Massively OP’s 2019 Awards: Most Underrated MMORPG

    
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Massively OP’s 2019 Awards: Most Underrated MMORPG

Welcome one and all to Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2019 awards!

Every year, we poll our writers on 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 five years, we’ve been splitting our awards into smaller categories, and we’ll be doing that again this round. We’re also sticking with our staff decision-making format, by which we attempt to reach a consensus pick (or two) for each award, but we’ll also continue providing our writers’ personal nominations too. And we’re still including 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! We’ll be putting up one of these formal awards every day for the next couple of weeks, culminating with GOTY as always!

Today’s award is for the Most Underrated MMORPG of the year, which was awarded to Lord of the Rings Online & MapleStory 2 last year. Once again, we’ve opted to include pre-2019 MMOs for many of these awards, including this one, as long as they accomplished something truly notable in this calendar year.

And the MassivelyOP staff pick for the Most Underrated MMORPG of 2019 is…

LORD OF THE RINGS ONLINE

Andrew Ross: Project Gorgon.

Andy McAdams: Trove, Gorgon, Albion. I dunno, I kinda feel like LOTRO is rated appropriately for me – not under-rated. It was never a game that really grabbed me despite multiple attempts to get into it. But if the Massively Collective has spoken here, who am I to disagree? I travel the world and the seven seas… everybody’s looking for something… underrated ;-)

Ben Griggs: I can find plenty of things to pick on in LOTRO. The systems are outdated, as are the graphics and tech. But at the heart of this game is a vast, diverse world, some excellent storytelling, and a friendly and dedicated community. These days, the game feels like a labor of love for Standing Stone Games, but a labor that is well worth the effort.

Brendan Drain: I’m going with RuneScape again this year, and for good reason. RuneScape’s big thing back in the early 2000’s when it launched and the MMO space was sparsely populated was that it was highly accessible, running on Java in any web browser on very low-power machines. Today’s equivalent in terms of accessibility is the mobile phone, and this is the year that RuneScape took off on mobile. Old School RuneScape Mobile launched in October of last year and has been iterated on throughout 2019, while the modern RuneScape Mobile version entered Early Access this year. I think these games are examples of how to do mobile MMOs right, linking into the full game and playing on the same servers as the PC folk but just adapting the interface for mobile users.

Brianna Royce: I had a lot of nominations for Underrated this year. Black Desert, it seems to me, is consistently underrated and even left out of the top four or five games in spite of pumping out content and making gobs of money. RuneScape is in the same situation. Neverwinter and Star Trek Online seldom get their due either. But I can concede that Lord of the Rings Online is still a great MMORPG that a lot of folks are sleeping on.

Carlo Lacsina: Kritika Reboot, Lord of The Rings Online. I played a little bit of LOTRO earlier this year and I just couldn’t get into it. I’m all about graphics, and this game is not a very pretty game. The gameplay is solid, there’s so much content, and to top it all off, it doesn’t use the movies as a crutch for its design. While the game isn’t for me, there’s a clear audience for it, and I highly recommend this game for those who value gameplay over graphics.

Chris Neal: LOTRO. Long in the tooth but strong in the genre. I feel like this one always is one step away from doom but manages to keep on keeping on and soldier forward in spite of faults and odds. Which seems kind of fitting considering the IP, no?

Colin Henry: LOTRO. I was unsure what to nominate for this one at first. Then I saw someone nominate LOTRO and I thought of course. I’ve seen a lot of naysayers scoffing at this game, saying it’s dead and going to shut down any day now, but it just keeps on cranking out quality expansions and updates, and people keep showing up to play them. It is by no means a perfect game — legendary items, anyone? — but if you want a game with a great community and a whole lot of stuff to do, don’t overlook this one.

Eliot Lefebvre: Star Trek Online. As much as I think our ultimate winner deserved it, I’ve written before about how good Star Trek Online is, and I think it gets overlooked a bit because of either its subject matter or its (legitimately) maligned business model. But the game is a whole heck of a lot of fun and I love it for many reason, not the least of which being that it has a version of starship combat that is both fun and not just a ripoff of WWII dogfights. (It’s more of a ripoff of antique naval combat! So there.)

Justin Olivetti: There are a few that I like to single out for different reasons: LOTRO for its excellent world-building and community, Dungeons and Dragons Online for an MMO that is totally unlike anything else, Neverwinter and Star Trek Online for Cryptic’s patented brand of guilty pleasure gaming, and Villagers and Heroes for steadily pumping out content while finagling cross-platform play.

Mia DeSanzo: Neverwinter, DDO, STO, Trove. People forget that Neverwinter even exists, and that’s a shame. There’s a real game there.

MJ Guthrie: AQ3D, LOTRO. When I say AdventureQuest 3D, what do you think? I have watched it be dismissed as just a kids game because of the graphics. It is not. Kids wouldn’t get much of the humor. Yes it is a game the younger generations can play or watch because Artix Entertainment keeps it family friendly, but that does not mean there aren’t nuances that adults will appreciate or that it’s filled with only soft and fluffy circumstances with rainbow and unicorns. There are unicorns — they just try to disembowel you with their horn! The puns and pop culture reference nuggets are a blast to find, and there is plenty of betrayal and death. Also a lord of the underworld. The game has weekly updates, unique events, keeps in close touch with its players, and has a good community. I wish more folks would take a look at it! AQ3D steals the crown from LOTRO for me because at least that game gets noticed by Lord of the Rings fans!

