Massively OP’s 2018 Awards: Most Underrated MMO of 2018

    
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NO I GET THE REAL HEADER NO BLOOPERS

Welcome everybody to Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2018 awards!

Every year, we poll our writers about the best and worst MMOs, stories, studios, and trends and assign awards to the winners (or losers, as the case may be). For the last four years, we’ve been splitting our awards into smaller categories, a format we mean to stick with in 2018 as well, though we’ve changed up some of the specifics. We’ll also continue providing a sampling of our writers’ nominations and rationales from award to award, although last year we debated more to try to reach a consensus before locking in winners, a task at which I think we were pretty successful, so we’ve done that again this year too. And we’ll always include a just-for-fun reader’s poll at the end to see whether you agree with our picks or think we should have gone in a different direction!

Today’s award is for the Most Underrated MMO, which was awarded to both Black Desert and Secret World Legends last year. Once again, we’ve opted to include pre-2018 MMOs for many of these awards, including this one, as long as they accomplished something truly notable in this calendar year.

The Massively OP staff pick for the Most Underrated MMO of 2018 is…

Lord of the Rings Online & MapleStory 2

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Project Gorgon. I know in our corner of the MMO-verse we’re singing its praises, but it’s practically unknown in the gaming world. The art style is really its weak point, and a big one, since I feel that’s the biggest reason people aren’t enjoying interpretive dance skills as elven-warriors-turned-cows.

Brendan Drain (@nyphur): RuneScape. You might get some funny looks around the office when you tell people that you’re playing RuneScape again, but sooner or later a colleague will be peering over your shoulder with “Wait, that’s RuneScape?!” While most ex-players have spent the past few years immersed in the latest offerings from MMOs such as Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft, or The Elder Scrolls Online, RuneScape has been quietly chugging along in the background and getting better every year. I myself had all but forgotten about the game until a free month or two of subscription showed up as Prime Loot one month and I saw what I’d been missing and was genuinely surprised by how much the game now has to offer.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I have such a list of these that I can barely choose – so many things in this genre don’t get the love they should. Lord of the Rings Online is probably toward the top. The amount of content in that game is staggering. Trove is routinely underrated by older gamers for sure, but it’s a blast. Black Desert and Blade & Soul get ignored by way too many players because of their origin rather than anything else. MapleStory 2 drew in the cute crowd but didn’t catch on with everyone else. I will be happy if any of these takes the top spot.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease and there are some “bigger” titles out there that are squeaking like mad. LOTRO’s just over in its own little corner, chugging along on its own merry way, bringing to life one of the best realizations of Tolkien’s beloved fantasy world. It’s without a doubt one of MMO gaming’s unsung heroes. Runner-Up: MapleStory 2. This game is unapologetic in its style, color, goofiness, and sense of fun, which very often means its passed over by folks. Personally, it’s always going to be my go-to when I want an MMO that just makes me feel happy.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): There are a lot of underrated games that we cover, but for the moment I really think Lord of the Rings Online deserves the nod. It’s hard to imagine a game that’s more of a Tolkien-based game, and that echoes through the entire play experience. And I say that as someone who doesn’t really like that as a goal.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Path of Exile kept putting out meaty updates, expanded its housing system, introduced new challenge leagues, and picked up (presumably) a lot of disillusioned Diablo fans. Also, MapleStory 2, which I think has proved to be the sleeper hit of 2018.

Matt Daniel (@Matt_DanielMVOP): Lord of the Rings Online. As an older game, LOTRO doesn’t get a whole lot of love in these awards lineups anymore, but it offers features that few, if any, other MMOs provide, and there’s a good reason it maintains such a fervent, if niche, fanbase.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): I feel a number of games are underrated, but this year it really struck me many times how far under the radar Lord of the Rings Online continues to fly. If you want a world rich in lore to immerse in, what better place than Middle-earth? And LOTRO captures Middle-earth fantastically. How fantastically? A Tolkien professor actually assigned LOTRO to her class this fall for an in-depth look at the world to explore and write a major paper on! And you get to join this world, a real must for Tolkien and Lord of the Rings fans. Better yet, you feel more a part of the world because you are a part of it, not the focus of it. The game lets you be of value in your Middle-earth life without making you an artificial The One, Savior of the World just like every other player. Speaking of value, LOTRO is still free-to-play, removing the cash barrier to starting out, without making content pickings scarce. There is plenty of stuff to experience and do before needing to get expansions (which still abound, and continue to to come, like this year’s gorgeous Mirkwood). Content like oodles of festivals and in-game events that give players many ways to experience more lore and earn items through gameplay fill the calendar. Events even build over the years: This year included the juicy conclusion of a mystery that left players hanging last year as well as a brand-new very thematic Halloween zone. LOTRO also offered folks a new-start this year with the Legendary servers, a chance for new folks to dive in alongside everyone else without feeling so left behind. However, those servers are only for subscribers. I could go on, but you get the gist. It offers so much yet it still so unknown. If I had to pick another, I might point to MapleStory 2. Although I don’t play it much, it surprised me how fun it was when I did. And that ducky rickshaw! Even more surprising was the number of gamer friends who got sucked into it when it was so unlike anything they had played or liked before.

