What [awesome casual MMO]?
May 31, 2007 2:35 PM   Subscribe

NotWOWFilter: Are there any decent semi-casual MMORPGs out there?

It's summer, I'm bored, and there's got to be some wonderful MMO game out there for me to get immersed in when, for once, I'm low on other obligations. I've played quite a lot in the past, but I'm not averse to going back to something if it's changed or I missed something big. I have previous experience with these: Everquest 1, EQ2, Anarchy Online, Planetside, Guild Wars, Vanguard, WoW, and DAoC.

I look for kind of funky things in an MMO - I like to be in worlds with lots of other people, but really enjoy playing characters that solo very well and making significant accomplishments outside of groups. A lot of this is due to my schedule, such that I can't always commit time enough to deal with grouping, as I might be yanked from the PC by some other obligation after only an hour. PVP can be fun, but isn't a deal-breaker for me by any means if it's not there. My favorite MMO experience ever was Everquest in the days before Luclin came out, if that's any help.

What I'm really looking for is an MMO that feels like something other than just an endless grind with a bunch of raiding at the end. I'd like to be able to make significant gains by myself or with small groups and not find myself a victim of the WOW style bait-and-switch of the end-game. I know that's probably largely impossible, but I can hope. I played WOW for a while and just can't do it any more, even though I realize it's a good fit for my style. Are there other games out there that fit my particular fancy? Older, newer, anything will do. Just help me feed my MMO-lust!
posted by Rallon to Computers & Internet (29 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
It's very low-tech, but if you're into zombie-huntin', check out UrbanDead. Plenty of arcane rules to learn; doesn't steal too much of your time (you can only play a certain number of moves each day); huge map ... ymmv
posted by GatorDavid at 2:48 PM on May 31, 2007

Kingdom of Loathing
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:53 PM on May 31, 2007

another low-tech option is the Kingdom of Loathing. All hand drawn and turn based. There's PVP if you want, Guilds if you want. Solo'ing is the main way to play. Very fun and a great way to waste away some time.
posted by PugAchev at 2:55 PM on May 31, 2007

Skyrates is awesome.
posted by luriete at 2:56 PM on May 31, 2007

(and free, and web-based)
posted by luriete at 2:56 PM on May 31, 2007

You might like City of Heroes/City of Villains.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:57 PM on May 31, 2007

Best answer: Have you considered City of Heroes/Villains? Not much of an end-game (at least on the euro servers) but its good, shallow, cheesy fun. Really captures the superhero feel IMO.
There are some really great and interesting 'story arcs' (a bunch of missions that follow on from each other with a story behind them)
There are also Task Forces every 5 levels which have to be completed in groups but you dont have to do them.
posted by missmagenta at 3:01 PM on May 31, 2007

Puzzle Pirates! Dorky as hell but very fun, and people are generally quite good-natured.
posted by olinerd at 3:02 PM on May 31, 2007

City Of Heroes/Villains is pretty cool. If you've ever dreamed of making your own superheroes/villains, you might spend just as much time in the insanely detailed and versatile character creator as in the actual game (like I did).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:05 PM on May 31, 2007

The first thing that comes to mind is A Tale in the Desert, mainly because it's a fairly different experience from the WoW/Everquest/etc. genre. The major caveat is that solo play isn't really that easy; the nature of the game pretty much forces at least some social interaction, though with a small group you'll be much better equipped to handle the game's various challenges. The game certainly isn't for everyone (I stopped playing it half a year ago myself) but it's an intriguing proposition.

The other one I would've recommended is Planetside, which fits the one-hour-and-out and solo-or-small-groups styles of gameplay very well (though it's an MMOFPS, so if FPSes aren't your style...). Unfortunately, thanks to Sony's continued efforts to run the game into the ground, Planetside isn't very big any more. If someone develops a Planetside-like game in the future (I'm looking at you, Huxley) it'll be worth trying.

