The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the most pleasing aesthetics to you?

I’ve found that there are few areas that dwell almost completely with the realm of subjective judgment than the looks and art style of various MMOs. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, and what might be highly attractive to one person is visual filth to another.

For example, I’ve always been highly taken with WildStar’s designs. The bright colors, the cartoonish characters, the expressive animations, and the Dr. Seussian landscapes make this a game that is a joy for me to behold. Yet I know that the look really bothers some others, who have said things like it is “cluttered” and “garish.”

It’s OK to splash around in the shallowness of eyecandy and art design today, so let us know what you think. Which MMO has the most pleasing aesthetics?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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77 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the most pleasing aesthetics to you?"

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Brown Jenkin

Though visually BDO is stunning, aesthetically GW2 has yet to face any competition as far as I’m concerned. The paintingy style of the game continues to be beautiful well after release and is regularly enough to make me question whether or not I should go back to playing/focusing on the game.

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Arnold Hendrick

In recent MMOs, I believe the painting-style graphics of Guild Wars 2 created the best aesthetic. It was supported by superb lighting decisions, especially compared to ESO’s lower level lighting that makes to world seem dingy and muddy.

Going back a decade, I felt that Age of Conan had excellent world graphics, and characters that fit well within that world. It’s unfortunate that game design and business decisions combined to give that game a poor future.

I am not a fan of Warner Brothers style cartoon graphics. I didn’t like it in WoW, and didn’t like it any better in Wildstar.

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Tobasco da Gama

LOTRO has by far the most “comfortable” aesthetic. The gear appearances, enemy designs, and landscapes are all both self-consistent and pleasant to look at, sure, but it goes beyond that.

What really gets me is that the skill animations and audio cues all strike a perfect balance between attractiveness and legibility. Your attacks all sound convincingly like what they’re supposed to be and they feel nice and weighty without sonically punching you in the gut or out-staying their welcome. The more abstract, “gamey” cues are used sparingly and tend to be triply-reinforced. When you get an important proc, you hear a brief chime that pops above the rest of the audio mix, you get a tasteful dash of particle effects over yourself or your target, and you get a little buff/debuff icon in case you’re staring at skill bars instead of the center of the screen.

Compare it with a game like GW2 where it’s just NOISE NOISE NOISE. Visually and audibly, you just get a big jumble of crap like you’re trapped inside a pinball machine. (Or maybe a pachinko machine…)

TSW is a game that comes really close on the attractiveness and consistency front, and it builds a hell of an atmosphere. But then you get into combat with animations and sound effects that take forever and all sound exactly the same as one another…

IMO, the only other game that actually approaches LOTRO in terms of being “comfortable” to play is ESO. It has that same sense of restraint to it, at least in my opinion.

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Tobasco da Gama

Oh, and the saddle-creaking sounds that play when you’re galloping around on your war-steed in LOTRO are just:

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Weilan
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Weilan

Since Vanilla WoW nothing else has looked as closely as appealing.

Some F2P Chinese-themed games – Thre Kingoms/Wuxia themed look nice, but since the game itself is garbage, looks don’t matter.

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Alex Willis

I’d make a distinction between “graphics quality” (which is an ever-escalating benchmark) and “aesthetics” (which, more broadly, is about the look and feel of a thing measured mostly against itself). And in that respect there’s no question that LOTRO takes the cake. Yes, obviously the character models are not ideal and are on the watery side of weak wine. But the overall world design and look and feel of the setting still manages to impress me, 10 years later. That’s an incredible achievement.

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Cyro-Nydd

Black Desert, hands down. Sadly I’m not happy with open PvP or the Farmville crafting. It feels so much like something that could have been “the one”, but it isn’t so I don’t play actively, maybe at a rate of once per every 5 months. Otherwise I love the Belf and Draenie females of WoW, and in TESO the way the Orcs turned out.

styopa
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styopa

That’s funny, it was the esthetics of Wildstar that actually were a significant negative for me. Not the cartoonishness per se (WoW never bothered me) it was the utterly derivative art style that clearly came from WoW- if you’re going for something that looks pretty unusual, develop your *own* style, not blatantly parrot someone else.

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Alex Malone

I did enjoy the art style and direction of wildstar, I like fairly wacky stuff like they had. However, the relatively small zones and the hideous UI, combined with the fact you had to be zoomed out in order to see all the telegraphs meant I never got to properly enjoy the aesthetics.

LotRO was fairly good back in it’s day, vanilla zones especially. The whole game just felt extremely cohesive and immersive. Only thing that let it down was really poor animations.

SWG probably still wins it for me though. Even though it wasn’t particularly great – very blocky, not enough flora, poor animations – they captured the feeling of the original trilogy films very well in my opinion.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Star Citizen. Obviously. Best graphics on PC ever. Stunning attention details and fidelity.

WoW. Especially now with all graphics improvements.

Age of Wushu. I dont like character models, but I love world design in this game. Its just beautiful.

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Malcolm Swoboda

The Secret World. It just doesn’t play out the best, but that’s more ‘design’ than ‘art’ (which can be different things).