Perfect Ten: The MMOs with the best value going into 2019

    
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And on and on and on...

Here we go, here we go, here we go again. This one is always an interesting column to write because there’s a certain amount of back-and-forth inherent in making this column not just read as “the healthiest games, only justified for a different reason.” It has a lot of the same entries, which is probably in part a sign that the healthiest games are also, well, doing something right in terms of business models.

But there are some differences, and there are some games whose questionable health has more to do with corporate antics than a major failing of its business model. So let’s run down the best value for 2019, the games that give you the most bang for your buck. Or, in many cases, your absolute lack of a buck. You won’t spend anything.

Working.

1. Final Fantasy XIV

First and foremost, I think it’s important to note that this list is by its very nature a bit less ranked than others; after all, you’ve got your best value for a free-to-play game, your best value for a buy-to-play game, your best value for a buy-to-play-plus-subscription game, and so forth. A lot of these games have different wrinkles to their individual business models and few of them have something that’s exactly the same, so a certain element of the list order just comes down to what the writer wants to put first.

As it happens, the writer is me, and so I’m putting Final Fantasy XIV first. If you want a subscription game? Your options are pretty limited, but FFXIV justifies its subscription price well with clockwork updates and keeping its expansions bundled together for one (cheap) cost. It’s an old model, but it justifies it with quality.

Oh my.

2. Path of Exile

Ever have a game that isn’t your personal style of game but still manages to push all of your buttons? That’s Path of Exile for me. I don’t play, I likely never will play, but in terms of free-to-play titles I can’t think of another game that gives you more for less. It’s a game I like to hold up as a principle in action: The free-to-play model works best when you want to support it from enjoyment rather than feeling like you have to pay to avoid inconvenience.

Here we go again.

3. The Elder Scrolls Online

Meanwhile, here’s a game that’s continued to impress me more and more as it’s gotten older, and it’s not even the only one on this list! You can argue that The Elder Scrolls Online can be a bit stingy about what you get for just buy-to-play without subscription, but I think that’s part of what makes it feel like a good value for the money; you aren’t locked out of the game without subscribing, you can just buy expansions if you want, but you can also subscribe and go that route. It’s options, in other words.

I'm alive! I promise.

4. Guild Wars 2

On the other hand, perhaps you’d rather just buy the game and expansions and otherwise not drop a dime, and if that’s the case? Here you go, enjoy Guild Wars 2! It’s actually been doing a pretty good job this year of keeping up its regular content updates, too; my own memory managed to skip over the fact that ArenaNet was updating pretty much quarterly this year.

If this went away, I would be pissed.

5. Trove

Here’s something that gets on this list largely because Bree always chimes up for it because Bree is actually eager to spend money in Trove’s cash shop. This is notable, since Bree is generally not the sort who’s eager to spend money on anything, and she lacks whatever stupid part of my own stinginess seems to evaporate as soon as I have money. “Oh, $25 for a new costume in a game? Sure, that seems reasonable! Wait, where did my money go?”

Leaving that aside, though, Trove provides a whole lot of all-ages general interest content and a wide spread of different things to do, and it provides almost all of it completely for free (the endgame is considerably gated and pay-to-win, but the casual early-to-midgame is cheap). Past a certain point you can feel like you’re getting too much for free. That’s a sign something is good value for the money.

Cluster of stuff.

6. EVE Online

The thing about EVE Online’s value is that there is really nothing else like it, and you get a whole lot of it even just for free. Sure, there’s a lot you can’t do as a free player, but the core experience of living in a space world full of space-sharks? Yeah, that’s right there from the word go.

I should stress that these are metaphorical sharks… I think. Are there actual sharks? Someone let me know.

Regardless, while its free-to-play experience is more like an extended demo than a true “never pay money” existence, you still have options and you can shrewdly trade your way into playing completely for free. So let’s hear it for the value of EVE.

Uh... hmm.

7. EverQuest II

I have never made a secret that I don’t think much of EverQuest II, but that’s more because of its pedigree (hello, Daybreak) and the fact that its world keeps making me flash back to endless tabletop campaign worlds that thought they were the first to think up “what if we did Tolkien’s fantasy world, but with more stuff?” And that doesn’t change the fact that EQII has a whole hefty pile of content available, both for free and for an eminently reasonable purchase price.

