The Daily Grind: What’s the best older MMO for players to try out?

It’s funny to think that World of Warcraft is over a decade old, because it doesn’t feel like an older MMO, due in no small part to the fact that it keeps reinventing itself from the ground up. You can argue that’s to the game’s detriment (which is definitely true in some aspects), but it does mean that the game feels more recent than its age. No, if you really want to feel like you’re playing an older MMO, you have to go back to titles like Final Fantasy XI, EverQuest, or the venerable Ultima Online.

Of course, all of these titles have a certain amount of baked-in interface oddity, strange game mechanics, slower and more sprawling systems, and so forth. They’ve all got a steep learning curve. But the best of the batch are games that show off why MMOs have changed over the years while still being lots of fun to play as they are now. So let’s have a thought exercise. What’s the best older MMO for players to try out for the first time? If you had a friend asking to try something older, which still-running game would you recommend?

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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51 Comments on "The Daily Grind: What’s the best older MMO for players to try out?"

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jay

LotRO without a doubt. The graphics and systems have held up to the test of time well, and the story is excellent.

kjempff
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kjempff

If you got the time and persistence and have friends that play or are good at making them in game, one of the eq emus (p1999 if you are seriously masochist or others if less) or latest official progression server (which is the easiest and pretty good/fun unless you listen to the purists).
If you can’t play for longer sessions (hours at a time) or want an easier experience, of course a wow emu progression server or simply one that is locked at wotlk or bc, is a good choice.
DaOC emu if you are a pvp head.

If you don’t have the stamina and ready to forgive the flaws and some annoying old school mechanics and graphics, in exchange of a longer lasting deeper experience than all the new sh..ehm mmos – Then just stay away, you will never “get it” anyways and it will be wasted time for you :D

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Melissa McDonald

LOTRO, GW2, EQ2 would be my picks. They have classic systems, years worth of content to consume, and run well on older machines. EQ2 doesn’t look as nice as GW2 or LOTRO but it has SO much content.

Been playing LOTRO with an online friend of mine who has never played an MMO before and although he struggled at first, at this point he’s gained a fair amount of skill and understanding, and I can tell he’s hooked. I’ve given him a new hobby and I can tell it’s given him something to look forward to each night.

malrats
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malrats

For truly old games, you really can’t go wrong with EverQuest or DAoC.

Xijit
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Xijit

Project Gorgon

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Nick Smith

My vote as well. Original EQ type of feeling jazzed up!

Tamanous
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Tamanous

Correct … Wow isn’t an older mmo. Vanilla through Wotlk is an older mmo. One can wait until official Classic perhaps or simply play on a private server and enjoy Wow with thousands who understand how much better the older version is.

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Heliton B. Amorim

I never thought I would do it in my entire life, but for this question, I do recommend World of Warcraft…

But who is looking for old MMOs? Cmon guys it is nearly 2018, look forward, not backward.

ernost
Reader
ernost

But who is looking for old MMOs? Cmon guys it is nearly 2018, look forward, not backward.

Not everyone has an awesome system capable of handling the latest games. Mine cannot handle anything released after 2014.

Reader
Maggie May

I feel ya, though mine plays ESO. Which is pretty much the only newer MmO which plays half decently. Also explains why I have been playing retro type games like Terraria or Stardew Valley.

butterpanda888
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butterpanda888

Everquest, Everquest II, Return of Reckoning (WAR private server), WoW, LotRO, DAoC.

Reader
Sorenthaz

Phantasy Star Online (only available via private servers though) or a Vanilla WoW emulator.

I guess if we’re not including private servers then Dark Age of Camelot, Ultima Online, or Everquest probably.

Reader
MesaSage

.

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Bryan Turner

I wouldn’t recommend WoW at the moment, last night in a moment of weakness I reupped my account, unfortunately this afternoon I decided to get an hour of play time in as I usually do drinking coffee before going to work. Apparently it is still a thing that players of the opposite faction can kill every NPC in a quest hub, after 30 minutes of putting up with this shit I rapid fired half a dozen harassment complaints against the player and cancelled my subscription because something like that happening is a blatant failure in design.

Reader
MesaSage

That too, was my introduction to WoW a few years ago. Took me while to figure out what was happening. I still point to that as a reason I didn’t want to go much further in the game.

