Perfect Ten: The best value MMOs in 2020

    
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She has ideas.

While there is nothing wrong with dropping some money on a worthy game, many of us are looking to be as frugal as possible when engaging in MMORPGs. It’s good to keep in mind that these games are not charity; they are part of a business designed to part you and your dollar.

Sorting out what does and does not make a wise MMO purchase is a topic for another time, so instead today we will cover the online games that give you the best value and experience for your time, interest, and (yes) money. I assessed the current crop of MMORPGs to see which ones give you the best bang for your buck while being pretty good games in their own right. Ready? Let’s go.

Path of Exile

So few studios strike that perfect balance between driving revenue and providing a business model that doesn’t annoy everyone, but Grinding Gear Games seems to have done just that with Path of Exile. The full game — including its future massive expansion — is available for completely free, and what a game it is! We are absolutely in love with this game and its studio, which is why it won a 2019 MOP award for its excellence. Forget Diablo IV; you can get your grimdark ARPG click-and-lootfest right here, right now.

Star Trek Online

I always feel like I have to preface any Star Trek Online recommendation with a heap of caveats. Yes, Cryptic pushes lockboxes like a digital drug dealer. Yes, there are some desirable races and ships that are only available for pay (or an extremely lengthy currency grind). But I also feel that STO gives away the store, because you get so much for free. This includes all of the missions and expansions, many races, and ships while leveling up. Cryptic is also in the habit of giving players ways to earn free endgame ships a few times each year, which seems overly generous to me.

Elder Scrolls Online

Our Best MMO of 2019 is also a tremendous value in and of itself. Elder Scrolls Online’s huge core game is completely free, providing dozens if not hundreds of hours of play in a top-tier MMORPG without hurting your wallet. While DLC and expansions are locked behind a pay wall, Zenimax does toss content and feature bones to its freebie community with each major update.

Final Fantasy XIV

Sometimes you’re looking for a good value that doesn’t have any hidden catches or F2P pressure points. In that case, run, don’t stop, to FFXIV. While it does require a subscription to play, a basic sub only sets you back $13 a month (which is below the industry standard) and includes the full game and all of the richness that it entails. Expansions are extra, but if you wait for sales, you might come ahead on these — and they are worth the price of admission.

RIFT

Honesty up front: The community is still unsure of what Gamigo is going to do with RIFT after giving it very little love last year, and it’s safe to say that the game is residing in limbo. That said, it is a remarkably full-featured MMO with great housing, accessible systems, a flexible wardrobe, and a mix-and-match class setup that will make you weep with joy. The best part? The huge core game and all three of its expansions are included in the free-to-play experience.

World of Warcraft

What we have loved about World of Warcraft’s business model for a long time now is that Blizzard tosses in every single expansion except the most recent into every sub. If that’s not all, in 2019 the studio added a second full game — WoW Classic — to the subscription, giving you a great two-for-one deal that makes you feel like you’re getting a great steal every month.

EverQuest II

In many ways, EverQuest II has become one of the most underrated MMORPGs on the market despite its ardent fans singing its praises over the past 15 years. One of those reasons that it is underrated is its immense value as a free-to-play game. Sure, you don’t get every class or race for nothing, but the sheer mountain of content and features that is handed to you upon entry should more than make up for that.

Neverwinter

Almost everything that I said about Star Trek Online applies to Neverwinter as well — both are, after all, PWE/Cryptic titles. This game will try to put the pressure on you to drop money on mounts, companions, and gobs of lockboxes. But absolutely none of that is necessary to have a great time in a very expansive world. As a bonus, free players almost always have a way to earn those premium goodies through Neverwinter’s barrage of festivals.

EVE Online

CCP’s switch to a hybrid free-to-play model for EVE Online a little while back opened up this cutthroat universe to a much wider audience. There’s a lot that you can do here within the ship limitations that you are given as a free player, and it’ll be a long, long time before you come up against any restrictions that might pressure you into subbing up.

Guild Wars 2

Here’s another MMO that shot up even more in value the second that ArenaNet made the core game free. If for whatever reason you have avoided stepping into Tyria so far, you really shouldn’t delay any longer. Core Guild Wars 2 is immense, fascinating to explore, and deeply satisfying to conquer. As a bonus, the studio keeps unlocking Living Story episodes for free granted that you log in during the periods of time in which they are active (though of course you can’t play them until you buy the expansion set).

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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MolleaFauss

DDO anyone?

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Jon Hall

You say MMO in the title, but all your games are mmorpg’s. PlanetSide 2 is a great value. A lot of the vets play on free accounts. A sub isnt really necessary.

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Oleg Chebeneev

If you dont mind paying 15$ every month, WoW’s value is huge. So much to do, it will take newcomers years to get through everything.

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Sarah Cushaway

EQ2 is an awful value unless you sub. You can’t even sell stuff on the AH, so no. I mean, I played that game a ton on and off since launch (up until 2 years ago), but the F2P sucks.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

Out of all MMOs GW2 and BDO have best value in terms of money – you can play them once you pay for initial game without monthly fees. FFXIV has worst value unless you enjoy great story – the gameplay is pretty generic and some people do not like slow combat.