Plus, you know, this game will probably have a new expansion every year until the heat-death of the universe. It just feels like it’s timeless.

gotta go to space

8. Star Trek Online

I don’t think this year has been a banner one for Star Trek Online in terms of health, but the reality is that you can jump into the game right now and enjoy years of content for the low price of absolutely nothing. Sure, the writing can sink into “adequate Star Trek fanfic” levels at times, but the same is true of most actual Star Trek series. And the stuff that’s good? It’s really good.

Yes, you can argue bits and pieces of its business model and the merits of paying for a pack or just playing free, but it’s still good value for your price of entry no matter what.

tappa tappa tappa

9. Warframe

There is exactly one reason why Warframe isn’t rated higher, and that’s just an unfortunate part of its nature. The core of the gameplay is very much about trying out and mastering different frames over time, but the game gives you so few options early on that you’re pushed to buying a frame or two just to get a toehold. So that’s a bit unpleasant, especially when the game’s core loop is – again – building frames yourself.

And all is quickly forgiven once you get to the shooting because my gosh, the actual mechanics of the game are a joy and the gameplay is outstanding. Sure, it has failings, but in terms of what the actual game is and how it works out there’s little better. It’s a bit obnoxious to buy a frame based on guesswork, but I don’t regret the purchase I made.

I know when I'm not wanted.

10. World of Warcraft

All right, let’s be real here, Battle for Azeroth is just plain bad. It hasn’t yet had the patches to see if it’s going to be bad all through its lifespan or just for a while, but bad is bad. But subscribing to World of Warcraft gets you a whole lot of expansions and content, and while you might have to dig a little bit to find the fun at times, for the price of the title you can get quite a lot out of it. And if you’ve somehow never played the game, there’s sure as heck a lot to do before you bump up to the latest expansion.

That's not very cash money of you.

Yes, there are honorable mentions

Just like the last list, there are games that nearly made their way onto the list; Blade and Soul and Black Desert Online both nearly got into the top 10, but ultimately both fell just short. Others were up for nomination but otherwise had stumbles at the end; as much as Lord of the Rings Online has good content, its expansion pricing and gouging is just a wee bit hard to ignore.

I also have to mention Project Gorgon, which is a game that offers a value in uniqueness alone. There may be a pressing need in your life for the ability to turn into a cow and play as one forever, and look, this is your game. That isn’t a criticism; it’s just impossible to offer your additional feedback on the merit of cow-transformation as a value metric.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”

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Anton Mochalin

Warframe absolutely doesn’t push to buy frames for platinum, I’ve bought 2k plat when I began to play the game (I just liked the game and decided to support the devs – that was ~4 years ago) and have never bought any frames or weapons for plat. Actually I still keep 1.5k of those 2k plat I bought 4 years ago. So I’d say the author is just not very familiar with Warframe. It should be at least in the top 5, above Trove no doubt.

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David Harrison

I’m glad to see that EverQuest (the original) was not part of this list. It’s time for people to realize just how bad of a game it really is. That being said, I don’t know of any current MMORPG that is worth playing right now. That’s sad, but there are a lot of non-MMORPG games out there at this time that are well worth your time playing.

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MassivelyMacD

I would like to correct the statement about Warframe a bit.
On Venus – the second planet you can reach and easily reachable within the first hours of gameplay – the boss is Jackal, which drops the parts for the Warframe Rhino.

Rhino is one of the strongest frames. He will carry you throughout the whole solar system. Which means that you can reach more or less any other frame using Rhino alone. There is absolutely no need to buy a frame. Plus, this game has an extremely friendly community. One request in recruitment chat for help on a specific task and you are good to go.

Additionally there are Banshee, Nezha, Volt, Wukong and Zephyr who can be obtained by just being in a clan from the clan dojo.

I have 800+ hours in Warframe now and I did not buy a single equipment item from store, all through gameplay only. Once in a while I buy plat to support DE and have quick access to more slots, but that’s it.

Warframe is the most lightweight F2P game in terms of moneytization I have come across so far.

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Hirku

I’m still one of those mythical new WoW players, and from that perspective the value for the $15 is off the chart. The new stuff may turn out to be bad like everybody says, but it’s so far off it’s not even worth thinking about.

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rafael12104

I’m slowly coming to the conclusion, that xpacs should be free. Yes, even in sub games.

