I'll clear the next several weekends and spend some real time with these titles. I need to. After all, I know there's some cool content within them. What MMOs do you wish you had more time to play?

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!

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