Reader
Sleepy

For anyone coming brand new to WoW, it’s a bit of a mess. Convoluted lore, references to characters you wouldn’t know, in-jokes. It certainly wouldn’t drag you in.

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Maggie May

Yea, I played for the first time a while ago and that was my experience. Took me a while to figure out the Jenkins reference. 😁

Zariarn
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Zariarn

LOTRO
Everquest 2
WoW

Reader
Cosmic Cleric

Apologies in advance for any controversy this may create, but honestly, a WoW private server, vanilla or wrath based. I would say MoP based, but they’re too buggy to play pre max level.

Edit: Forgot to mention, SWGEmu for ole skool MMO goodness.

Edit2: Maybe we should have an article about what would be our dream version of WoW, if we could mix/match parts from the different versions?

Reader
Doubleplusgood

I would not recommend WoW in its current version. Right now the leveling experience in WoW is terrible. You only get a couple abilities making combat boring, PVE is so easy with no challenge like the old elite mob zones, group dungeons are just speed runs with all the ruined redone new versions, leveling is completely rushed with no purpose till max level.

But I would recommend WoW once they release the vanilla version and maybe the retail version when they introduce level scaling!
Or LoTR and EQ2 are also good choices.

Reader
Bryan Correll

I think I’d just go ahead and recommend WoW. Not because it’s the best among the older games, but because it’s a smooth introduction to the genre. If you think your friend is the sort of person that really would enjoy EVE, AO, UO, etc. then, sure, go with that. But WoW does have a proven track record at getting people into MMO’s.

Reader
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Chad Wells

Return of Reckoning

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Dug From The Earth

If you can afford it, WoW

If you cant afford it, probably something like DDO, or Runescape.

hoylegu
Reader
hoylegu

DAoC.

God, what a game it was in its heyday. No one has ever come close to capturing that same lighting in a bottle.

Reader
starbuck1771

World of Warcraft

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starbuck1771

here is how my nightelf usually looks

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Reader
Tulerezzer

EverQuest is the only older game I would recommend to anyone.
I went back to playing on the Agnarr TLP server and have been playing like it’s 1999 all over again, including staying up too late on a regular basis.

malrats
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malrats

This warms my icy heart! :’)

Keep enjoying yourself, friend. I envy you! I can’t quite find the time for EQ these days.

Reader
David Blair

Perhaps a Daily Grind of “What are the best trials currently out there to try out.” I know some of the games mentioned below allow free leveling to a point without a purchase…

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Tandor

I’m not sure why people are suggesting more or less obsolete games. Of the older games that are still running and which look reasonably decent for the modern age I’d suggest any of EQ2, WoW, SWTOR or LoTRO depending on the personal tastes of the new player. However, I’d probably avoid introducing new players to old games entirely and go with ESO.

All of those games look good, tell a good story, and are straightforward to get into, with a variety of gameplay options. I’d avoid obsolete graphics, non-existent population games, and those dependent on set gameplay options like forced grouping or PvP.

I’d also want to know what sort of machine the player was going to be using – WoW still has most other games beat for ease of gameplay and the level of machine specs required for adequate performance, although the graphics style puts a lot of players off.

Reader
Michael18

I’d say AC1, if it were around still. In want of that, mostly P99 and UO.

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Charles Dodge

meridian 59

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Oleg Chebeneev

Definetly MUDs. Games like Dragonrealms and Discworld that show what it was like to play MMOs long before Ultima Online or Everquest became a thing. They also aged much better then graphical MMOs since they use the power of imagination. Many MUDs are much more indepth and complex than modern MMOs.

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Zora

Why, Star wars galaxies obvio–okay sorry, it’s xmas we should think happy thoughts, I should have not said that heh

/slinksaway

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Slasher Zet

There is a pre-CU emulator you know, so anyone can go back and play the good old days.

https://www.swgemu.com

Reader
Rhime

Ya just had to…. wahhhh! /sniff.

Reader
Utakata

The only two games I’ve played that was older than WoW was City of Heroes and EVE Online. Unfortunately, CoH isn’t around any longer for me to recommend. And EVE is certainly not for the novice. :(

Reader
arkjag

I’ve been confined to a five year old Thinkpad X230 for the last year and change, and have been hopping between older MMOs during that time.

