I’m pining for the fjords.
Not in the way that would assume I’m becoming some jaded and angry MMO fan; I’m never going to stop appreciating what’s new and coming when compared to where we’ve come from. But now and again, it’s nice to just sort of sit in silence and trip backwards to games and times I’ve had previously. MMOs, MMORPGs, and multiplayer titles that I used to love but have since fallen away or otherwise are no longer with us. It’s a bittersweet trip, but I often try to focus on putting plenty of sugar in the coffee.
I wanted to share some of those thoughts here. To celebrate those times and experiences. To look back with a sad smile at the games that I used to love. I admit that a lot of these thoughts are coming from a place of nostalgia and are likely missing the granular details that ultimately saw these games fall away, but that’s kind of what nostalgia can do, and I see it as a benefit in this case.
Naturally, I’m going to start with this game, especially since it’s been the subject of conversation among the MOP staffers and is the game that spurred this train of thought (and in turn, this writing). When Landmark first announced its sunset, my initial reaction was one of a mixture of sadness and indifference. As time has worn on, however, I find myself missing a lot of its core features, especially the creative ones.
About 80% of the game for me was wandering around any given map and finding neat things to see, while the other 20% was playing with and putting together a lovely little space for myself and any visitors. The tools were weird, but robust enough that working through that weirdness made the payoff feel good. What makes this loss sting more is we’re likely never going to see anything like it ever again.
Another obvious addition (for me, at least), this MMORPG had more personality and style in it than most games out then or since. I’ll admit that the Ratchet & Clank-style visuals were the first things to draw me in, but as I played my Healslinger I found so much more to love beyond bright colors and a cartoony plasmapunk style.
In fact I loved my characters so much that I did things I would never have thought to do before, including entering PvP arenas as a healer. I loved Healslinging that much. I’ll be the first to admit WildStar had a lot of problems, but I was also willfully blinding myself to them because so much about the game was great. Especially the people I used to play with.
This game was too unique for its own good, frankly. It managed to mesh turn-based strategy with a game of chess and added a big dose of character to make it feel approachable. And it worked, bringing a game that really was easy to learn but hard to master, as overwritten as that praise can be.
I think one of the big reasons I was so enamored with this game is because of its character. I adored PuP both as a cute yet deadly robo-puppy and as a character whose gameplay was about entering stealth, waiting for a right moment, and striking hard and fast. I hope something like this one comes out again, but at the same time I still have mementos like my PuP pin and this banger of a tune.
Master X Master
Yeah. I liked this game. A lot. Mostly the MMOARPG elements, anyway. I even liked its team-based deathmatch arena. The MOBA segment, which was likely the bigger focus of the title’s development, was not really important or interesting to me. MXM was another game that was full of personality that was hard to deny. Especially with regards to its original characters — the roster of NCSoft luminaries was never a big draw.
An even bigger draw for me was the gameplay. This game was multiplayer twin-stick bullet hell shooter bliss, and I would spend many hours running dungeon after dungeon with PUGs for goodies and levels. The controls felt so tight and the ability to swap between two characters provided a depth that was enjoyable. I really wanted to learn characters and flesh out synergies. It sucks that this one went down.
Everything about Gigantic should not have worked for me. It’s a competitive, team-based, PvP’ing MOBA title. About the only thing it had going for it was an alluring art style. But then I started playing it and got almost immediately hooked. Especially to my girl Mozu.
What made this game work wasn’t just a character that I immediately glomed on to and wanted to learn, though. It was its sense of conveyance, its focus on objectives, and the pacing of its fights. At the beginning, it wasn’t immediately obvious what needed to be done, but playing a few matches made things clear, and the tug-of-war that happened in fights was extremely engaging. Gigantic still stands as the only MOBA I ever loved.
Another game that I liked in spite of nearly everything about it, S4 League comes to mind as one of the most frenetic and fun team deathmatch shooters I’ve ever played. I remember combat and movement meshing together in an engaging and delicious way that, once again, made me want to improve.
I think what ultimately killed the enjoyment was the game’s cash shop, with temporary weapons being a thing instead of something you could earn or unlock permanently. I despise temporary items, especially when they’re cash shop items. Still, I kept playing and enjoying the core gameplay for quite a long time.
City of Heroes
This one is probably one of the weirder cases for me. On the one hand, I absolutely loved the game to pieces when it was first around and was among those who mourned its unceremonious end at the hands of NCSoft. On the other hand, Homecoming appears to have brought into stark relief that I’ve said my goodbyes.
After a certain point, you have to let the past go and look forward to the things that are coming, and there are certainly intriguing things in the works, and my time with Homecoming for Choose My Adventure only seemed to affirm that sometimes you just can’t go home.
That said, I’m playing again, in my own free time with an entirely new character, trying like hell to ignore the influence of the fact that I had prior connections that have since gone dead. It’s been far more challenging to do than I ever thought it would be, but I still want to make it work. Because City of Heroes still looks and plays like nothing else out now. And because, as I said, that’s kind of what nostalgia can do.