Perfect Ten: MMOs for puzzle lovers

    
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Ever find yourself complaining that all of the PvE content in your MMO is nothing but shooting something in the face or chopping down a tree (in its face)? That mindless combat can be relaxing and emotionally satisfying, but sometimes you want content to challenge your brain.

When that happens, we turn to a rarity in the MMO space: Games that place a strong emphasis on puzzles and riddles. Sure, many MMOs will pepper in a puzzle here or there, but it’s often the exception born from a smidgen of developer free time. The actual pool of titles that access your logic and problem-solving centers of your brain is much smaller, so much so that this list is going to have to strain credulity just to make it to 10 (but we did it, because we’re professionals who need that nice round number).

If you’re looking for brain-benders, environmental challenges, and ridiculous riddles, these are the 10 MMOs to check out!

Myst Online

The adventure game genre has a long-standing tradition of incorporating puzzles into its progression loop, and the Myst series sits at the top of the heap of these. While the online multiplayer sequel didn’t have nearly the acclaim or runaway popularity of the first couple of titles, it did make an honest attempt at bringing multiple players together for the sole purpose of solving challenges together. The puzzles coupled with the combat-free nature of the game puts Myst Online in its own category altogether.

Secret World Legends

It’d probably be cheating to put this game on the list twice (you know, because of Funcom’s double-dipping), but no matter how it’s been handled by the studio, Secret World has contained some of the most brilliant and unique puzzles ever to be incorporated into an MMO. From deciphering Morse code to solving a text-based adventure game to cracking a safe that’s been implanted into the chest of a zombie, there are puzzles here that you’ll never, ever see anywhere else in MMOs.

Dungeons and Dragons Online

The more I play DDO, the more I’m struck by just how much this title has to offer above and beyond the standard MMO. One of its treasured facets is a love for problem solving. In fact, most dungeons are basically giant puzzles with strange mechanics that have to be solved in order to beat them. I mean, where else are you going to go to shove zombie flesh through a grate to make a hungry rat run through a maze properly?

Puzzle Pirates

I’m sure that many of you thought of this game the second you saw this column’s title, and well you should! Puzzle Pirates slammed together two seemingly disparate topics (pirate conflict and minigame puzzles) — and made it work! Activities in this game require a variety of puzzles to accomplish, and players can either generalize in all of them or get really good at one or two to be a useful part of a crew.

Guild Wars 2

Look beyond its living world content and you’ll see that Guild Wars 2 has the beating heart of a puzzle lover somewhere deep inside. Guild puzzles and jumping puzzles are the most prominent manifestations of this design, as players suddenly find themselves having to use their deduction rather than destruction to get across a high-wire portion or progress further in a dungeon.

Project Gorgon

Project Gorgon really does have it all (well, except PvP and housing), so don’t lift any eyebrows when I mention that puzzles and riddles run rampant through quests and dungeons. Fledgling players will bump into these right away on the starter isle so as to get them used to flexing their intellect every once in a while, and this trend continues on into the game proper.

Sea of Thieves

One of the mission types in Sea of Thieves are called “riddle quests,” and these blend cryptic clues and world exploration into a different take on treasure hunting. Players start with a clue that leads them to a particular landmark, after which the next clue is revealed, and so on until the treasure is located. There are tons of these in the game so far, and if you don’t feel like being smart, you can rely on others to have solved them for you.

RuneScape

While there are plenty of mindless activities in which to participate in RuneScape, puzzle boxes and treasure trails are not some of them. No sir, these take a keen mind and a measure of inner grit to solve. OK, I’m not a big fan of sliding puzzles, but at least it offers a diversion from the usual for those that are looking for it!

Smoke on the water

RIFT

Believe it or not, RIFT has some of the best puzzles in the MMORPG market, and chances are that you’ve never noticed them unless you’ve gone looking for them. Each zone has a signature puzzle that, when cracked, pays out a decent reward and the self-satisfaction of having done the unusual. There are many in the game right now, and some of them are so tricksy that you almost have to rely on a guide to take you through them.

World of Warcraft

This MMORPG doesn’t hold a huge claim to puzzles, but there are more here than you might think. Some of the world quests in Legion and Battle for Azeroth are puzzle-based (albeit simple ones), and there are a few hidden quest chains in the world that rely on various puzzle minigames and shifty riddles to solve.

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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Nordavind

On the other side of the scale? TESO. Here is a puzzle for you! Let me fill the map and world with quest markers, have hints spelled out on the HUD and also have a way you can totally just bypass it (often by using [intimidate]/[persuade]).

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jay

Have never played DDO, but man am I tempted quite often. TSW Puzzles were often so frustrating because the clues were often quite vague and just didn’t make sense. But I loved how it incorporated actual websites into it’s puzzles. It was the game that really brought ARG to life for me.

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Maggie May

I’d have to say, I loved/hated the puzzles in Secret World Legends. Always a good feeling when I managed to figure one out without having to resort to googling. Eso had puzzles but they were dead easy. And GW2 was ruined for me by the jumping puzzles.

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Bryan Correll

I’d totally forgotten that Myst Online was a thing.

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Ironwu

Lots of “How the heck do I get over THERE!?!?” moments in SWTOR when going after Datacrons.

Right, MJ?

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Rheem Octuris

If it was still around, FreeRealms would make my list

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Mykal Quinn

Free Realms Sunrise is looking promising.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Gotta go for Rift for best non-jumping puzzles. They really outdid themselves with them and with hiding them randomly.

Anyone wanna try for the Bats in the Belfry badge?

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Sleepy

Ah, glad you mentioned Rift. Really enjoyed coming across a few of these on remote mountaintops and getting a really decent reward.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

Ironically, The Monkey King riddle quest comes to mind:)

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