Massively OP’s 2020 Awards: Most Underrated MMO

    
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Massively OP’s 2020 Awards: Most Underrated MMO

Welcome to Massively Overpowered’s formal end-of-the-year 2020 awards!

Every year, we poll our writers on the best and worst MMOs, stories, studios, and trends and assign awards to the winners (and “winners”). For the last six years now, we’ve been splitting our awards into individual articles so we can explain them in detail, and we’re doing that again, as well as applying our staff decision-making format, by which we attempt to reach a consensus for each award but still post all our writers’ personal nominations too. Per tradition, we’re including just-for-fun reader’s polls at the end so we can compare our picks with yours! We’ll be putting up one of these formal awards every day for the next couple of weeks, culminating with GOTY… er, MMOOTY.

Today’s award is for the Most Underrated MMO of 2020, which was awarded to Lord of the Rings Online last year. As is our tradition, launched pre-2020 MMOs are eligible 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 MMO of 2020 is…

STAR TREK ONLINE

Brianna Royce: Lord of the Rings Online, Star Trek Online. LOTRO has my heart; I continue to think it deserves much more love than it gets, not that the studio as a whole seems that interested in holding on to that love. I had so much fun with the Great Wedding content this year, after avoiding LOTRO for a really long time. But I think Star Trek Online deserves a nod too, so I can wholly support it winning Underrated this year – it is seriously underrated! It’s consistently pumping out content and holds a strong playerbase and a decent company, and it’s never, ever in a million years let a good promotional tie-in go to waste. I’m just as happy to see it win.

Carlo Lacsina: V4. I consider this game a gem in the mobile sphere. Even though it’s a mobile game, it’s playable on the computer and runs pretty well. Not many people will probably attach to this game, and because it follows the usual monetization strategy of other mobile MMOs, I understand why some folks won’t ever bother to touch this game. But it’s a no-frills grindy Lineage-like MMORPG. It’ll hold me over until NCsoft decides to release the new Lineage game, whenever the heck that’s going to be!

Chris Neal: Star Trek Online, Black Desert Mobile, AdventureQuest 3D. You know what? Everyone’s right. STO does seem to soar under the radar even if it does have the strength of the IP’s official support and some actually really fun gameplay. I’m still not a particularly big fan of this one’s business model, but my time in this game during Choose My Adventure alongside my husband really showed what this game does well in spite of itself. As for my runners-up? People sleeping on mobile MMORPGs and Korean MMORPGs are doing themselves a disservice nowadays, and Black Desert Mobile has more gameplay and more fun going on in it than mobile titles have a right to. I never thought mobile MMO gaming could be this nice to experience, and the game continues to see a lot of interesting new features.

Eliot Lefebvre: City of Heroes, Star Trek Online. I’ve long been a vocal advocate of Star Trek Online’s many positive qualities, and I think they tend to get overlooked in light of some gross decisions regarding business model or the sheer opacity of many game systems. Still, it’s a great Star Trek game and a fantastic title all around.

Justin Olivetti: Star Trek Online, Neverwinter, SWTOR. I can’t think of another MMO that leverages its IP to the extent that Star Trek Online does. With loads of tie-ins to all of the Trek franchise from the ’60s through the brand-new series, STO is a love letter to trekkies and a great game besides. I don’t even like the new Trek shows, but I’ll still play STO for its awesome space combat and often well-written episodes.

MJ Guthrie: Star Trek Online is not getting nearly enough credit for what it does. It takes a famous IP (with a major fan base) and not only does something with it but honors it! True-to-IP stories are developed and voice actors are brought in to reprise their iconic characters, both lending to really feeling like you are a part of it all. If you weren’t a Trekkie before, you could become one just by playing. Just look at the Klingon Civil War arc, which includes some very favorite characters like good old Martok! There are even plenty of events for chances to gain lots of goodies, from combat pets to high-tier ships. (Let’s just not discuss how horrifically grindy these events sometimes can get.) STO deserves more kudos and attention.

Sam Kash: Albion Online. The game is just so jam-packed with content, and the studio keeps pumping in more. You can craft, do PvE dungeons, and even complete in big PvP battles. It’s extremely accessible too.

Tina Lauro Pollock: Albion Online.

Tyler Edwards: Anthem. I’m going to go with Anthem, just because I’m still sad it didn’t get the love it deserves. The gameplay is such a cut above other shooters.

Star Trek Online took our award for Most Underrated MMO. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What was the most underrated MMO of 2020?