The problem I’ve found is that it’s just lonely to start from scratch in a 10+ year old game. No matter how friendly and welcoming the community is, the experience just isn’t the same when you’re one of only a handful of players on a server who isn’t at the level cap and completely geared out. The empty zones and barren low level dungeons end up leaving me bummed out that I didn’t experience the game during its peak. I wish some of these games (especially the theme parks and PvE focused games) could develop a better way to encourage high level players to run older content. I know that’s much easier said than done, but I felt that FFXIV was able to pull it off.

I tried out Anarchy Online when it hit Steam, and found a fair number of new players to group with and a helpful veteran community, but the game just wasn’t my bag. I’ve also spent some time with a few of the newer isometric games like Orake and Linkrealms, but haven’t been compelled to stick around. I ended up buying FFXI a few weeks ago and have been having a decent time grinding out levels, but nearly all of it has been done solo, and without the Trust system, the game would be nearly inaccessible to new players. Again, as I’m tediously running through the Nation missions with a sense of boredom, and soloing dungeons devoid of any other players, I’m trying to push the fact out of my mind that I’m really missing the whole point of the game.

I actually ended up downloading Mabinogi last night, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m also keeping an eye on an upcoming DAoC private server, as well as Ultima’s impending free to play launch. I’m thirsty for a game with a semblence of a clean slate that I can actually run.

Reader
EpicNamePwns

Try LOTRO on Brandywine, or most any US server. (Landroval has a heavy music and RP population, but is still viable for the noob.) The latest expansion of Mordor and the addition of a high elf race has brought many new players to the game, while veterans are starting new toons and players who’ve been away for years are also coming back for a fresh start.

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arkjag

Yo, just wanted to say thanks for the recommendation. I didn’t think there was any way that I could run it, but I’m playing it on high at 60 FPS. I’m not sure if I was underestimating the capabilities of a five year old laptop with integrated graphics, or overestimating the graphical requirements for games from that generation, but regardless, I’m enjoying the game.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I agree. There’s nothing lonely about the LOTRO servers. You might have to kill a few flys and bears by yourself, but you can carry on in an active World Chat the entire time you are doing it.

Reader
Paul

Agreed – I’m playing LOTRO with a small EU/US mixed group that started 2-3 months ago on Evernight and the server is anything but lonely

pepperzine
Reader
pepperzine

Ultima Online. While the graphics are extremely outdated and it has a big learning curve to it, I think it provides a good reference into what people who have been playing MMORPGs for a long time are referring to when they talk about in-depth immersive systems/communities that have been pruned out of the genre due to over-simplification, convenience, and mass-appeal. I wish some of the new MMORPGs in the past few years had even half of the depth of Ultima Online.

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rafael12104

UO. Yes. Old school, but a good school.

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Tanek

So many games I play fit into the “older” category now. EQ2, LOTRO, DDO. I see complaints about character models and other graphics, but I enjoy the gameplay and stories, which is the point for me.

When it comes to EQ-era games, though, I have never played them myself, so the above are about as “older” as I can recommend.

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Dagget Burmese

Anarchy Online!

Has depth and complexity that newer MMO’s don’t go near.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

EVE Online has something to say about it

Reader
Castagere Shaikura

My first mmo back in 2000. But its because of the complexity that it won’t appeal to today’s mmo players. They like things to be easy.

Reader
Tanek

I’m not sure people want everything to be easy, but easy to start and get into is probably a factor. What many newer MMOs seem to miss is that easy to get into and having depth are not mutually exclusive.

Reader
Dug From The Earth

Its not about easy or hard

Its about complete lack of intuitive mechanics and design.

Navigating a games UI shouldnt be complex. Understanding what at least 50% of the stats on an item mean, shouldnt be complex. Figuring out how to split items in your bag, shouldnt be complex. Moving fowards and being able to look around with your mouse, shouldnt be complex.

Quick example of unnecessary ui complexity. Lets take chat systems in mmorpgs today. Most of the time, sending someone a whisper is as easy as right clicking their name in chat, or right clicking their name from your friends list.

Back in the day, in older games with chat systems far less intuitive, you often had to do the following: /whisper Bilbo Baggins, hey man, whats up, still got that ring?

Forgetting the comma would cause it to fail. typing the persons name wrong would cause it to fail. The game might not use /whisper, but instead use /tell, and not getting it right would cause it to fail.

Thats not “hard” Thats just bad design because it lacks any intuitive mechanics.

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Bruno Brito

Maybe a bit too much of it.

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