Ditto the usual recs for Skyrates, though I'd argue it sits very firmly in the "casual" department along with Urban Dead. Another web game I tried for a while is Travian, a neat little civ-style game where you grow your empire, collect resources and field an army. But it quickly grows stale once you get to a certain size because the big bullies/alliances in town will just crush you. YMMV.
posted by chrominance at 3:11 PM on May 31, 2007

Jumpgate. Low tech, cheap, flight-sim based. Best with throttle and joystick. Enough diehard fans in-game to make it fun, absorbing enough to keep you occupied all summer, but it's not hard to put down because it was really only state of the art in like 1998 or so.
posted by SpecialK at 3:16 PM on May 31, 2007

If you like Kingdom of Loathing/Urban Dead you might want to check out nexus war. It's basically an Urban Dead clone set during a massive nerd-fight at the end of time.
posted by Artw at 3:27 PM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have to third Kingdom of Loathing. And, there is a big update coming up this month.
posted by SuzySmith at 3:28 PM on May 31, 2007

Best answer: I recently dropped WoW(reasons: the grind, left behind) for Lord of the Rings Online(LotRO). It's been described as Methadone for WoW addicts.

It doesn't feel like a great time sink. It looks great. The PvP option doesn't interfere with solo progression. I can drop whatever I'm doing in the game without feeling like I needed to play another 30 minutes for another +100 rep or get another few alchemy points. I don't feel like I'm a solo carebear and get passed up for group options. The LFG(LFF) system is efficient for when needed.

Additionally the maturity level of your average player seems above that than your average WoW player.
posted by mnology at 3:33 PM on May 31, 2007

I've had several friends bail on WoW for LoTR, but I thought it was still kinda in Beta. Anyway, they had good things to say about it.

I liked CoH/CoV a lot for a bit, but I thought it lacked for decent solo play especially in the mid-levels. Also when you get past the charm of playing a real superhero, its really just endless key-bashing without much depth to it. It's awfully damn cool to jump over a city though ;-)
posted by elendil71 at 3:46 PM on May 31, 2007

I'm a pretty big fan of Trickster. It plays much like the old Secret of Mana games, and it's totally free.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 4:14 PM on May 31, 2007

I used to play a bit of Runescape. Reasonably fun, kind of silly, and comes in both cheap and free varieties.

I third the recommendation for LotRO. It's not nearly the "race to be Uber" that WoW is, and it can easily be played in short sessions. As yet, neither of the major instanced dungeons I've been to have dropped any "must have" loot. You can go through the game and be just as powerful as anyone else by merely doing solo quests and joining the occasional pick-up for the more difficult "fellowship" quests.

And every character class solos well in the game, and each in different ways. Minstrels (the healers) solo slowly, but are hard to kill and are always always always welcome in groups. Champions are massive melee DPS machines and solo very quickly -- although they're fragile, and if you make a mistake, you can die often. And so forth. Lots of fun, and very pretty to look at, even at lower resolutions.
posted by solid-one-love at 5:42 PM on May 31, 2007

Best answer: I'm going to have to hop in here and speak a little ill about LOTRO.

Admittedly, it looks stunning. Of course, this much polygonal beauty comes with some rather hefty system requirements. I'm not saying that LOTRO is as much of a card-hog as, say, Oblivion, but if you've not updated severely in the last year or so, expect to scale back your video options quite a bit.

What LOTRO has to offer is the rather idyllic setting provided through J.R.R. Tolkien's rendered imagination. This is particularly true for the hobbits, who start off the game (after escaping a rather tedious tutorial area) in The Shire. The Shire looks just like you've always imagined ... or just like you remember from the Peter Jackson films, either one. You can even visit the now vacant Bag End.

But saying that LOTRO has less grind potential than WOW only means that a given player has chosen to ignore that very potential. Both follow similar models of questing and defeating in pursuit of experience points and virtual money. In either game, one can follow various lines of crafting and gathering and so forth.

And just like in WOW, travel in LOTRO takes time. You can't go in and expect to have a solid hour of nothing but quality playing, because a lot of your time will be stolen by the need to get from here to there.

(I could go on -- and have done so recently on my own blog -- but you get the point.)

The key here lies entirely in your approach to the game. If you go in with the idea that you're going to play only when you want, on your own terms, then that's what you're going to do. If your own disposition dictates that you will be helpless to keep your playtime to a respectable minimum, then perhaps the problem not the game, but the MMO genre entirely. My suggestion? Play what you enjoy, but play it reasonably and casually. Remember that it is only a game and that RealLifeTM always takes precedence.
posted by grabbingsand at 6:10 PM on May 31, 2007

Nthing City of Heroes/Villians or LOTRO.

City of X is just a plain fun game for me - one of my all time favorites, and I've been gaming since the Doom/Wofenstein days as a wee lass. Very very casual friendly - you can get in, do a few missions, and get out.