We aren’t doing devs favors. We play a game and stay playing because of what that game has to offer. An xpac, IMO, is just fulfilling the promise of staying relevant.

I understand the idea behind paying for content that is more than a bug fix and a dungeon. But, after thinking about it, charging players for the pleasure of continuing to play a game is nothing more than a cash grab.

All the games I’m playing currently have turned to free xpacs and content of all types without paywalls. And whenever there is a big drop, players flock to these games and enjoy the new areas, stories, dungeons etc. and spend money in the cash shop which is quite profitable for devs.

So, I’m hoping the free xpac trend will spread. And I might just start limiting my gameplay to only those games that offer full access without any additional charge for new updates.

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Vincent Clark

Hmm, I’m not sure about that. The only MMO I play currently is FFXIV and their expansions (in my humble opinion) are nearly an entire game worth of content added to the existing game. I’ve always looked at the sub being for the every-3-month updates which themselves include a ridiculous amount of content.

But, maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way?

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rafael12104

Hmm. I see your point. And the thing is, with FFXIV they deliver the complete experience. It isn’t watered down. An xpac is like a new game.

And yet, most xpacs aren’t quite what FFXIV delivers. So I guess it depends on what is being offered.

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IronSalamander8 .

I haven’t played some of these so judging the value compared to others is difficult. I do find FF14 to have a decent model in general but not sure if its the best.

BfA is indeed bad. I really liked Legion but BfA felt like Legion with the fun vacuumed out of it. It started off well with the impressive troll capital city and some other features but they fell flat and I cut my sub over how bad it is. WoW does have a good value overall though. There’s a lot to do for your sub money.

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Oleg Chebeneev

In terms of sheer amount and quality of content, WoW is the best MMO for value hands down. Runescape and EQ2 are somewhere close by, though EQ2 was always more about quantity than quality.

((Edited by mod to remove blatant ad hom. I’m not giving out any more warnings, Oleg. Knock it off.))

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Steven Williams

I’m surprised that RuneScape isn’t on this list. Even if a lot of the multiplayer content is dead in RS3 (as is the community, dropping down to ~20k average per day compared to OSRS’s bajillion and a half), there’s a LOT to do.

If this list were about content released per year (unclear if that is a factor here), RS3 has failed brutally in its content release “schedule” for the last 2-3 years, and while OSRS releases frequent updates they are small compared to the likes of GW2, FFXIV, etc. If the OSRS community doesn’t vote down the new skill/Elf City/Zeah Expansion/etc, then I could see OSRS on the list for next year.

…I honestly think we need an OSRS person on this site.

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Skoryy

FFXIV is the best value if you never ever touch the cash shop. However, let’s take a look at the Mogstation: Wardrobe sets? $18 per character. Account-wide mounts? $30. Fancy weddings? $20. Really fancy weddings? $40. Emotes? $7 or more – per character. Playing catch up to all your friends already at end game or want to powerlevel an alt? $25 to level 60 isn’t a bad deal at all, but you’re tacking on another $43 to skip the main story quests – which is more than the $60 you’re paying to get a WoW alt to 110. All told, that’s really a lot of money for a game where I’m also paying for subs and expansions.

Dinging WoW because BfA isn’t all that kinda misses the point of this being the best value. I’ve only hit up the WoW cash shop for a level 110 boost and the baby yeti mini. I didn’t have to hit it up for outfits, emotes, weddings, and skipping mandatory quests. As a matter of value as far as sub models, WoW comes across a lot better.

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Bruno Brito

Hum…complicated. I find ESO to have relatively good value, but i’ll be honest, some stuff bums me out, like not being able to use my trophies on my home because i’m not a plus member.

The game i got for the promotion ( core + morrowind ) seems good, but i’m not fond of buying packs to play. Not my style.

Which is a similar issue i see with GW2, but waaaay less costly, since it’s just two xpacs. I find GW2 to be the best value right now, but the game itself has some heavy drawbacks.

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rafael12104

The trophy limitation is stupid and petty. They should change that straight away.

Reader
Armsman

Again, given the state of CCP and EVE is general, I don’t see it as an MMO with the ‘Best value’ especially considering that CCP can barely keep it going of late even after their acquisition by a larger developer; and we have yet to see just what said ‘new management’ will impose..