The Daily Grind: What’s the most interesting MMO city to explore?

There’s a line drawn between MMO cities that mostly exist as empty set pieces and ones that live and thrive with NPCs, details, and touches of personality. I usually am more critical of urban areas in video games because, for the most part, they aren’t that exciting to explore and merely function as a maze to confound me.

But that isn’t every MMO and it isn’t every city. World of Warcraft’s Dalaran might be small, but it is brimming with cool little nooks and fascinating sights. LOTRO’s Minas Tirith is an absolutely amazing multi-tiered metropolis with lots of buildings to enter. And I would be remiss by not mentioning Divinity’s Reach in Guild Wars 2, which straddles both of the former examples in its offerings.

What’s the most interesting MMO city to explore for you? What makes you recommend it as a tourist destination?

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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109 Comments on "The Daily Grind: What’s the most interesting MMO city to explore?"

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Yamy

I love LOTRO cities, they have a lot attention to detail, some more than others depending the size & relevance. Minas Tirith from LOTRO is massive & seriously rich with with details, that makes the place feel like like lot of people truly live there. Also is rich on Lore reference. Breetown is a lot smaller but it have the right cosmopolitan feel that the books call out. & the architecture of Moria (Khazad Dum) is impressive still, even if now the building are ruins. you get to feel why the dwarves want it back.

Karma_Mule
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Karma_Mule

I like Abah’s Landing in ESO. Lots of stairways, rooflines, hidden nooks and corners, and houses you can break into if you’re into that.

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Viktor Budusov

Minas Tirith and Khazad Dum

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Melissa McDonald

I always fancied the dark elf city of Neriak in original EverQuest. It had an awesome “black light” quality to it.

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Rottenrotny

I remember thinking Lion’s Arch in Vanilla (can we call it vanilla?) GW2 was pretty interesting, but from what I’ve heard it’s different now? Dunno, haven’t played that in ages.
More nods go out to:
WoW’s Silvermoon, sad that that city is pretty much abandoned by Blizzard.
Suramar. Really nice city, if a bit hostile. AN ILLUSION,WHAT ARE YOU HIDING!?
Every city I visited in my short time playing BDO was impressive. Sad that the combat and some other things turn me off so much because that games looks amazing,

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adri

I don’t like MMO cities in general. They are mostly very crowded and so you most likely suffer from low fps. There are talkative NPCs and player with annyoing sounds and VFX buzzing around you. If possible I use remote places to do the things I have to do like visiting banking NPCs, auction house transactions, parking mule chars.

butterpanda888
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butterpanda888

WoW: Ironforge, Undercity, Thunderbluff, and any city in Pandaria.
Warhammer: The Capitals of the Order and the Destruction (Forget the names)
Lotro: Bree (Hey, I like Bree)
The main base in Destiny (I forget the name)
The Underwater city in wizard city in Wizard101
Several Cities in the Kingdom of Isenhorst in Black Gold Online
London in TSW
and more I am forgetting.

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Jeremy

Neriak in EQ1

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Fred Douglas

I’m going to go with Tortage in AoC. AoC had a lot of problems in making compelling repeatable content, but I think the world designers did a great job overall.

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Ailsa Nordstrom

I loved exploring Warhammer Online to fill out the lorebook (can’t remember what it was called). There were so many hidden discoveries you could make that would reward you with trinkets you could attach to your armor. It was so cool!

I also loved exploring Rift when I played. I’m enjoying rediscovering every inch of Secret World Legends at the moment.

EDIT: dang, misread the question. Move along, nothing to see here >.> <.<

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Utakata

That’s a tough question. And that’s why I am answering it now as opposed to earlier. But right now, I’m going with Suramar City (WoW) at the top of my pigtails for this time. Such a lovely city if you don’t trip off the guards. O.o

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Mr Poolaty

There could never possibly be another Jeuno!! The awe when you first made it there, the lore and lure to it, nothing nothing will ever sadly replace that!!

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Lethality

Calpheon in Black Desert, hands-down!

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Totakeke

1.0 Ulduh. It was pretty fucking huge and there was a lot to move around in. It would take minutes to move from one part of the city to the other.

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Paragon Lost

Khazad Dum. The ultimate dwarf city.

