Massively Overthinking: When the original MMO is better than the sequel


A few weeks ago, two lovely gamers I follow on Bluesky were discussing how let down they felt by Diablo IV, less because Diablo IV is particularly bad and more because Diablo III is really good and holding up better over time. It caught my attention because y’all know I really enjoyed the heck out of D3, and I’m not the only one; MOP’s Tyler and Carlo have both discussed at length what D3 got right compared to its newer sibling. You can say it’s nostalgia, but if that were the case, we’d all be pining for D1 and D2 instead of D3… right?

So for this week’s Massively Overthinking, I want to talk about sequels to MMOs and other multiplayer games that don’t quite measure up to the original because we actually have quite a few sequels floating around in MMO land – and a whole bunch of spiritual successors too. Give me an example of an original MMO that is better than the sequel – and tell us why and what happened along the way. (And if you don’t agree any originals top their sequels, tell us why you’ve picked that hill to die on!)

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I’m having a hard time with my own question because I don’t think EverQuest holds a candle to EverQuest II, and while I loved Guild Wars a lot, I think Guild Wars 2 is practically a different subgenre of MMO as they’re not even trying to do the same things, so I hesitate to say one is better than the other (I love all my children equally and so forth). Even Asheron’s Call II, which flopped super hard, wasn’t without significant improvements on AC1.

If I have to pick something, it’s be Champions Online vs. City of Heroes, both originally made by the same studio. I didn’t mind Champs, really, but CoH was always going to be hard to beat. I especially liked what City of Heroes became after that Cryptic founding core broke away to build Champs, so it’s no surprise to me that Champs wasn’t really my thing. Had they not done that, I’m not sure later-era CoH would’ve caught on with me quite so strongly.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX, YouTube, Twitch): I’m tempted to say Guild Wars 1 is better than the sequel. While GW2 is a proper MMORPG and ArenaNet always maintained GW1 wasn’t, I liked the original better. For me specifically, it’s in the combat system and the aesthetics. The armors looked better, I like how there were lots of different options for high heels for the female characters, and most importantly the animation was much better. I like the animations way better in GW1 than in GW2.

I also like how combat feels so much better in GW1. It’s much slower and methodical. If GW3 ever comes out, I feel like a little bit of instancing, similar to how Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis handles it, would be way better

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I can’t immediately think of any proper MMORPG that wasn’t improved by its sequel, so for me I’m going to have to reach into multiplayer games as well as into antiquity with my answer: Unreal Tournament vs. UT2K4.

Now I will admit that my memories of both games are pretty fuzzy as well as very likely rose-tinted, but I seem to remember that I had a lot more fun with the original Unreal Tournament even if the 2004 version was kind of more of the same. I also am pretty sure that the custom map scene of the original was far more interesting, meaning I had a lot of variance to enjoy in my matches.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Two early examples in this industry lie with the EverQuest and Asheron’s Call franchise. Both attempted to bring out “next gen” MMOs that were clearly designed to steal most of the original game’s playerbase — and both didn’t really succeed in that. EQII is fine in its own right, but the original EverQuest is by far the more popular. And Asheron’s Call 2, while being a technically superior title, positively flopped on release.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I’m not really the right person for this one. As nostalgic as I am – I did just play Ravendawn primarily because of its retro styles, after all – I still don’t think there’s any OG MMOs I’d put above the sequels. Even as much as I loved GW1, I wouldn’t place it above GW2. Older MMOs just tended to be less flexible in some ways that I can’t go back to.

Tyler Edwards (blog): My thoughts on Diablo III and IV are already well-documented and were mentioned in the intro, so I’ll throw out a real hot take: Despite the immense time I’ve put it into and some fond memories of it, I still don’t think World of Warcraft quite does justice to the legacy of Warcraft III. I wish the franchise had stayed centred on RTS. It’s Warcraft, not Twenty-Five-People-Bully-One-Raid-Boss-Craft.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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