Leaderboard: Do you care more about story or combat in MMOs?

Oh, this... keeps my feelings where they were before, really.

After E3, VG247 posted up an excerpt of an interview with Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt Red that included a startling comment: The studio never had “combat designers” or “encounter designers” for its previous games. Part of that was budget, but part appears to be the company’s underlying belief that story is paramount rather than the punching and the killing.

“In our game, in our company, always story design, so the story goes first with everything,” the studio’s Pawel Sasko told VG247. “So the thing is that the quest designer and writer, they together figure out the story, the scenario. The quest designer writes the scenario, and then based on that we implement it. […] When it’s implemented our writers write the first dialogues and cinematic designers start making first scenes and so on. And we work together – quest designers, cinematic designers – to implement and make it perfect.”

Now, Cyberpunk 2077 is not an MMO – we don’t even have multiplayer officially confirmed yet – but we’ve certainly seen MMORPGs that have fantastic storytelling where the combat is, well, a bit on the weak side. You know the ones I mean. You know because a lot of you play them anyway, as do I. Other folks? Look, if that combat doesn’t feel like butter, they don’t care how good the story is.

Do you care more about story or combat in MMOs? If there one you’d sacrifice for the other if pressed? Or is there something else way, way more important than both?

Leaderboard: Do you care more about story or combat in MMOs?

  • Story over combat (34%, 119 Votes)
  • Combat over story (33%, 115 Votes)
  • Both equally or bust (28%, 97 Votes)
  • Something else over both (4%, 14 Votes)
  • Other - let us know in the comments! (1%, 4 Votes)
  • No response / cybernetic elf butts / view tally (1%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 352

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There’s a minimum threshold of combat satisfaction the game needs to fulfill.

It doesn’t have to be BDO or B&S level, but just a minimum threshold.

After that, story is #1 for me personally.

ESO, The Secret World, and SWToR were very enjoyable.


If the gameplay isn’t good, I’m not going to force my way through it to see how a story ends. Honestly, if the gameplay is “meh” the story needs to be pretty decent for me to stick through. (sorry, Dragon Age 3, you got dropped at ~50% through)

If the gameplay is good enough and the character building is deep enough, I can be entertained through even the occasional boring stories. (Rift’s story rarely interested me)

Mykal Quinn

Combat is what gets me into a game, story is what keeps me playing.

Oleg Chebeneev

Combat by far. I play singleplayer games for story. Good combat system is very important for me in MMOs where I spend most of the time fighting.

But i can totally play MMO with great story if combat sucks. Or otherwise


I voted for story over combat, but my actual reaction is a bit more nuanced. I’ll stay for a mediocre story if the gameplay (including combat) is great, or a good story if the gameplay is pedestrian. My bar for story is a little higher than that for combat, but if either gets too painful, I’m gone.

Blade & Soul hit the story bar for me – at one point I’m being told by this two-bit villain that if I don’t (literally) give him the power to destroy everything, he’ll (dun dun dun) destroy this village! Bwahahaha! Take that “hero” – you have no choice! Do my bidding
The combat was fun, the world was beautiful, and the rest of the game was acceptable – but I hit a hard fail on the story, and haven’t ever gone back.

I don’t think I have a “combat so bad I couldn’t stay for the story” example. SWTOR, in its current incarnation, certainly doesn’t have much going for the combat. If it wasn’t Star Wars, and the stories weren’t fun, I wouldn’t ever play it at all – but I do still go back to it.

I’ve certainly had games where both left me thinking “huh. OK, who thought this was going to be fun on any level?” But usually MOP saves me from those… :)


Immediately all i thought about was ffxiv and voted combat over story. The story parts for me become stupid long in that i want to play sometimes ffs, the game is a little to corridor for me at times, no way i’m saying it sucks, far from it, it’s an amazing mmorpg, but the long hallway quest lines get a bit much for me.

Then read your post and yea BnS was the most memorable mmorpg story of all time? Sure a little cliche at times but come on, Hajoon omg when (no spoilers) but yea i felt that and was playing with my son and he was so upset lol well me too was a great character, and then you have moments like “…and what is your name little one?” “J… Ji… Jinsoyun” MIND BLOWN!!! So yea totally story over combat for me there.

End of the day i still think combat has to be the better part of the two and a good story helps a lot if it’s at least a decent tale.


If the combat sucks, I’ll never stay for the story.


Combat all the way.

I dislike developer-led stories in games (meaning quests/narrative – I enjoy player stories, i.e. the player’s ingame history). The first and most important reason is that my actions as a player almost always contradict the story, making it non-sensical. In order for devs to provide a story that is coherant with what I do as a player, they must restrict my actions too much for me to enjoy it at all.

The second reason is that stories in games almost always suck! I read a lot of books and watch my fair share of films. Those mediums are just vastly superior for telling a story, especially books. Games are just weak for story. Not only is the medium not very good, but the actual stories they attempt to tell are also usually pretty generic.

It is a very rare day that I enjoy a story in a game.

Combat, on the other hand, can be amazing! It is not something dictated to me by the developers, combat is me taking charge and making my own decisions. With a well designed system, combat also becomes a method of self-expression and a great way to roleplay. Combat is actual gameplay, whereas story is just passive.


Combat has to be engaging it’s what mmorpg’s are, outside gems like swg they are all combat it’s waht you do 99.9% of the time lol, a good story or stories helps so much in that you have a reason you are doing what you are doing, i find them almost essential or you just burn out on the endless slaughter.


That all depends on why you are in combat.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind having stories in games as long as they are optional. Nor do I mind having a story where my actions are actually taken into account and have a genuine effect on the world.

But that doesn’t happen in MMOs.

The story we get is 100% passive – we absorb the story and have no say in it. The story is usually mandatory – because XP and rewards are attached to it. Our part in the story (as players) is also completely redundant, seeing as nothing we do has any effect.

Story just isn’t gaming.

Robert Mann

Story = Systems. General design trumps both.

Combat is merely one system which can enhance a game. Story is merely one other way to enhance a game. Either can be the focus of a game. Games can focus on neither.

Loyal Patron

I don’t believe that they need to be mutually exclusive. But I also believe that a really in depth world filled with great systems is more important than both personally. My favorite games of all time Are EQ1, ESO, FFXIV, and BDO. Each of them has sooo much more to offer than just story and combat.

A really well done world just draw you in, and make you feel as though you are living in their world, not simply a transient visitor.

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Loyal Patron

For an MMO? Combat followed by content accessibility. While I’m a big fan of story that’s not what attracts me to online games. The lore and worldbuilding does need to be internally consistent without using the “because maaagic” cop-out.

For Single Player games, then story is primary with combat and the gameplay loop as close 2nds.

Example: FF:XIV’s Shadowbringers has a great story for those invested in the game’s story arc. I just finished said story and now trying to figure out how to get my $15/mo worth out of the game.

Catching up on 17 years of single player games and my tower of unwatched DVDs is starting to look attractive.