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Drago

That list is SOOO OLD, you can see why people are crying out for a new MMORPG.

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Toy Clown

Value is definitely subjective. From my own perspective, I have a love for fluff, housing, tradeskilling, and roleplay. These are the things that guide me in not only what I want to play, but in how much I’m willing to spend. I’ve come to hate MMOs that burn the candle at both ends, subscription model and cash shop, and barely put any of that cash back into the game. I avoid those MMOs.

Currently, my current gaming staple is BDO and SWG and I find both games high value. SWG, being an emu, is free. I /wish/ I could pay a sub because it’s a wonderful thing what the developers of Legends have done, continuing to feed the project volunteered time and resources.

I can play BDO without spending a dime now that they’ve opened the cash shop wide to whales who don’t mind dropping all that cash to supply outfits and other fluff to the in-game market bought with silver. I now pretty much run BDO AFK while I cook, which is how I make the silver to buy all the cash shop items.

I feel weird playing an MMO for free, though. I recognize the time, expense and resources that go into creating MMOs. Not only that, they provide nearly 24/7 entertainment and that’s worth a lot of cash to me. Well… depending on my perspective, that is.

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Stephen Davey

I’m really enjoying Star Conflict at the moment.

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Sorenthaz

I’d say Runescape, or at least Oldschool Runescape, is another good one. You get to play a large chunk of content for free, and then the sub itself is like $13-$14 a month now, I think, which gives you access to a massive amount of content and extra things to do and work on.

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Arktouros

Value is an extremely hard concept to quantify and rank simply because it’s different for each person and how they measure value. Vast majority of this list for example is not what I would consider high value because of the large amount of game/content gated behind paywalls. ESO for example always gates their game updates behind DLCs you have to pay to access which, in itself, is fine but not exactly the best of values.

Path of Exile on this list stands out head and shoulders above the rest. With regular new mechanics both permanent and temporary being added as well as vast overhauls to existing mechanics without requiring money is simply beyond rare in the online game space.

Guild Wars 2 equally was similar in this space, but the increasing infrequency of it’s updates over the years be it the huge dry patch prior and post HOT or maybe once a quarter updates today make it less appealing.

I would probably also make an argument for Black Desert, as they regularly don’t charge for game updates or new classes (you would need a new character slot if full). They also seem to have recognized the pain points for people and have started giving away things like pets, maids and otherwise over time. That said the ability to spend is tremendous thus it’s image as a P2W game and why most avoid it.

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jay

I still wonder to this day how bdo would have ended up if they simply did a sub for it, and cosmetic only cash shop with zero impact on the game what so ever. No stats/bonuses on outfits from cash shop. No potions. No stones etc.

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agemyth 😩

Honestly, the monetization police shouldn’t allow them to charge for the base game as if it were a buy-to-play game. BDO as it is gets away with selling the game client, cosmetics (often with power), conveniences, and basically having a optional subscription.

They are monetization criminals in my book, but they often get away with it because they pump out a bunch of free content (content that keeps pulling players back into the monetization loops they design the gameplay around >.<).

edit: Oh, but I'm veering too far off topic here. I can't help it :(

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Arktouros

Really cosmetics, conveniences and having three optional subscriptions aren’t even really what’s bad about BDO’s business model.

What’s truly sinister about it is they are basically 200 IQ points ahead of the market by taking RNG from the cash shop like other mongoloids still do with loot boxes (albeit they have a few of those too) and base their RNG in the game itself with enhancing. Then what they do is they sell you ways to cope with the failure from that RNG such as preventing it with cron stones or increasing the rate in which you repair with artisan memories. All of the mechanics to enhance and improve is all in game and earned through in game activities.

Personally I’m waiting for other companies to wise up to this and see that this is the perfect solution to the lock box problem. Like instead of buying a FIFA pack and you get a random set of players, imagine if you had a random set of players and instead you had to send them out for “training” to improve their stats which was RNG based and then you instead sold a reduction between they could try again. How about buying a “sports doctor” package that prevented your player from being injured? Check mate.

But back to value, all that only really comes into play if you’re incapable of self control. I’ve played since 2016 and I’ve never once bought a costume that I then melted or sold for silver nor other similar such cash shop practices. I’m still over 280 AP (considered high end) and just progress at my own pace.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

Yes BDO does not really require any money to keep playing.

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Arktouros

They tried something similar to that in Russia, where they put all the cash shop items for in game silver and then just charged a sub to access it. Did okay, but eventually shut down due to lack of interest.

Honestly it would be tough to predict how the audience would react to something like that. You want to say positively and maybe they would be cheered on like Path of Exile’s GGG can do no wrong despite them having loot boxes and designing stash crippling new mechanics they later roll out a specialty stash tab for or 100% of their cosmetics being based in the cash shop. On the other hand having recently tried Destiny 2 there is literally zero power in their cash shop and almost no account upgrades to speak of and the bitching is endless about the Eververse.