The Daily Grind: Which MMO gives you the best choices for character growth?

    
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Now, this is important to state: I would also like more robots.

Between the talent panel and the new Heart of Azeroth interface, World of Warcraft’s dev team certainly has embraced the concept of streamlined “interesting choices” when it comes to building characters. It’s not the worst idea, to give players a choice between two or more attractive options for character growth and forcing them to pick just one. But it is somewhat simplistic.

Everyone loves choices, especially choices that offer strong benefits for their characters. City of Heroes made me gnaw my fingernails as I agonized over new powers every other level or so. I even dug the perk system in Anarchy Online back in the day because it was something above and beyond mere stat increases.

What do you think? Which MMO gives you the best and most interesting choices when it comes to your character’s growth and development?

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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nomadmorlock9

For current games, ESO by far. The access to so many skill lines allows your character to constantly be evolving.

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Bannex

Only to be hampered by a pointless class system and a cumbersome and expensive respec system that discourages experimentation.

But i ultimately agree that it is the best of what’s out there. There are a lot of ways to build a character and you can really let your imagination run wild.

I just wish they’d get rid of classes, the limited action bar is enough of a limitation

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nobleeinherjar

I remember a lot of older MMOs giving me what I felt were meaningful choices in character growth, UO and AO chief among them. DDO would be another good pick.

I would say FFXI, too. Choices in that game are more about what you grow instead of how you grow it, but such choices still felt impactful.

EQ2 has some neat choices available through its AA system that included mundane things like provision duration and movement speed alongside more class-specific options. That being said, EQ2 at this point is a mess of systems that could really use some clean-up.

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Utakata

I have yet to run into a game that doesn’t pigeonhole/stifle the toon’s personal growth and development when they hit max level. It’s all raids, Mythics and the lash! So I am going to sit this one out…

*Folds arms and pigtails*

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Bryan Correll

Project: Gorgon. You can improve your skill at being a cow for crying out loud.

Xijit
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Xijit

this is true

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Roger Melly

Out of the mmo’s that I have played I would say Rift and WoW and its first two expansion packs were the best .

WoW is probably the worst I know of now .

Polyanna
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Polyanna

You mentioned Anarchy Online, which is far beyond any other game I have played in giving you actually interesting choices in character builds. As in any game there are cookie cutter builds at endgame, but you still have thousands of permutations on how to get there, since just assembling a build is a quest in itself.

Also, your choice of race has a big impact on how your character grows into a class and how easy or hard it may be to get to a desired build, though eventually any race can be made to work well for any setup at max level.

The thing that is different about AO is that most gear is not merely level locked but requires stats and skills to equip, and many items also buff stats and skills, often by fairly ludicrous amounts. And then there are buffs each class can cast to further buff your stats, some of which are essential to getting new gear on.

Some powerful buffing items can be equipped at any level down to level 1, if you can manage to meet their stat requirements, so with a properly choreographed twinking ritual you can assemble crazy builds at low levels. It’s common for people to have lovingly crafted over powered twinks just to farm certain low level instances to power level other characters, or get desirable rare drops for them. So, for example, a level 60 twink Engineer that can cast a pet normally intended for a level 200 character.

It’s the only game I’ve seen where twinking is a respected skill and art all to itself, which can produce amazing results with enough knowledge and dedication, and where it is common to have a whole stable of alts for different level ranges, in addition to max level characters, to make the most of many lucrative low level farming areas.

I haven’t seen any game since that gives up that much control to players over how they build out a character, and just lets them run wild with it.

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Paragon Lost

Gonna have to second Oleg and Axetwin below, don’t really think that there is one. :/

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Carebear

delete my comment please :P

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Paragon Lost

Heh. I did chuckle though when i read it in my email. ;)

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Carebear

Haha :)

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Axetwin .

I honestly don’t think there is one. Choice isn’t something that’s a popular thing in MMO’s. I have yet to find a developer that can make choices actually matter. Often times it’s “here’s the obvious good choice” and “here’s the obvious shit choice”. Or it’s “tank choice, or dps choice, or heal choice”, and in a lot of games (like GW2 for example) choosing anything other than “dps choice” is playing the game wrong.

GW1 had a “no one build rules them all” approach. One character could have a dozen different builds to suit different gameplay modes. There was more than just “PvE build” and “PvP build” as well. The ability to dual class, and eventually chance your secondary class brought TONS of customization to your character. Dozens and dozens of skills per character and a stat system that actually mattered was critical to how you built a character. Sure, not all the skills were useful, but the majority of them had a use depending on what you were doing. That’s not taking into consideration elite skill hunting.

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Kvarin Sunermidst

Ya know I forgot how robust that GW1 system was. Archeage was a bit like that with all of its possibly combinations.

I loved tinkering in GW1 to find the combination that worked for me. That was legit fun.

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Schmidt.Capela

City of Heroes made me gnaw my fingernails as I agonized over new powers every other level or so.

This, combined with respecs being sold in the cash shop, is what actually prevented me from continuing to play City of Heroes.

The more a leveling choice is important for the character, the more I want to just swap back and forth in order to experience both paths, but I will never pay a single cent for the benefit; if a game makes me agonize over a choice due to it being important to the character and either irreversible or too hard to reverse (without paying real money), chances are good I will leave the game instead.

This applies to story too, which is part of the reason no MMO with a Bioware- or Elder Scrolls-style branching story can ever be enjoyable for me; I need to be able to create multiple, branching saves, to match the branching story and allow me to go back to decision points and choose another path, in order to enjoy such a game, but MMOs obviously can’t allow that. So, for games like TOR, I would rather watch the various story branches through YouTube let’s play videos and never play the game itself.

So, what makes a good system for me? GW1 and Diablo 3 come to mind. Games with simple, yet important, leveling choices that allow you to redo them at will (when in a city/out of combat) and for free. When this is the case I will keep changing my build all the time, often multiple times per day, trying new things and having a blast doing so.

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Crowe

Meh, there were other ways to get respecs in CoH other than the cash shop. I never paid for a single one and I think I put most characters through 4 or 5. The cash shop wasn’t even an option for it until after the F2P transition anyway.

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Kvarin Sunermidst

With the renewed focus on E-Sports and “perfect” balance, most growth options in any game have been muted.

ESO is even too afraid to make weapons actually perform different.

FF XIV is probably your best bet for growth as far as MMO’s go.