How does Massively OP choose the winner?
Our team gathers together over the course of a few days to discuss candidates and ideally settle on a consensus winner. We don’t have a hard vote, but we do include written commentary from every writer who submitted it on time so that you can see where some of us differed, what our secondary picks were, and why we personally nominated what we did (or didn’t). The site’s award goes to the staff selection, but we’ll include both it and the community’s top nomination in our debrief in January.

MapleStory 2 and Lord of the Rings Online won our award for Most Underrated MMO of 2018. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What was the most underrated MMORPG of 2018?

  • MapleStory 2 (8%, 127 Votes)
  • Lord of the Rings Online (49%, 830 Votes)
  • Black Desert (3%, 45 Votes)
  • Blade and Soul (1%, 21 Votes)
  • Trove (0%, 8 Votes)
  • Secret World Legends (3%, 50 Votes)
  • Star Wars The Old Republic (3%, 55 Votes)
  • RuneScape (2%, 36 Votes)
  • EVE Online (1%, 20 Votes)
  • ArcheAge (0%, 7 Votes)
  • Bless Online (1%, 12 Votes)
  • Albion Online (1%, 11 Votes)
  • Shroud of the Avatar (1%, 11 Votes)
  • Skyforge (0%, 4 Votes)
  • RIFT (1%, 20 Votes)
  • Star Trek Online (3%, 44 Votes)
  • TERA (1%, 12 Votes)
  • DC Universe Online (1%, 13 Votes)
  • Worlds Adrift (0%, 5 Votes)
  • Neverwinter (1%, 24 Votes)
  • Aion (1%, 11 Votes)
  • Legends of Aria (1%, 12 Votes)
  • Project Gorgon (4%, 59 Votes)
  • Boundless (0%, 2 Votes)
  • Occupy White Walls (1%, 18 Votes)
  • Path of Exile (4%, 61 Votes)
  • Destiny 2 (1%, 24 Votes)
  • EverQuest II (2%, 38 Votes)
  • Nothing (3%, 53 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments) (3%, 45 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,500

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Poll options include all games nominated plus other games we thought should be in the running. We did not include major MMORPGs that frequently win major awards unless directly nominated by staff.
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Reader
gamingforfun

Dungeons and Dragons Online. Why isn’t DDO on this list, while LOTRO is included?

Reader
Jeffery Witman

It might be new and have no combat (I know, what a sin!), but I’ve spent more time in Occupy White Walls this year than any other game on the list. It’s got a relaxing quality that the others just don’t.

gelfred
Reader
gelfred

No Planetside 2 on the list. But I would go for it, it can still deliver some excellent battles.

UpayaBlossom
Reader
UpayaBlossom

Woah. Can I say that the language and tone used here to describe LotRO is eerily familiar to the kind of praise (if different) that was given to TSW long ago?

Just an observation that made my spine tingle a shiver with baseless fear. Carry on!

anarresian
Reader
anarresian

Wurm Online. See… your list forgot it :)

Reader
teppic

I really wish SSG would hire some software developers who could rework the client (assuming the still-not-released 64bit client isn’t just a 64bit port). It’s really dated, cannot handle the current game, and a stuttery mess. It seems the devs at SSG have been focused on making new content for the last few years without improving the game’s infrastructure at all.
That all said, it’s a brilliant game and loads of fun. It would have a wider audience if they presented it with a modern interface however, not something from 2004 tweaked.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

Age of Wushu

Reader
Brown Jenkin

I don’t think there’s much question that LotRO is one of the best MMOs ever made. It is just kind of dated at this point. Frankly if it had action combat, or anything approaching action combat rather than like the oldest style iteration of tab-target billion ability combat, I’d be playing today.

Reader
Crowe

I don’t think LOTRO is underrated. People keep raving about it and there are die hard fans and forum/blog posters talking about it. They’ve just launched new Legendary servers and people were proclaiming how awesome they were. Maybe I don’t understand how this site is defining underrated. I think it’s ok but it’s really creaking and showing the age of the engine and how thinly development is spread. I personally find it more overrated than under. That said, I’m glad folks are enjoying the recent resurgence. If the devs ever update the engine and release a 64 bit version (and do something about the ability lag), I’d go back in and give it another twirl.

Reader
Mr Poolaty

Stash