  • Star Trek Online (10%, 345 Votes)
  • Lord of the Rings Online (3%, 119 Votes)
  • Neverwinter (1%, 34 Votes)
  • SWTOR (4%, 135 Votes)
  • Black Desert and BD Mobile (1%, 31 Votes)
  • Albion Online (58%, 1,968 Votes)
  • AQ3D (1%, 18 Votes)
  • V4 (0%, 3 Votes)
  • RuneScape (1%, 44 Votes)
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online (12%, 414 Votes)
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 (1%, 34 Votes)
  • ArcheAge (0%, 10 Votes)
  • Skyforge (0%, 9 Votes)
  • Blade and Soul (0%, 10 Votes)
  • Project Gorgon (1%, 44 Votes)
  • PlanetSide 2 (1%, 34 Votes)
  • DC Universe Online (0%, 12 Votes)
  • RIFT (1%, 31 Votes)
  • Secret World Legends (1%, 23 Votes)
  • Aion (0%, 16 Votes)
  • Wurm Online (0%, 15 Votes)
  • TERA (0%, 16 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments!) (2%, 57 Votes)

Total Voters: 3,224

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How does MassivelyOP choose the winner?
Our team gathers together to nominate and discuss candidates and hopefully 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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Ben Lappin

Orbus VR. There are a lot of rough edges, character customization is pretty boring (although there’s a surprisingly compelling variety of play styles across the different classes), but… it’s a VR MMO! And it works! It’s got decent combat, exploration, mini-games like potion-making and dragon-racing, and aside from the lackluster player characters, the graphics are… Well, good enough. (I’ve played on Quest 2.)
Did I mention it’s A VR MMO?!

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Sykes

This is difficult….so many deserve this, for different reasons.

SWTOR, for being a AAA MMO whose playerbase spiked with the steam release this year. Events have been solid, and although moves were slow, they were all pretty much positive. I played about the same amount of WoW this year, and had more issues (stuck, freezing, etc) in Blizzard’s game. Which is crazy to think about. COVID’s impact on voice actors arguably hurt the MMO more than others, but that let devs release patches focused on quality of life improvements and bug fixes that it really needed, and I feel the game plays better for it. Deserves a nod for polish.

DDO, for reinventing itself over the past 2 years. Hardcore servers and new starting experiences, along with giving away all of its content during the worst of COVID lockdowns in Asia. It’s hard to get more value than decades worth of content for free, that also gives shop currency you can use to unlock anything else as you complete it. Deserves a nod for value, despite some shadiness from SSG or Daybreak on ownership and the underhanded ‘micro-expansion’ sells from its sister title LOTRO.

STO – I don’t play, and don’t know anyone who does. But all the commentators and news on the site makes me think that we should. There seems to be a lot going on there, and I’m not giving it the attention it deserves – which is the definition of underrated, I suppose. Deserves a nod for lack of attention from me personally.

Justice Online – with RTX on, this is the best graphics I’ve ever seen in the MMO space, or gaming at large for that matter. Underrated only because it isn’t released in the west, and I don’t know anyone else who has played it. Living in Shanghai, the opening scene feels just like the Yuyuan gardens, and the lighting is on point. I’ll admit my bias – this feels like home for me, but a romanticized medieval version. Deserve a nod for lack of attention from the west in general.
See graphics demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAe8b8CwqlU

Albion Online – I still haven’t played, largely because it is isometric and I have a hard time getting into that style, but it seems like it would be amazing. Deserves a nod for being passed over by gamers like me that don’t give isometric games a fair shake.

Reader
Narficus

> STO
Have you played Star Trek: Starfleet Command 1-3? It’s much like that, kind of fun. Well, the space combat is good. On planet/station… not so much.

Reader
Cuchulains Hound

Just wanted to say that Dungeons and Dragons Online and Star Trek Online seemed to be going neck-and-neck over the last week, and then, overnight (and just before voting closed), Albion online jumped over 1,000 (one thousand) votes. Hrmmm… incredible (literally). Just for any latecomers who are looking at the numbers. Happy holidaze, good gaming to all! o/

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Vladimir Marchevsky

That’s quite easy – someone posted link to this post at AO subreddit. And active player base of AO can be much bigger than of those two combined.

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Narficus
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Cuchulains Hound

(Update) – At the time of the above post, that 1,000 votes had bumped Albion from 13 (thirteen) votes to 1,013, when DDO and STO were both just above 300. Since then another 800 votes have landed for Albion. I have to wonder if Albion has 1,800 currently active players.