Samon Kashani: Albion Online.

Tyler Edwards: Aion, Kritika Reboot, RuneScape.

Lord of the Rings Online took our award for Most Underrated MMORPG of 2019. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What was the most underrated MMO of 2019?

  • Lord of the Rings Online (23%, 439 Votes)
  • Black Desert (4%, 75 Votes)
  • Albion Online (3%, 50 Votes)
  • RuneScape (3%, 57 Votes)
  • Neverwinter (3%, 55 Votes)
  • Star Trek Online (3%, 62 Votes)
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online (17%, 323 Votes)
  • Trove (1%, 15 Votes)
  • Project Gorgon (4%, 74 Votes)
  • Kritika Reboot (0%, 4 Votes)
  • Villagers and Heroes (1%, 25 Votes)
  • Aion (0%, 7 Votes)
  • AdventureQuest 3D (2%, 35 Votes)
  • MapleStory 2 (1%, 13 Votes)
  • EVE Online (2%, 39 Votes)
  • Star Wars The Old Republic (7%, 125 Votes)
  • ArcheAge (2%, 35 Votes)
  • Astellia Online (1%, 12 Votes)
  • Skyforge (0%, 9 Votes)
  • Blade and Soul (1%, 15 Votes)
  • TERA (1%, 22 Votes)
  • DC Universe Online (1%, 14 Votes)
  • Wurm Online (9%, 176 Votes)
  • RIFT (2%, 30 Votes)
  • Secret World Legends (2%, 37 Votes)
  • EverQuest II (2%, 44 Votes)
  • PlanetSide 2 (1%, 20 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments!) (3%, 62 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,657

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How does MassivelyOP choose the winner?
Our team gathers together over the course of a few weeks to nominate and 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.
How does MassivelyOP populate this poll?
Poll options include all games nominated plus other games we thought should and would be in the running. We did not include major MMORPGs that frequently win major awards unless directly nominated by staff.

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Sykes

Although LOTRO is always a decent pick for underrated game, I felt like this year the DDO team dared to do far more. Hardcore league risked splitting an already small server population to follow a player council’s suggestion for a niche one-life permadeath ruleset that paid off in spades. On top of that, they introduced new systems (mounts) and significant content updates consistently throughout the year. Their community manager live-streamed weekly live QA sessions open to any players in addition to frequenting the most popular DDO-centric podcasts about once a month (sometimes more). They raised the most money for Boston’s Children’s Hospital during Extra Life. At a time when it feels like the industry is moving towards safer bets, its refreshing to see DDO’s team take risks basked on feedback and do something (permadeath) that hasn’t really been done before. I feel like if there’s any year where DDO could earn most underrated, this would be it.

Secondary votes would go to the Age of Empires Online community team, which completed functionality and started to release new content updates for a dead MMO while hosting for free, and to Dungeon Fighter Online, which continued to dominate Asia and put WoW to shame, following only Fortnite in worldwide revenue for FTP games (superdata) but got little coverage in the west. DFO is SO popular among my friends here in China, and its crazy to think that that the prototypical MMO a random passerby in their 30s would name in Shanghai might be completely unknown in the US. To me….underrated.

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Datom

Not sure it would qualify, but how about Project 1999? The Everquest emulator just launched their Green & later Teal servers due to high demand. It’s about as close as you can get to one of the original entrants of MMOs.

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Mallus

People that say the graphics in LOTRO are bad must not be running it with maxed out settings on DX 11. It looks amazing compared to almost any other MMO on the market.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Everyone runs it with maxed out settings. LoTRO started looking outdated years ago

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3dom

Calling LOTRO underrated is ridiculous. It’s just obsolete with its ancient graphics and animations. If the devs will release LOTRO2 with exactly the same gameplay but Black-Desert-like animations and graphics – I’ll buy it for $50+ immediately.

micedicetwice
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micedicetwice

Jesus Christ man, what’s wrong with you? First Warframe doesn’t look like Anthem therefore is shit. Now this. Play Anthem and BDO then, what stops you?

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Chosenxeno .

Voted for AQ3D for a very important and overlooked reason: When I tried it early in the year it was a legit Free to Play Game. I dunno how true this is now but it was true when I tried it and it’s a fantastic Beginner MMORPG.

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Slaphammer

For us, the MMO industry will most likely die when LotRO dies. I know this is something you shouldn’t say on an MMO website, but there are just no remaining or upcoming MMOs which we have an interest in (would love to be excited by a new MMO announcement though). We played tons of MMOs back when “theme park” was not a dirty word, but slowly and surely the games on offer have morphed into something we just can’t get as invested in.