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Bhima Jenkins

Divinity’s Reach no doubt. A strong shoutout to Stormwind and Ironforge because of pure nostalgia.

Also, I can’t remember the name of it, because I didn’t play EQ too long… but the elven city in the trees was very cool.

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Toy Clown

My favorite city to explore so far has to be Calpheon in Black Desert Online. It has many districts, from noble, merchant, religious, slums, then there’s street performers on some corners, hidden cafes behind market streets filled with stalls, vendors that sell books, furniture, carpets and candles… There’s lots to explore!

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zoward

LotRO‘s Bree, Landroival server. Always RP going on, concerts pretty much every weekend, musicians hanging out in the Prancing Pony, what’s not to love? I suspect Laurelin is the same way.

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Hirku

I was on Landy during the time I played and Bree was awesome. I wish the gameplay had been better for me because it was the best RP environment I’ve ever seen.

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Tobasco da Gama

Bree is the only MMO city that feels like a place where people actually live more than a set-piece for adventurers to gawk at on there way to the next quest giver.

Minas Tirith actually comes pretty close to capturing that feeling as well, on a much larger scale, but the fact that we’ve only seen it in wartime diminishes the effect.

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Michael18

For me personally it’s Minas Tirith in LOTRO. But it has some issues (repetitiveness, looong walking distances, crazy fps drops). So, objectively from a game design perspective, I’d say Ironforge, for its time, and GW2’s original Lion’s Arch come first and second, respectively.

I still remember how I was blown away when first taking the flight point in Ironforge with the Gryphons having their own entrance and path through the city, all seamlessly connected without load screens. This is what most WoW clones got wrong, imo. No game with teleportation and load screens aplenty can come close to WoW’s world building and immersion.

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NeoWolf

City of Heroe#s Paragon City, because lets face it made up the place where a huge portion of your game play took place and almost none of it was pointless pretty much every door everywhere had the potential to be a mission :)

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Moolarurka .

That is a hard question to answer . I think the one I liked best in these past 12 years of mmo gaming probably was Undercity in WoW . But most of the vanilla cities where good .

Also Guild Wars 2 has some amazing cities .

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donvweel

I would go with Secret World’s London as well.

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wratts

Secret World’s London isn’t the biggest, but certainly one of the most atmospheric MMO cities ever. Honorable mention to almost any BDO city, especially Altinova

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Suikoden

Matrix Online

Purewitz
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Purewitz

Nar Shaddaa in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

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Dystopiq

Hoelbrak is my favorite MMO city.

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Schmidt.Capela

For me, that would be DCUO’s Gotham City, closely followed by Metropolis in the same game.

Caveat, I would never choose a city meant as a hub here. Being a practical hub and being an interesting city to explore are, in my view, conflicting goals.

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Ben Stone

Everquest 2 before they removed the housing districts and turned them into poorly used questing zones. I loved the Baubbleshire.

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Slaasher

Calpheon in BDO

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Hirku

For me it’s TSW’s London, on the Arcadia RP server. It felt like a living, breathing city not just because of all the interesting content created by the developers, but the life given to it by the RP’ers. It was always a worthwhile use of my gaming time to dress up in my finest and hang out in The Horned God listening to all the conversations.

My vote doesn’t apply to SWL’s London because while it’s obviously the same city, it feels very lifeless because everybody’s hanging out in Mallgartha now. I like the new world tree and all, but it doesn’t have a fraction of the atmosphere of the original London hub.

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Tobasco da Gama

Yeah, I wish the faction hubs had the same population limits as Agartha. Maybe the reason they don’t is that the Season 2 story is gonna do something drastic to them. :O

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Hirku

They better not…I still use Dragon HQ for my banking needs. Less lag and I like the sound of the rain & chimes.

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Reht

The New Freeport in EQ1 (just to trigger people!)

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starbuck1771

Coronet and Restuss SWG.

Purewitz
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Purewitz

Before or after Restuss got blown up? :D

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starbuck1771

Both lol

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Francis Baud

Moradon

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Thomas Zervogiannis

I loved Hoelbrak in GW2!! The towering buildings, the ice sculpture totems, the central plaza with dim multicolored light being refracted to the sky, the keg brawl arena, the soundtrack! I really loved the ambience.