LOTR is also a great game - very casual friendly, especially if you participate in Monster Play. It's like DAOC's RVR except that you don't have to level. You get a normal character to 10 and then you can enter a portal and create a monster character who starts at level 50. My first time as a monster was last night, but it was so much fun that I can't wait to play it more! You can't go toe to toe with the good people (remember the scenes from the movies with 10,000 monsters versus a very small number of the good guys), but get a few friends or strangers together and you can cause a nice mess for them.
posted by odi.et.amo at 6:36 PM on May 31, 2007

Guild Wars. Simply the best mmorpg out there.
posted by PowerCat at 6:40 PM on May 31, 2007

www.pardus.at is a good one for very casual gamers. It's free (with a pay option for more functionality) and has time based turns. It's great for those who only have limited time each day.
posted by Octoparrot at 6:44 PM on May 31, 2007

I would also recommend City of Heroes/Villains. I'm a casual player and solo almost all the time, and it is extremely solo-friendly. On top of that, you can get a lot accomplished in a short period of time. If you only have 1-2hrs to play, you can easily fit a handful of missions into that timespan and feel you've accomplished something.
As well, it has the sidekick/exemplar system which allows you to play effectively with your friends no matter what the difference in levels between your characters...which is fantastic for casual players who often wind up levelling significantly slower than their friends.
posted by nightchrome at 7:00 PM on May 31, 2007

Following up on grabbingsand on my LOTR experience:

I was a hardcore WoW raider (nearly-full T2) and I've played a decent amount of LOTR (beta and some live launch) and besides the pvp element, plays like a WoW clone.

Grinding in LOTR is much like WoW. WoW far from required (I never did and did just fine, unless you consider doing MC 1800 times grinding), though it certainly helps your overall character and some raiding guilds required it. LOTR is similar. Being successful doesn't require grinding, but you can certainly grind to gain extra traits, powers, and gathering materials for crafting. The crafting system, while obviously not identical, is pretty similar. If anything, I found the crafting professions on LOTR to be a bigger time-sink than WoW. The items I crafted were always lagging behind anything I'd use at that level by just gathering while questing.

Lastly, I considered WoW pretty casual up to level 50-55, and would put LOTR in the same casual category if you want it to be with pretty similar gameplay. Don't get me wrong, LOTR and Wow can both be very time intensive you want them to, but you can also do one quest and log.
posted by jmd82 at 7:03 PM on May 31, 2007

It's really stretching the definition of an MMO, but I really enjoy Bang Howdy - by the people who did Puzzle Pirates. It's not really about leveling up, but the gameplay itself is great and it does have some of the long term persistance of MMOs.
posted by heresiarch at 7:03 PM on May 31, 2007

Funny you should ask now...Dungeon Runners, an NCSoft (COH/COV/Guild Wars) joint, just went public.

Diablo 2 style combat system, and hilarious lore that prevents you from taking the game at all seriously. Today I looted some cardboard weaponry and an Acid Wash Mask of the Unicorn, amongst other things. Supposedly guilds and trade windows will be in upcoming patches. Free or $5/month if you want bank space and the ability to equip "membership only" items.

This might be TOO casual for you, but mentioning it for KOL types who might want to have a peek as well.
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:53 PM on May 31, 2007

Seconding Puzzle Pirates and Kingdom of Loathing.
posted by davejay at 12:25 AM on June 1, 2007

Second puzzle pirates. Also not mmorg, but the other game I play occasionally is nethack
posted by singingfish at 2:21 AM on June 1, 2007

Uru Live? Its massively multiplayer Myst, basically.
posted by devilsbrigade at 2:52 AM on June 1, 2007

well, even though you say you've played it already, Guild Wars, espcially solo stuff in the Nightfall expansion with their hero NPCs as your group, is still the most casual-player friendly MMO-type game i've ever played, you can disconnect or go afk for hours and your customized NPC group will not bitch and moan.

One thing worth thinking about though, is playing an MMO really what you want if you desire a game where you can solo and disconnect without notice (and dear lord all the stupid 'time sinks'). Every MMO seems to fall back to the equation that time=success. Don't forget that there are other great games in other genre's that don't demand time in such large chunks that might be more suitable to your lifestyle.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 12:01 PM on June 1, 2007

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