Perfect Ten: Times when MMOs brought about world-shattering cataclysms


The notion of an in-game cataclysm is hardly the sole domain of Activision-Blizzard; on the contrary, large-scale apocalypses pop up all the time in MMOs. After all, nothing grabs the attention like the end of the world (but hey, you still feel fine)!

In a list that in no way is meant to capitalize on any expansions that may or may not be on the market, we’re going to strap on our Kevlar suits, slather our arms with 1000 SPF sunblock, and take a brief tour of 10 worlds that have dated cataclysms — and lived to tell the tale.

EverQuest II: Gods 1, Moon 0

In Daybreak’s “not a sequel so stop CALLING it that!” EverQuest II, we discovered what would happen if you ticked off a whole pantheon of gods. Hm, let’s see… advanced technology rendered void? Continents torn apart? Fifty percent of Norrath’s moons exploded? Yeah, there’s nothing like gods pitching a hissy fit.

Even though EverQuest II was forged out of a cataclysm, former CEO John Smedley once invoked deep irony by musing that EQII could still see another one in its future. There’s still a moon left — oh wait, that’s no moon! It’s a space station arming its mega-laser cannon!

Poor Norrathians.

Guild Wars: Searing memories into our mind

You gotta hand it to ArenaNet: It really knows how to spoil your mood. After crafting one of the most lovely, involving introductory areas in Ascalon in the original Guild Wars, the meanie devs brought it all crashing down by literally searing all of the goodness away in a localized apocalypse. Players picked themselves up off the ground and looked around in bewilderment at the ruin the world had become, not quite able to believe that it was impossible to go back to the way things used to be.

Unless they rerolled, but shush.


Fallen Earth: Public transportation was the first victim

Fallen Earth’s backstory reads like an ambitious writer’s attempt to cram in as many end-of-the-world scenarios in a single game as possible. Natural disasters, killer viruses, open war, zombies, mutants, nuclear missiles, you name it — and yet, somehow the chickens survive. Unfortunately, the monorail could not say the same.

World of Warcraft: A very grumpy dragon

Back in 2010, the World of Warcraft that we all thought we knew changed forever. Cataclysm functioned as a destructive soft reboot for the world of Azeroth. The old was made new by virtue of fiery explosions that rent the very earth in twain, and WoW gamers had to find their footing all over again.

As you might imagine, it made one big honking mess, which was compounded by the fact that there are no janitor classes in the game to sweep it up (the next hero class, perhaps?).

Remember me? Someone is hoping you don't!

Tabula Rasa: Space invaders

Talk about one whopping motivation to kick butt! Back in the doomed Tabula Rasa, an alien invasion force known as the Bane not only attacked Earth but proceeded to exterminate humanity and civilization on such a massive scale that only a handful of survivors escaped.

As one of those soldiers, players had one mission: to take the fight to the Bane and ultimately reclaim Earth. Happily, in the final days of the game, marooned players were treated to a return to their home planet at last… but it was almost unrecognizable. And we’re not just talking New Jersey, here. Like, the whole place.

The Matrix Online: I took the blue pill

Another canceled MMO, another post-apocalyptic Earth. Tenuous connections, don’t fail me now!

As we all know from our history books, the machines we created ultimately went to war with us, we nuked the planet, and the machines used our bodies for power while sticking our minds in a virtual world. Then, Agent Smith, Elrond, Megatron, Rex the sheepdog, and V started multiplying like crazy, requiring a little MMO smackdown.

It’s too bad The Matrix Online went offline because it taught us an important lesson: If the world is becoming a pit, it’s time to escape into a crazy-fun MMO!

Always the level.

City of Heroes and Champions Online: Metropolis Now

Other than sharing a superhero theme and the mind-loins of Jack Emmert, City of Heroes and Champions Online both had something eerily in common: the prior destruction of a major city.

In CoH, Paragon City was invaded by the alien Rikti in 2002, reducing large swaths to rubble overnight and requiring the construction of large force fields to limit another incursion. Champs went even further with the city-kablooey theme, as Detroit was obliterated by a massive superhero vs. supervillain battle and then rebuilt as Millennium City.

Meanwhile, in the real world, we Detroit residents are still waiting for the whole “rebuilding” thing to happen. Stupid superheroes.

Final Fantasy XI: Crystal geth

Just prior to the events of Final Fantasy XI, the Crystal War nearly destroyed the world. The author attempted to research this claim by reading the FFXIclopedia entry but was stunned into a light coma by the excessive apostrophes and powerful sentences like “Even with a mountain of their own dead to impede their advance, the endless waves of Quadav continued to push forward.”

Go Quadav! That’s the spirit! Ignore the pile of goo that used to be your best friend’s face!

Final Fantasy XIV: The end of Eorzea

The first couple of years of Final Fantasy XIV were an unmitigated disaster that couldn’t be handled without a full-fledged reboot. So Square-Enix gave permission for the game to be taken offline and completely reworked, resulting in the much more successful A Realm Reborn.

But in a stroke of genius, one the final day of the original version, the studio completely pulverized the world in a massive six-minute cinematic where a red moon with a very nasty inhabitant crashed down to rain chaos… but not before many of the denizens of the world could be swept forward in time.

RIFT: Defiant to the first

While the Guardian faction was introduced to the world of RIFT by playing a prologue set in the past, Defiant players got a much more interesting experience. They got to jump into the game on the very last day of the world’s existence, where terrible forces were rending the planet asunder and everyone was powerless to stop it. Only after the despair set in was the player allowed to leap backwards in time and attempt to prevent this horrible apocalypse. That’s a pretty cool start!

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at or with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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