Let’s be frank: Not every MMO zone can be a masterpiece of art, design, quest flow, and navigability. I mean, they totally should be, but that’s not how it shakes out in actual games. Sometimes regions get rushed, or the developers get a little too crazy with level design, or someone with a doomsday device in the office threatens to set it off unless an area made up of nothing but jumping puzzles is included.
The end result? “Those” zones we love to hate. We all have them. They’re the ones we seem to relish whining and complaining about to anyone who will listen, often instigating an echo chamber of like-minded grudges. We’ve been there, done that, and felt that our psyche took a hit as a result.
Today I want to look back at 10 MMOs I’ve played over the years to pick out a zone from each that, honestly, I really, really disliked. Perhaps the fact that I still remember them so vividly means that they were more important memories than the well-done zones that escape me at the moment, but I’m not going to think on that too much. Let the gripe session begin!
1. World of Warcraft: Desolace (vanilla)
I sometimes wonder if the crowd that keeps clamoring for a return to vanilla World of Warcraft has selective memory regarding how incomplete that core game experience was, especially with the zones as you went further up in levels. One of the worst offenders was Desolace (or “Depressolace,” as we always called it), which committed the double sin of being flat-out ugly and having sparse content to offer. It was clearly an unfinished blotch of a zone, yet somehow I had to go into it for each character I leveled up to grab some of those rare quests. Also there was a rep grind with centaurs and I never want to speak of that again.
2. Warhammer Online: Badlands
I sometimes wonder if developers end up using barren wastelands as zone options because they’re easier to create. WAR’s Badlands was one of several such areas in the game, an eyesore to consider for the most part. But what puts it on this list for me is that there was a quarry or open mine in the north-east corner of the map that was one of the most frustrating areas to navigate. The hand-drawn map style didn’t help at all with this, and before I was done with the related quests I was gnashing my teeth in frustration.
3. Star Wars: The Old Republic: Quesh
I’m a big fan of the variety and visuals of most SWTOR planets, but I have to draw a line when it comes to Quesh. Actually, I think the devs drew a line too, because this “planet” only has a single puke-ugly zone that runs in a corridor, is coated in poison gas, and has no interesting storyline of which to speak. Also, every time I see the planet name I think “quiche” and then am disappointed when the game doesn’t satisfy my hunger.
4. City of Heroes: Faultline
I was severely tempted to put Perez Park on here, because if you’ve ever been lost in that forest, you accessed a level of loathing that turned you into a supervillain. However, I’m giving the nod to Faultline, because forget that place. Oh, the idea of an earthquake-ravaged area is interesting, but the reality is a zone that is only accessible by those with certain travel powers. If you had super-speed, forget it; this was not for you. And frankly, it was an eyesore of a place that was more of an empty setpiece than it was the staging ground for any truly exciting content.
5. Lord of the Rings Online: Moria
This might be a controversial entry for a few reasons. Some people do appreciate and even enjoy Moria to this day, and I cannot deny that it was a technical achievement to create and is one of the largest underground regions in an MMO ever. Plus, this is kind of a combination of several zones across a whole region, but I couldn’t pick just one.
So why Moria? Other than the pressing claustrophobia that this underground kingdom seems to trigger in pretty much everyone who plays, my biggest issue is that it’s incredibly frustrating to navigate. Once again, hand-drawn maps are more of a liability than an asset, especially in some of the spaces that involve a lot of verticality. I have many memories of trying to get from point A to B and not knowing exactly how to do that in this place.
6. RIFT: Goboro Reef
Nightmare Tide was somewhat of a misstep for this MMO, and I always felt the dev team had a hard time selling players on the weird water plane concept going on with it. For me, I could never level past Goboro Reef, which hit so many wrong buttons for me. It went on forever, was purple and pink as far as the eye could see, wasn’t always the easiest to travel around, wasn’t that fun to explore, and smelled of fish.
7. Guild Wars 2: Orr
Again, cheating a little bit by combining three zones for this entry, but this whole island just annoys me to no end. It’s definitely a neat concept with some striking visuals, but Orr’s dense undead population (from chickens on up to sharks) and cluttered landscape make getting anywhere and doing anything a chore. I know that the community is divided here, with some ardent defenders, but I cringe at the thought of having to do more map exploration on this island.
8. The Secret World: City of the Sun God
We’ll see how the reboot pans out with any quest flow changes to this region, but I’m not going to hold my breath in anticipation that I’m going to end up adoring it. City of the Sun God is a middling-to-bad desert region where most of the NPCs are statues or a genie that despises you. Just about nobody enjoys this place, and it sucks a lot of the momentum out of progressing through the story.
9. WildStar: Wilderrun
In my top three most-hated zone biomes, “jungle” only comes third after “lava” and “desert.” I’m seriously not a fan of sprawling, foliage-dense regions, of which Wilderrun is a card-carrying member. It’s seriously way too big and sometimes had me taking the long way around to get anywhere. I would prefer the infected regions, with all of their eyeball-stalks, to this humid hellzone.
10. Star Trek Online: Kobali Prime
Can someone explain to me how Delta Rising ended up so bad? I mean, Neelix and all that, but what a terrible expansion. It actually made me quit the game for a long time, and a big part of that reason was Kobali Prime. In a game where you mostly stayed on your starship with occasional away missions, suddenly you were asked to spend a long, long period of time on a planet that was nothing but a warzone. I called it “The Planet of Soul-Sucking” back when I was playing, and I stick to that. It was uncalled for, really.