Winner: Planetside 2
2012 was promised to be the year of the “Next-Gen” MMO. Many companies such as Funcom (The Secret World), ArenaNet (Guild Wars 2), and EA (Star Wars: The Old Republic) all tried and said that their game would redefine the genre, or push it forward in ways we had not seen before. While they all did have some great cosmetic changes on the surface, at their core they were the same old MMOs in the style of Everquest and World of Warcraft. For an MMO player, this was disappointing.
These games were just affirmation that most gaming companies are not willing to take a risk and try something completely different for a change. That is, until Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) threw us a little game called Planetside 2. Usually when the term MMO is thrown around, the first thing that comes to mind is MMORPG, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. Planetside 2, on the other hand, is an MMOFPS, or Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter. Other games that have tried to claim this title in the past — such as Global Agenda — have been nothing more than heavily instanced PvP Arenas with one big social hub. Not “massive” by far.
Plantside 2 is truly the first of its kind. The entire world, which spans three giant continents, is completely persistent. No instances here. The whole point is to be involved in an ongoing war where you choose one of three factions: New Conglomerate, Vanu Sovereignty, or the Terran Republic. These three empires fight for control over different bases throughout the land. While most modern MMOs seem to stick with a hotbar system for their combat, Planetside 2 is a twitch-control FPS. No random number generator here, if you miss, you miss and if you hit, you hit. There’s even realistic bullet-drop mechanics in place, unlike games such as Call of Duty where you can nail someone from across the map just by having them in your scope. Planetside 2 also has a slew of ground and aerial vehicles used for transportation or combat. These can lead to epic dogfights, or turn the tide of the battle with a strategically placed Sunderer.
There is a leveling system in place, but that’s more to show dedication, as experience also gains you “certificates”, which are used to upgrade your weapons, leadership abilities, and vehicles, as well as the ability to buy new weapons instead of using the cash shop. In other words, the way a Free-to-Play model SHOULD be done. It’s all of this, and the extremely fun and engaging gameplay, that makes Planetside 2 Vagary’s MMO of the year.
-Jeremy Goodson, Editor
Runner-Up: Guild Wars 2
While Planetside 2 took the Free-to-Play model in a shining new direction, Guild Wars 2 took a more familiar route building a traditional MMO in the same vein as industry leader World of Warcraft. It may lack the mystique of something like The Secret World and its out of world meta-game or the The Old Republic’s deep storytelling intricacies but it surpasses these titles with a strong mix of great world building, rewarding gameplay (both single and multiplayer), an intriguing narrative and most importantly, a lack of a pay-to-play structure. In a market that constantly cannibalizes itself with each successive release there is something to be said for a game that delivers a fully featured MMO experience out of the box for one price. It doesn’t hurt that the game is insanely good on its own, friendly to newcomers and has a healthy user base that does not seem to be going anywhere any time soon.
-Chris Scott, Reviews Editor