End-of-year Eleven: The healthiest live MMOs at the end of 2021

    
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Nin Nin

Healthy MMOs are a good thing. They have smooth, glossy coats, strong teeth capable of snapping bone, a full-throated call, and it just occurs to me now that I am looking at my notes about healthy hyenas rather than healthy MMOs. What? Don’t you come at me about my hobbies; I’m allowed to do things outside of work. So what if one of those things is raising domesticated hyenas? So what if the project hasn’t produced a single hyena willing to live with people? You’re not the boss of me.

Anyhow, healthy MMOs! They’re a good thing, which is why we take stock every year of the healthiest live MMOs currently operating and run it down for you in list form. This year we’ve had some movement, and while I would argue that just yet we haven’t really found ourselves with many surprise departures on the list, at least one regular edition is looking… shaky these days. You already know the one I’m talking about.

Reap what you sow.

1. Final Fantasy XIV

New expansion just out, record-breaking player numbers, an active and vibrant community, increasing media and community attention… yeah, I think FFXIV is doing just fine for itself, thank you very much. Every year it keeps feeling like the luster needs to come off of the development team or the game itself, and every year people keep being pleased with it and the game keeps doing what it does with a straightforward ease.

Waiting in queues sucks, sure, but it’s not the sign of a game that’s unpopular.

Hot hot hot.

2. The Elder Scrolls Online

Ah, the picture of quiet, steady competence. I don’t mean that in a derogatory fashion in any way, shape, or form; I honestly think this game is excellent at putting out a steady series of updates that expand on the core game with grace while also adding in new systems and options along the way. So actually not dissimilar to FFXIV in that regard. A practiced, easy confidence in the core game that lets it be what it’s good at consistently.

That being said, this year was a little less kind to Tamriel than usual, but it’s still doing quite well for itself.

Not pictured: NFTs.

3. Guild Wars 2

Right now being a fan of GW2 is kind of an exercise in looking to the future. You’re hyped about End of Dragons and that carries you along. But it works, in part because End of Dragons looks absolutely lit, and in part because while the studio has stumbled, it’s also hit a bit more often than it’s missed. That’s a good place to be, on the whole.

Can someone in this game's promo art actually smile? Like, a real smile?

4. Black Desert

You know what the odd thing is about Black Desert? It has a very segmented community. It doesn’t seem to have a lot of crossover with people who play other MMOs; you either play other games or you play Black Desert, which seems weird for such an otherwise large and notable game. Not that it’s a bad thing; after all, when your game is managing to put out steady content updates and classes, maybe it’s just as well if you’re kind of in your own little circle.

Sure, you get a nod this year.

5. RuneScape

By contrast, one thing I notice about hardcore RuneScape fans is that they’re convinced the game is way more important than it tends to actually be. Again, that’s not really a bad thing, but it does mean that I find some of the fans have a bit of a skewed perspective on the industry as a whole. Or maybe all of us who do things about the industry have a skewed perspective of the industry as a whole and RuneScape really is the game all others aspire to be.

But probably not. Still, with a community like that, it’s healthy and sustaining just fine by itself.

Just space.

6. EVE Online

And here’s another community that’s kind of inward-looking… but for different reasons. EVE is a bit unlike anything else out there in terms of player culture and footprint, which means that at the end of the day an EVE player is at his core An EVE Player. You’re not going to get quite the same experience from any other game, and if you crave that kind of space mining and cutthroat business world that occasionally erupts in missiles? That’s what the game offers and what it does better than anyone else.

Still phasering along

7. Star Trek Online

All right, confession time: I love STO. This is probably not a surprise to anyone, but it’s inevitable that I was going to have a positive reaction to a game set in this franchise I love. But STO is also just a game I like even outside of that. I enjoy how it plays, and if I had more hours in the day, it’d probably be something I played more regularly just because of that love.

That having been said, especially with the resurgence the franchise seems to be having, this game seems to be doing more than all right for itself, and I am here for that.

Crystallized.

8. Albion Online

This one is one of those titles that was under my radar for a long while, but it’s honestly done more than justify itself over time. Albion Online seemed like a long shot when it was first announced, but it’s very clear the development team loves its community and the community seems to love the game right back. It’s great to see! I’m so happy to see people loving the heck out of this game and how it keeps making more improvements.

LOOM

9. Star Wars: The Old Republic

OK, so there’s no nice way to say this, and I’m just going to go for it: You seemed a lot healthier before you delayed your anniversary expansion by two months one week before launch, SWTOR. That doesn’t scream “everything is going super” to me, and it kind of makes me question your place here. That having been said, while the game never seems to have regained its early momentum and popularity, the fact that it is still getting an expansion and there’s still a community around the game says something in and of itself. Still, though. Not hype about that delay, not at all.

Scowly!

10. DC Universe Online

These days it seems as if Daybreak is kind of relying on DCUO to cover a multitude of sins elsewhere, so it’s probably a good thing that DCUO keeps pulling in players along the way. It’s not a sentiment I personally share with regard to the game, but hey, people are playing! If you’re looking for a steady and non-rogue-server superhero MMO option, this is basically your best choice.

Gifts?11. World of Warcraft

I don’t know exactly what the opposite of a glossy coat is in MMO terms, but that’s what WoW has at the moment. Now, it still deserves a spot on this list because… realistically, I can’t imagine that any of us picture the game actually managing to shut down. It has too much inertia, too much corporate backing, too much legacy, too much everything to realistically just be shutdown fodder. But at the same time… hoo boy is this game ever a mess at the moment. It’s a mess in terms of player perception. It’s a mess in terms of feedback. It’s a mess in terms of content. And that’s without even considering the state of its studio and parent company.

Still, you can’t say that there’s not a healthy community surrounding the game, even if these days they seem mostly motivated by animosity and resentment. It’s a weird situation in terms of “health,” but the game ain’t going away any time soon.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten usually takes an MMO topic and divides it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. And per tradition, we’re cranking this column up to eleven with our annual special features in the End-of-Year Eleven!
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