Fight or Kite: The stand-out PvP MMOs and games of 2020


I mixed it up and played more MMOs this year than in the last several years combined, and one of the best things about playing so many games isn’t just the act of playing and sharing that with you all; it’s having the chance to look back, line them up, and pick my favorites.

So which titles came out hot and fast, with fire in their eyes and a hunger in their gut that can only be satiated by eating up my precious gaming time and hard earned, fat wads of cash? Well, let’s take a look back in this last Fight or Kite of 2020 and find out.

Most time consuming, brain draining, subterfuge-laden game: Starborne

I am being completely honest when I tell you that Starborne came out of left field and knocked me over the head! It was absolutely not on my radar and even when I first read about it; I didn’t think much of it. It kind of sounded like EVE Online, but it was set up more as a real-time strategy.

Nothing about that really caught my fancy. I’m not into space sims. I haven’t seriously played an RTS since maybe Warcraft 3. And the cutthroat politics and overall impressions I’ve gotten about the effort and time involved in EVE simply turned me off.

However, whenever I took off that bow, scratched a small hole in the wrapping, and realized that what was inside was nothing like my expectations – I was completely floored. RTS as we all consider it today is akin to a game like Warcraft 3 or its ilk. What Starborne offers is more akin to some of the mobile games today where you only have enough time to do so many tasks before you have to wait to complete the next item. However, to me, it was a throwback to Earth 2025 or Travian from the early 2000s.

I played only a single month-long campaign of Starborne, but I honestly loved every second of it. And I do mean every second of it. This was the only game since Travian of yore that I would set alarms for 3:30 a.m. so that I could login and schedule some fleet movement or building upgrades.

My single favorite moment of the entire experience was with a player – let’s call him Silver. Silver was a wheeler and a dealer and asked me to assist with removing a player from our alliance so that another player could join and take the spot in the solar system. It was a primo mining location. Silver assured me the leader gave the OK and that the alliance mate was good with the idea. I didn’t understand how that was possible. I probed and asked if there were any shenanigans afoot here. He assured me that if there were, I would only be involved in the most interesting ones.

The battle royale/arena game that keeps me coming back for more: Spellbreak

I had seen several videos and was overall impressed with the concept and look-and-feel of Spellbreak, but I really underestimated how addictive it was going to be for me. I find myself logging in almost every night for at least one round of clash. It’s just too easy, quick, and fun.

It’s all too often that I think about whether or not I want to log in and play a game or not and ultimately decide I don’t feel like spending the time for a match or two. I’ve talked at length about how PvP should be completely accessible and you should have the ability to get in and out of arenas quickly. Spellbreak really delivers on that. With Spellbreak, I think, “Ten or fifteen minutes for a match. I’ll knock one out real quick.” Next thing I know, it’s been over an hour and I’m still going strong. That is something that only good games can do.

The MMO that keeps pumping out updates and is nearly unrecognizable from the beginning of the year: Crowfall

I think I was somewhat critical and harsh (in a loving way) of Crowfall near the end of 2019 and early 2020. I’ve always understood its position on being in pre-alpha, alpha, and now beta. Yet it was a tough pill to swallow considering how many years it’s been in development and in a somewhat playable state. It just seemed the devs were missing pieces that were at their fingertips.

Well over the course of 2020, the jigsaw puzzle that is Crowfall truly started to come together. It began in January with the UI changes trending away from a survival game to a more traditional MMO style. Then, in May when the War of Gods update arrived, we got access to the final class, the Frostweaver. After this, we received a deluge of content and feature updates. From the Dregs campaigns, to the newbie update with the Awakening, to announcing beta, and then sending invites to registered players.

Fighty smashy!

And all of that was only over the course of the spring and summer. Just this fall we’ve seen the skill systems taking a major overhaul including the specializations for each class and even the passive training system. The game from a player’s perspective the game today is leaps and bounds beyond where it was in January. Seriously, ArtCraft has been busy.

The game that is losing the most of my nightly timeshare: Guild Wars 2

Over the course of 2020, no game has lost as much of my game time as Guild Wars 2. This is extremely disappointing to me as it has been my game for eight years now. If we consider that I’ve been a fanatic since around the time Factions was released for the original Guild Wars, then you could say this has been my franchise for well over a decade.

While my horizons have broadened dramatically over the last few years, Guild Wars 2 has always been a staple for me. But this past year, I cut back my PvP time to almost zero. I used to begin my game nights with a half hour to an hour of GW2 PvP. After that, I’d decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my night.

Sadly nowadays, I only login to complete the festival dailies or play through the Living World story chapter’s saga. The PvP has just been so stale. I don’t know whether it’s the rewards or just the lack of diversity, but I can’t get back into it. Yet the combat is just so good. Even while I am sitting here now thinking about its combat versus other MMOs – it’s just heartbreaking. There were so many good ideas that were out there for its PvP, but it seems that ultimately the ones implemented were simply the wrong ones.

Anyways, those are my stand-out PvP games for 2020. Hopefully this time next year I’ll have a whole new set of titles to talk about. Or maybe one of these will manage to eat up all my time. Any of you have similar opinions on these titles or do you have a whole different set of games? Let me know! If not, I’ll catch you all in the New Year!

Every other week, Massively OP’s Sam Kash delivers Fight or Kite, our trip through the state of PvP across the MMORPG industry. Whether he’s sitting in a queue or rolling with the zerg, Sam’s all about the adrenaline rush of a good battle. Because when you boil it down, the whole reason we PvP (other than to pwn noobs) is to have fun fighting a new and unpredictable enemy!

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