Last week, the MassivelyOP writing crew released its award for the best PvP MMO of the year – yet I couldn’t bring myself to cast a vote this time around.
It wasn’t for a lack of games or time to play them. In this very PvP column, Fight or Kite, I’ve played and written my thoughts on PvP in dozens of different games, but something has really been missing. Sometimes it’s the lack of support for the mode, and other times it’s a stubbornness and failure to accept a certain strategy just isn’t working. There are even times when the issues are even more ephemeral and the game simply can’t coalesce into successful MMO.
That isn’t to say there’s nothing great to play. The singular game that has truly stood out for me in PvP this year would have to be MultiVersus. In my recent columns I’ve come to often reference MultiVersus as a game that has been really outstanding and punching way above its weight. The combat, the animations, the quality as a whole is honestly superb and simply not something I would’ve expected at all from an arena brawler that many (including me originally) thought was a simple Super Smash Bros. clone.
But it’s decidedly not an MMO. It can share much of the same head space and gameplay hits that I want when I sit down to play an MMO in the evening, but it’s just not an MMO. So I couldn’t vote for it. It has no right to win our best PvP MMO award (instead, it tied for our best Not-So-Massively game of the year).
So that left me thinking about all the other MMOs with PvP that I’ve played and that have made our reader polls. I could go though them one by one and tell you why I think they’ve failed us explicitly, but instead I’ll give you some highlights for ones I’ve played and would’ve considered as contenders for the award – but ultimately couldn’t vote for.
Albion Online was the MMO that came the closest to receiving a vote from me (and indeed, it’s the MMO that ultimately won). The game has so much going on that I can really appreciate. The world feels big, and there seem to be players everywhere. I like a lot of what Sandbox Interactive has done, but the PvP itself just doesn’t make me want to come back for more.
As I noted in my column on the game, the game is click-to-move, so for me the combat feels about as smooth as my grandpa’s old disposable BIC razor. It’s janky, and clicking to escape the red circle of pain is simply brutal. I do enjoy the overall speed of combat in that skills typically have a cast time and interrupting foes is a strong strategy.
Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 just hasn’t put in the effort to earn PvP accolades. The current state of sPvP is a disaster. Once upon a time I could spend hour after hour queuing up and fighting to my heart’s content. I still believe it’s the single best MMO combat that has existed yet (not that it isn’t without flaws). But I was bright eyed and hopeful back then and believed the studio could make the smart choices in continuing to improve and support the game mode.
Alas, that isn’t what happened. The mode is stale, and the matches are rampant with bots. Rather than look at the success of the original Guild War’s PvP modes and duplicate it, ArenaNet decided it knew better and could do better. Such is the folly of those who build our worlds.
Of course I haven’t forgotten about WvW, even if Anet has been dragging its feet with dawn-out betas. The lack of updates and support for WvW is an embarrassment. The game had such unique opportunity to tie in players from different servers and give them incentive to compete over territory and such. Of course, the most unique aspect WvW had was its rewards for the winning world appearing as improved gathering and such in the PvE worlds. The move to megaservers was the deathblow to all that. Without incentives, it just became another boring competition of round robin with the occasional tournament. If there’s no point in competing (and I don’t mean rewards, I mean an actual reason or purpose for players to fight over territory), then we aren’t going to do it. The mode is just languishing and sad, the test phases notwithstanding.
Overall, since Anet hasn’t changed anything meaningful for these modes yet, my opinions haven’t changed either, and so it doesn’t deserve a PvP award.
New World has real potential to be a great MMO for PvP except for the fact that it continues to gatekeep the majority of PvP behind a huge level and gear grind. I played over 60 hours or so of the game, and I’m still so far from max level that I literally haven’t participated in the actual PvP modes the game includes – that is, the Wars and the battlegrounds and arenas.
With the Wars, there’s a weird lottery that chooses which guild is the primary owner. The system amount to a popularity contest. Even if you’re in a guild that has started the war, the guild master chooses who’s on the inside track and who gets left out.
Then there’s the battleground, Outpost Rush. I had a chance to play this on a testing server once and liked the mode overall. It was a bit too big and slow for me to really want to play it regularly, but it had a lot of good ideas. And then it was locked as an endgame-only mode, meaning you’ll have to grind through PvE just to get to it.
Last is the arenas. These were actually added this year, and I was so hyped for them. I thought, this is really it – this is the moment that New World finds its PvP footing and gets the ball rolling! Honestly, if Amazon had setup and added this mode successfully, I can guarantee I would’ve been arguing for New World as the PvP MMO of the year. It promised to offer small-scale, quick bouts that also earned players experience! But of course, the studio managed to flub it. Arenas don’t normalize levels but instead group you with players in your level range, which resulted in no one queuing under max level… again. I waited in queue for over an hour, two nights in a row at level 30-something. The arena didn’t pop even once.
Truly, it’s mind boggling that probably the best part of New World is the PvP, yet you can’t play it until you’ve PvE’d for a hundred hours. No thanks.
Elder Scrolls Online
ESO, to me, is boring. So dang boring. Holy moly. I played for a few hours and just couldn’t see an obvious path to PvP. I did my research on Cyrodiil, but after the tutorial I arrived in some kind of portal hub, and I swear it just wasn’t clear at all: There were portals that mentioned Cyrodiil, but then there was another that said the best place to fight others was something else entirely. And even with all the roadblocks in-game that kept me personally out, I still know that the PvP playerbase has been complaining – loudly – about the state of the mode for years, so what awaited me was unlikely to be compelling. Clearly, PvP is far from the front of ZeniMax’s mind. I do want to give it another shot, but I’ve been saying that for the better part of the last six months and still haven’t logged back in. That’s not a good sign.
The other games all fall into a similar bucket of “nothing special” for me.
Black Desert is one that I have played once or twice but need to give more time to. It didn’t do anything particularly notable for me this year, so I passed on it.
Lost Ark has the right idea about PvP, but it’s locked behind a multi-hour PvE tutorial. Perhaps if it moved the PvP front and center and allowed players to simply login right to a PvP lobby, then we might be talking. I could see a Guild Wars-style PvP-only lobby working here.
SWTOR once, long ago, in this very galaxy, had a very serviceable PvP scene. That was of course circa 2012 or so when it first launched. It had some fun modes like Huttball, but nowadays the lack of individual queues and of course very little change in years gone by cement it as just another memory of PvP gaming. The latest overhaul to PvP in the game was literally just a few weeks ago and we have yet to see how it will pan out.
There’s just about no chance a subscription-only MMO is going to get anything from me. There are simply too many amazing buy-to-play and free-to-play games out there for anyone to toss another monthly fee into the ever increasing monthly fee pool we’re already paying for. Between movie and TV services, music, and the fixed monthly costs of living, I just can’t mentally dedicate another monthly fee on top. Then there are the space MMOs; I personally have trouble mentally connecting myself to a spaceship, so that knocks them out of the running.
That’s where I’ve fallen on my PvP MMOs this past year, and it was compounded by the shuttering of Crowfall, a sad end to a once-promising MMO. It appears that just about every MMO that could vie for the title of best PvP MMO tends to drop the ball in one area or another. Most of them are self-owns, which makes it all the more painful for us as gamers just looking for an MMO to call home every evening.
I hope there is still some water left in this stone to squeeze, though. New World has the pieces laid before it to make the game a contender again. We’ve heard the Riot MMO will have PvP. Then there’s Ashes of Creation out there on the horizon, though it’s likely to have a sub. Maybe something new just might pop up and surprise us all. PvPers can only hope so.