It’d be spectacularly easy — routine, even — to look back at the year gone with derision, bitterness, and all sorts of acrid snark, but I’m not going to do that. It’s almost a fresh start, it’s still the holidays as this post goes live, and we all need fewer bitter pills in 2020. And in terms of this year’s adventures in this Choose My Adventure MMO column, it’s been a pretty good year overall, with a series of games that has once again enabled my game-leaping habits, opened me to new worlds, and overall expanded my MMO and multiplayer gaming horizons.
So as is tradition, I’d like to take a look back at all of the adventures you sent me on over the course of 2020 and recall the good times. Because we should face 2021 with a positive foot forward and a smile.
I started off 2020 with a look at a couple of mobile MMOs and found myself wonderfully surprised. I had every expectation for both of these games to be not good at all and came away feeling a lot more impressed than I expected. I’m still not sure that mobile gaming is going to be a highlight for me by mere dint of control scheme gnarliness (mostly due to my fat thumbs than any UI problems, honestly), but I’m also nowhere near as dismissive of this aspect of our genre as I once was. Sometimes, it’s best to dive in and try things in spite of assumptions.
I was so infatuated with Black Desert Mobile that I was eager to give the “proper” Black Desert on PC a shot, and I’m once again glad that I did. The Lahn is a fabulously fun class to play, the game is gorgeous, and combat has a depth and delight that I was not prepared for yet happy to unravel. If I weren’t so deeply invested emotionally and fiscally in Final Fantasy XIV, I would consider BDO a main game, but I can at least look to it as a very strong second home.
This game… baffles me. On the one hand it feels like one of the more approachable sandbox MMOs out there, even with its open PvP leanings, but on the other hand there are just a few of those arbitrary “fight or die” design decisions that ultimately stall my enjoyment of it. I at least gained an appreciation for why people are fans of the game and found it to be overall interesting, but I’m still not so sure that this is “my” sandbox.
And now for something a little different. Roblox has such a swell of player support and engagement that it made me extremely curious to dig in further and find out just what sort of MMO and multiplayer hooks there are. All in all, this was such a divergent and unique romp that it ended up being worth the visit for me, even if one’s personal idea of fun is pretty subjective. One thing was for certain, though: the Roblox creator community can churn out some truly original and fascinating games.
Star Trek Online
This was the CMA that, ultimately, led me to give Star Trek Online my nod for Most Underrated MMO of 2020. Which is still really weird considering the amount of official backing this game gets from its IP. In the end, it wasn’t really the setting that drew me in so much as a lot of the gameplay beats; STO does a lot of weird things with the canon — I will still never get over having a laser minigun and rapid-fire ship weapons — but it does it all with such aplomb and love of the franchise that it’s hard to not get swept up.
From one space game to another, it was time to bite the bullet and really, truly, finally see if EVE Online would reel me in. The answer is… no. Emphatically no. But in spite of that, it was good to affirm that assumption and I cannot fault the game completely out-of-hand as it really did have a far better starting experience than I ever recalled it having, offering a pretty solid look at all of the ways one could get hooked in. It’s just not for me. And that’s fine.
Dungeons and Dragons Online
This is easily the biggest surprise of my MMO gaming year. I was absolutely not ready for Dungeons and Dragons Online to be this good. It did so many things right by its source material, had this distinct visual and combat style that can only be described as “SSG flavored,” and had so many cool things to dive in to. Admittedly, a lot of this was attributed to the free quests that were given away at the time, and there’s the whole blunder-filled year that SSG had that pours cold water on a fair bit. Removed from that, however, DDO is a fabulous MMORPG and one I still like to hop in to now and again.
This was another surprise, but in the opposite direction. I still can’t necessarily call AdventureQuest 3D a bad game, and I 100% appreciate why it has the following it does. Very few MMORPGs have the character and free-wheeling sense of fun that this one has. However, that only carried me along so far, and I was ultimately bored by the gameplay and hated that most of the reason I was successful was because I paid for a class. There’s something to love here, but I just couldn’t fully bring myself to do so.
This one remains my biggest regret for the year of CMA. I’m both still singed by the absolute rage I saw leveraged against me and upset with myself for not making better decisions and being smarter about things. To the game’s credit, it’s trying to make starting out easier, and a CM did reach out on behalf of the game with contrition, but for me personally there’s too much damage done for me to ever want to return. At least for now. And as I said before, I do hope those who enjoy Wurm keep on enjoying in spite of my poor experience.
The Not-So-Massively mix
In something of a personal annual tradition, this year’s Not-So-Massively mixture brought some fun and some frustration: Star Wars Squadrons was not the space piloting game I had hoped it would be, Spellbreak reminded me that I’m too old for this battle royale stuff, Remnant: From the Ashes was a whole lot more thrilling than I was ready for, and Dauntless continued to be a personal beloved game. I truly hope people like these collections because I love doing them.
No Man’s Sky
What a glow-up. What an absolute triumph. No Man’s Sky has made a meal of its awful initial launch. It not only rebuilt bridges between players and itself but then decorated those bridges with platinum and gold and jewels. This game was not particularly strong in any one aspect of survival sandbox gameplay, but the complete experience — a game all about experiencing things and seeing sights and discovering stories and locations — was a beautiful thing to witness.
We’re not quite done with this one yet, obviously, so it’s just a wee bit early to look back on Fallout 76, but I am once again starting to appreciate just why people are deep into this game. The stories that are unfolding as I walk through post-nuke Appalachia are starting to grow on me and the character of the game is making an impression, even if the gameplay itself is not; I don’t think it’s too much to ask that ironsighting an enemy isn’t window dressing for combat dice rolls. We’ll see where it goes, but I at least think I get it.
I want to wish all of you reading a happy and safe holiday. I want to thank every single person reading and contributing for doing so and fueling this unique writing and gaming experience. And I want to say that I will do my best to make 2021 as fun and interesting as I can. Even when we disagree, you’re still awesome, and I am continually grateful for the opportunity to do this.