So, we return to LotRO on a regular basis and play the latest content, and we level up some alts for a while to revisit content we haven’t seen in a long time–there is a lot of fun to be had in the “Oh yeah, I remember this part!” aspect of replaying earlier areas. We eventually drift away to other interests, but we always come back to LotRO. Some of it is nostalgia, to be sure — we have a 12-year history with the game and have real-life friendships that were forged there. Even when playing new, unseen content, part of the experience is still nostalgia because it reminds of us of exploring the game for the first time in the good ol’ days.

But also the setting and the sensibility of the game is like an old friend. It’s a comfort thing. Outside of MMOs I play some of the latest-and-greatest solo games so I understand complaints about gameplay and graphics, although honestly I think the graphics hold up better than some grumbling commenters would have you believe.

So, we will continue to play LotRO for the forseeable future. Not constantly–we take breaks of months at a time–but we always consider ourselves active players who are not yet done with that game.

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Bruno Brito

Everquest 2.

The game is extremely underrated to actually it is, but it’s also been messed with too much, and you can feel the gutting of bad management.

Doesn’t help that DBG is complete garbage.

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Dug From The Earth

City of Heroes, by a landslide, for underrated mmo this year. Especially with all the media its been getting.

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Sorenthaz

A lot of the choices here seem to be less about being underrated and more about not being popular because they’re niche games or are games that have long since lost their prime and haven’t been able to revitalize their name in the MMO space.

LotRO has been bogged down with lots of monetization shenanigans and it hasn’t aged well. It’s an older MMO to boot so of course it’s not going to be popular. Is it underrated though? Not really, there’s just better things to play at this point. Could argue it was underrated back in like 2010 or whenever but imo it’s long past its prime and it’s not doing anything to warrant going back to it. It’s not underrated, it’s just niche, and it’s always been that way.

Runescape I wouldn’t really say is underrated either because I’ve been seeing it get fairly good recognition/attention on Twitch/etc. which it’s certainly earned. Game is still a vast goldmine of content for those willing to dive into it. I’ve poked in and out of it when I feel like doing some skill grinding. It’s really kind of a breath of fresh air to go back to OSRS because the MMO market is drowning in themeparks. It does seem to have a stigma though of being kind of like that wannabe/immature MMO though because it came out around the time of the classic OGs (EQ, UO, DAoC, AC1, etc) and it was an oddity in the MMO space for its time. So RS would be underrated in the sense that not everyone is willing to give it the credit it deserves, and some still dismiss it as being a trashy poor man’s MMO. But that’s about it.

Project Gorgon could be considered underrated, but it’s more that it’s just a super niche game, especially at its price point.

SWTOR is kind of underrated but at the same time it was justified to write it off for a period because it looked like it was basically getting thrown on life support or bare bones updates like RIFT. It’s still best played as a subscription MMO.

For current MMOs I guess I’d say ESO is still probably the most underrated since it still has the “it’s not ES6” stigma yet it’s still getting content pumped out on a regular basis.

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Bruno Brito

I concur. If there is something that Neverwinter is NOT, is underrated. If much, it’s a overrated game that is completely gated under terrible monetization and timelocks.

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Sorenthaz

And that’s kind of most of Cryptic’s MMOs. Granted I feel like Champions Online is underrated, but it’s so old at this point and it took a lot of super once-in-a-blue-moon updates to really make it feel not as bad as it once was. So supporting that game now is kind of pointless unless one finds a lot of personal value in it and vastly prefers it over DCUO or CoX’s emulators.

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Bruno Brito

To be fair, CO’s monetization isn’t really that bad. Keeping ATs locked behind a paywall when you have Freeform tokens was a pretty dumb idea, tho.

I feel like the ATs shoulda have been unlocked over questing. Each AT to each contextual quest.

But yeah, overall, the game is too old and too lackluster to start supporting it now.

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ShadowReaver661

Allods Online’s p2p server

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Bruno Brito

If it had players.

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ShadowReaver661

Fair, but it is a tight nit group that works together to keep battlegrounds popping and dungeon runs every week. In my mind a game that could use more love fit the underrated title. The f2p model is horrendous, but their p2p server removed all cash shop influence. I want to see this little MMO survive.

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Bruno Brito

I don’t. I love Allods, but it should die under this management. I find awful that, as per tradition, MMO companies can pull every predatory monetization under the sun, and when people complain enough, they realize that “they were wrong” and relaunch the game under a box price.

I see that exactly for what it is: Ineptitude towards caring for it’s customers and also, the company being incapable of making new games.

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ShadowReaver661

I think I get what you are saying so steer me if I seem to be flying off the track.

I see it as a company hoping for making money in a market that otherwise wouldn’t spend the money. I am down for encouraging relaunches of MMO’s as a buy to play or a pay to play model. If the game can thrive under those setups I think it says a lot about the game on its own. If a game can stand on its own without its cash shop then I see it as a good game with a bad monetization method. If the game is utter crap without the cash shop then it is just a pretty display for the product in the shop. This game’s content is worth seeing and I am willing to support a game as long as they keep promises they make about it. There isn’t even a cash shop present in the game at all and the website has slim pickings for cosmetic upgrades. Everything else is available as dungeon rewards.