Reader
Vladimir Marchevsky

Narficus just a bit above posted a link to online comparison. Also it’s correct that this chart shows only Steam players: I’m not aware of situation in DnDO and STO but big part of AO player base on PC plays without a Steam (it wasnt available on release and even when it arrived – no migration of old accounts was possible), also there is some amount of players on mobile platforms (Android and iOS) though it’s not released in their stores officially yet. So yeah, while it’s barely known for public, it’s quite big, so falls under “underrated” reward :)

Reader
Kelly Green

Clearly, you’re upset that their vote rigging campaign did far better than what you and the rest of the SSG fanbois did trying to rig it in DDO’s favor.

Reader
Vladimir Marchevsky

Having Archeage and similar in list you can freely add Final Fantasy XIV there too. And EVE Online. And Lineage 2. And many more aged MMOs that are not trending now anymore.

Reader
Kelly Green

It’s hilarious that a bunch of Standing Stone Games sycophants are trying to gin up votes for DDO thru their forums. It matters not that the only reason that DDO would deserve to be on any list is that it’s a miracle that SSG’s complete and utter ineptitude hasn’t killed that game outright.

Hopefully the new owners will flush out the deadweight within SSG’s ranks…which would effectively be all of them.

Reader
Cuchulains Hound

2 things are clear from your post: 1) you have no idea what “sycophant” means. And 2), you have some personal axe to grind w/ SSG personnel about something that has no direct bearing on the game itself. Sad on both counts.

Reader
Kelly Green

You’re clearly upset because you clumsily fall face first into that sycophant category. You’ve got something on your nose, btw.

My axe with SSG has everything to do with DDO and their utter incompetence at pretty much every thing they do.

Their quality control is completely nonexistant as everything they release is a phoned-in, bugged out mess.

Their customer service is a complete and utter joke, and arguably the worst in the gaming industry. They’re hands down and BY FAR the worst customer service experience that I’ve ever had to deal with.

Their marketing department is run by somebody who clearly has no business in that job. Pretty sure they haven’t even taken as much as a basic marketing course.

At best, SSG is an underpowered joke. The only reason they’re still in business is because they took over two games that had a lot of potential…and the generosity of whales.

Reader
Bojan Mihaljević

Allods….

Yaeh, yeah, “p2w, are you crazy?!?!”.

I was there in a few last open betas, and on lounch, and when that update hit… I was there and i quit.

I returned few months ago…
Listen, if you are not for high end raiding, or pvp, Allods is great.
Great classes, great skills, great story… Graphics and animation, the feel… All is there.
And if you invest 5-10 e a month, you will go smoothly through the game.

Bash me if you want, but Allods is fun experience for just… Playing.

Reader
Bruno Brito

Allods is great for a WoW clone, but you’re overselling it. Everything that is not competitive has no players.

Their sub server can’t even hit the 100 players online. I’m highly sure the F2P one isn’t even on the 2k players. So you play alone most of the time.

Also, Allods didn’t age well. Games nowadays reward you better for exploring, for questing and just being a soloplayer. Allods doesn’t.

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Bojan Mihaljević

Yeahh, its like, my opinion man… :)

rafael12104
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rafael12104

Meh. I’m not sure about underrated MMO. There are plenty of underrated in that nebulous multiplayer category, but in terms of true MMO? We don’t have that sneaky wonder anymore.

A few years ago I would have said, BnS. But the game is struggling now and the Unreal Engine 4 deployment is apparently not coming to Americas.

BDO would have been on this list a few years ago, but it is being recognized now and is certainly no secret.

Meh. I’m going with Elf Butts or Elven Buttocks for the JRR purist.

Reader
2Ton Gamer

I’m sorry, but LOTRO does not deserve underrated this year. Hopefully with the new company there will be some soul-searching and some shuffling. I don’t want to hear that their communication issues this year were the result of the pending buy-out. Their communication has always been pretty atrocious and one of the weak links of the game which is ironic when it has one of the best communities of any MMO. The way things stand now, I would think that something that’s underrated would be a game I would recommend to friends, yet I cannot in good faith recommend anyone to play LOTRO until they drop the pricing shenanigans and actually fix things players have been asking for and which have been showing up on their Dev Q&A lists for over 3 years now.

Reader
Crowe

I actually found STO to be one of the more overrated games on that list. With their inability to continue supporting the Foundry, Cryptic lost me as a player. There were quite a few player-made arcs that were far better than the dev-produced stuff.

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Kickstarter Donor
Darthbawl

Something else (tell us in the comments!)

Elf Butts Online seems to be missing from the list… 😆