I also loved Heidel in BDO, generally the towns and cities in this game feel very authentic!

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thickenergy

Any town/city in Black Desert Online. The realistic architecture and layouts combined with the very nice graphics and the ability to visit the player housing makes for some interesting and entertaining city exploration.

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Castagere Shaikura

I really loved all the cities of both factions in Anarchy Online before that Shadowlands expansion. They were always busy with players and events. I miss those days in that mmo. Used to really party it up on the weekends in those cities.

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SeedEve

Divinity’s Reach and both previous and actual Lion Arch in GW2.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

This is from some time back, but I thought the cities in EverQuest II were really interesting. The whole citizenship and betrayal systems in that was a bit cool. It’s been so long since I played I start to sort of forget though.

I’ve heard stories about cities in the original EverQuest too – that you could be walking around in them and suddenly be attacked by extremely strong NPCs from a faction you were unfriendly with and that you would grind out one of many factions at a time to get to access parts of their cities. That sounds sort of cool in a way. I did start to try out the first EverQuest sometime along here but didn’t play very much and I was told it was far different than it used to be in various ways, I’ve no idea if that was one or that was the same tho.

The Elder Scrolls Online has some interesting, though not super huge cities to explore. I’ve been wondering if the size got bigger while keeping the interesting feel in Morrowind, I haven’t played the expansion yet.

shazanti
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shazanti

Ah yes. I was a Dark Elf Necromancer way back in the opening years of EQ1. Thanks to the ‘corrupt’ guards, I could get through parts of East and West Freeport (the zones that had gates giving entry to the city) if I was careful and watched out for the guilds that hated my kind. North Freeport was where the bank was, and the paladin guild, and the ‘good’ guards, and NFP *hated me*. I wanted access to the bank, and the only entrances to it were through East or West FP. So I repeatedly slaughtered the ‘corrupt’ guards outside the city gates in WFP until *they* hated me, but the NFP good guards loved me, as did the paladins- killing the corrupt guards improved my faction with those two groups. Of course, since the E/WFP guards now hated me, I had to sneak into the city since the gate guards now hated me, avoid those hostile guilds in E/WFP as well as any roaming guards there, to GET to NFP…thankfully there were tunnels just for that purpose.

My Dark Elf Innoruuk worshiping Necromancer eventually had some really tortured and screwed up factions. I probably didn’t even have good reasons for destroying/flipping many of them.

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as a dark elf in EQ1, most cities were off limits. I spent many an hour crawling through sewers and running from guards.

wandris
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wandris

Age of Conan: Tarantia City(I think). Everything in AoC was pretty good but that main city was fun. Both city and combat zone with a few instanced areas.

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Pandalulz

Kaineng City from Guild Wars. I mean, it felt like I spent half an expansion there.

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

Divinity’s Reach for sure, the scale alone is amazing, Surmar in WoW for same reason, Qeynos in EQ2, i’m usually impressed by the size of these cities, allowing them to add more details, and sometimes i wish developers will go back to old content and update it, if they can do this for new content they can do it in the old one, at least update villages and towns to make them look like … villages and towns.

Zulika Mi-Nam
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Zulika Mi-Nam

GW2 Lion’s Arch, prior to the generic model it has now become. I explored every inch of that place, above and below water, several times over.

I park in Divinity’s Reach which is also good for exploring – for the moment. I used to park all my toons in LA for entry into WvW on reset nights. Now I cannot stand the place long enough to wait for reset and I also stopped doing all of the PVE content after it changed too.

I begrudgingly bought HoT during a sale solely so that I could get automated loot pickup in WvW. As much as I dislike the direction this game has taken, giving a enemy a kill because I am trying to get a piece of loot leaves a worse taste in my mouth.

Tizmah
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Tizmah

I wouldn’t call the new LA generic. I don’t see many cities made with a coral theme of clams and buildings made of sea creatures. If you said not as complex, sure. But Imo, when comes to getting the things I need the new LA does that well. Save the exploring for the outside.

Zulika Mi-Nam
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Zulika Mi-Nam

I am old and have seen the shell thing across varying types of games. I find nothing at all interesting at all about the new city’s design.

I agree LA always made everything easy to get to, but that means nothing to me and my playstyle. I get that same utility from the main cities in every game and also inside of WvW.

