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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.