The amount of man hours of development that went into the original LA – sunk costs and time limited content.

Tizmah
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Tizmah

To each their own, I’ve seen the old pirate style of LA in many games as well. I still wouldn’t call either generic. If the new LA is classed as generic now, then sadly I suppose all that is left is to make a town out of pizza rolls now.

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Koshelkin

BDO’s Valencia. Detailed, full of life, character and fantastic architecture. And in contrast to Calpheon it isn’t as overcrowded and hence has a much better performance. <:-) Calpheon is worth a look as well, though

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Chosenxeno .

The obvious answer is Stormwind. Yes. STORMWIND! Because it was the 1st major City that had a sense of scale that I experienced in an MMO(WoW was my 1st MMORPG). Yes there are “grander” locales across the MMO diaspora but for me SW was the first to inspire a real sense of Awe. It was this massive place with different Quaters and it’s own Castle, Prison and Religious Center. The theme is pretty great, as well.

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Daniel Reasor

Stormwind, Ironforge, and Undercity – the eastern capitals – are all pretty great, but Stormwind does take the cake.

I’ve never had a hard time believing the popular fan theory that Blizzard started work on Vanilla WoW’s Eastern Kingdoms first, and that the state of Orgrimmar, Thunder Bluff, and Darnassus at launch reflected the final rush to get this thing completed and launch it.

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zoward

I’ve always preferred Thunder Bluff to the other Horde cities, even if it was quieter (or maybe even becuase it was quieter). I just love the atmosphere. The other two feel claustrophobic to me.

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Briar Grey

I’ll give another nod to Kingsmouth in TSW as well as London. Also, there’s one in GW2 that I really thought was gorgeously painted – can’t remember if it’s Lion’s Arch or what the name is, but totally cool. For awesomeness though, I recommend well-crafted MUDs with all the amazing text descriptions that really get your imagination fired up ;)

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Ravven

I think that Calpheon in Black Desert was the most vibrant, alive city that I’ve ever seen in an MMO. At the midwinter holiday I just ran around taking screenshots, it was so gorgeous. As stated below though, New York in The Division has to be the most perfectly realised city ever (a non-MMO, of course). Although lightly populated it was dirty and real and you could go inside and explore many of the buildings, and the newspapers blowing around had different things on them. So beautifully done.

Sean McCoy
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Sean McCoy

I can think of a few that have stood out to me over the years.

One that I don’t think will be mentioned is Stratholme in WoW. With a couple of easy to solo dungeons, you can explore the before AND after of it’s destruction. I had a lot of fun trying to notice what has changed and what stayed the same.

I’d also say Undercity in WoW. As a player that primarily played Alliance I always had fun running around in there and trying to figure out where everything was. Sometimes I’d just play on alts just to check things out.

Finally, Kugane in FFXIV: Stormblood I feel deserves a mention. They really managed to pack in a ton of small things into that city. The city was actually designed to be explored, complete with jump puzzles as well as a ton of NPC’s with inside jokes and references to other things.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Huh? How to explore Strat before destruction?

Sean McCoy
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Sean McCoy

Caverns of Time: Culling of Stratholme. Basically you go in with Arthas during the events where he actually trashes the place. You can explore quite a bit of it to see how it stacks up to the vanilla/burning version.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Oh, totally forgot that one. Strat looks so much like SW tho

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Ben Stone

Also the new Chromie questline takes you there beforehand too, immediately beforehand, but still.

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Ken from Chicago

CITY OF HEROES aka Paragon City. It had lots of interesting zones, not to mention links to different times, different dimension, even to pocket dimensions and to out side of time and space itself. Honestly, I never fully explored it.

khrome
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khrome

Calpheon and Valencia in Black Desert are by far the best cities in any MMO. Mostly because they actually feel like cities of old times. Very tight streets, with few exceptions, and a lot of NPC’s out and about. If you’re new to them it’s very possible to actually get lost, even with the map.

Honorable mention to Velia – Not a city, more a town, but it feels more real than most other settlements in an MMO.

miol
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miol

Lion’s Arch for me!

Especially in season 1, as being in a everchanging state for 1.5 years! Making it less of a typical static themepark museum, before doing a 180° towards exactly that, and not only figuratively casting the whole city in concrete! :/

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