April 2021 MMO Rankings

We played 11 MMORPGs over the course of April. Rankings are on a 0–6 scale, with 4–6 being recommended, 3–3.9 being borderline/average, and under 3 being not recommended.]

I (Aun Egg) am heavily biased toward games that provide a unique experience, have lots of options and flexibility in gameplay style and character builds, and universes that have well-designed lore or at least sufficient discoverable pieces in game for me to construct a meaningful description of the game’s universe. I tend to seek out the most obscure of the MMORPG genre given I tend to have more fun with bug-ridden MMORPGs with unique systems and settings than a highly polished, standardized big budget title. Keep that in mind with my numerical scores. Sure — I’d give Black Desert Online a “3” and Earth Eternal a “5” — but if I had to write a completely objective comparison piece of the two games, BDO would likely decimate EE.

If I compare this list of games as objectively as possible, there’s not a single game on this list I’d feel comfortable giving a strong recommendation in favor of, nor is there a single game I’d feel comfortable giving a hard not recommend to. This is the month of “just barely better than average” MMORPGs, with only our two least favorite games on the list having anything resembling MMORPG levels of cash flow.

If you want to play a game that’s not “dead”, the only games that never fell out of the 100–1000 range were Furcadia and Puzzle Pirates. Earth Eternal’s only publicly advertised server is currently down for an extended period. I’m the admin of the only Mystica server I’m aware of and it has peaked at 4 players. Kakele might be in the 100+ range, but it’s uncertain how many use the standalone clients or play on mobile devices. The average population using the Steam version is around 10. Pokemon Blaze Online seems pretty active and stays around the 50–250 range when I’ve been on. FSO3 peaked at 4 during my playtime. I’ve only seen 4 other players on the PvE server of Crowns of Power and it wasn’t uncommon for me to be the only person in a given zone. Project Wasteland and Mad Pack also stay in the less than 10 population range.

So, if you are looking for a populated game:
- Furcadia, Puzzle Pirates
- Pokemon Blaze Online, Kakele (during peak hours)

Only one of those 4 that involves you creating a character and going out in the world as your character like a typical MMORPG: Kakele.

You’ll probably just want to bring your own friends for any of these games, if you want to be social and/or play an MMORPG with other players around.

[1] Earth Eternal (5)
“MMO Necromancy” series

Scores: Aun Egg — 5, Aun Meg — 5
Descriptors:
Fantasy, Comic/Stylized, MMORPG, Tab Target Combat, Free-to-Play, Cash Shop, Building, Crafting, Housing, Indie, Open World, 3D, Story-Focused, OGRE Game Engine, Pets, Mounts, PvP, Moddable, Collectibles, Furry-friendly.
Positives:
18 playable species. Build flexibility — can pick certain spells out of other spell trees to make a unique build. World is quite large and interesting to explore. The lore and backstory encompasses a 140+ page pdf and numerous other resources and even though it has a bit of an amateurish feel to the writing — it helps establish the the current world your character starts in.
Negatives:
Too many kill and fetch quests. XP gain slows down considerably after level 10, so you might have to repeat certain kill tasks on the posted boards to progress to the next area. If the classic WoW formula is one you’re sick of, then you’ll likely find yourself sick of this game quite quickly as well — unless you’re really into animals with humanoid features.

[2] Legend of the Red Dragon II (5)
“Before Azeroth” series

Scores: Aun Egg — 5
Descriptors:
Fantasy, MUD, Free-to-Play, Moddable, Housing, Indie, PvP, Open World, 2.5D, Story-Focused, Tile-Based, Mounts, Text/ANSI.
Positives:
Large explorable area — especially for it’s time. The towns and other areas look really good for being ANSI graphics designed for a low baud rate BBS connection. XP gain and difficulty curves both seem appropriate.
Negatives:
Your character is literally a text character. A lot of feedback is in the form of text. This game might just be too outdated for many gamers to enjoy. Lore and story elements were written by the developer who was a teenager at the time and hadn’t really marketed games or written substantial works before the LORD series. It’s obvious that the developer is well-educated but not a professional writer. Also, some adult material is present in the game that will likely cause some people to pass (i.e. a woman getting raped, a lady being given an old-timey, at-home abortion at another point, etc).

[3] Mystica — The Ninth Society (4)
“MMO Necromancy” series

Scores: Aun Egg — 4, Aun Meg — 4
Descriptors:
Fantasy, MMORPG, Buy-to-Play, Early Acccess, Pixel Art, Housing, Indie, PvP, Open World, 2.5D, Tile-Based, Eclipse Engine.
Positives:
x
Negatives:
x

[4] First Star Online 3 (4)
“Underdog MMOs” series

Scores: Aun Egg — 4
Descriptors:
Fantasy, MMORPG, Free-to-Play, Pixel Art, Crafting, Housing, Indie, PvP, Open World, 2.5D, Action Combat.
Positives:
First Star Online online captures the general feel of a 16-bit era action RPG but with the numerous crafting professions and leveling curve of a classic MMORPG. There are a lot of different combat professions you can learn and you’re not forced down any specific build path. The GUI is functional and fits the classic aesthetic of the game. The game is responsive, the maps have a coherent style to them, and it’s typically easy to figure out where a certain enemy or item is based on a general location.
Negatives:
The main issue (for many) with the classic MMORPG experience is the amount of repetitive grind — repetitive grind that serves no real purpose except serving as a time gate to game progression. This isn’t an issue of FSO3 alone — it’s rather rampant across the MMORPG genre. The game lacks much lore or story content to make the grind feel like it has a purpose other than serving as a time gate.

[5] Kakele (4)
“Underdog MMOs” series

Scores: Aun Egg —4
Descriptors:
Rougelike, Fantasy, MMORPG, Free-to-Play, Cash Shop, Building, Pixel Art, Crafting, Housing, Indie, Cross-Platform, PvP, Open World, 2.5D, Action Combat, Mounts, Pets.
Positives:
The dungeons and overworld maps are well-designed for having a rather standard fantasy and simplistic pixel art basis. Kakele rewards talking to every NPC you come across and exploring the maps by offering hidden items, numerous quests and tasks to unlock, and interesting locations to discover. It’s easy to bind spells to almost any key. It’s easy to distinguish which spells are better for a certain situation and which weapons and gear are better for your specific character. Once you leave the tutorial island, you can take a boat to four different locations which differ quite significantly in layout and mob types and placement. You can also play on the same account and server on your Android or Apple device and PC. There’s a client available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. You can also turn in quest items even before a quest is fully complete while in the field just by selecting the turn-in option from your inventory, which helps prevent you from becoming overburdened as easily. Combat is easy-to-learn and offers the opportunity to move during mob and boss fights to avoid taking as much, or any, damage.
Negatives:
I hope you enjoy kill tasks because most of your leveling time will consist of taking the same kill tasks over and over. The four mainland areas rely a bit too much on constructing mazes with trees and mountains, likely to create the illusion that the maps you’ll be spending quite a bit of time in during your early game leveling are larger than they actually are. The player houses look quite out-of-place and gaudy, with the rare exception of a well-designed house.

[6] Pokemon Blaze MMO 2021 (4)
“Underdog MMOs” series

Scores: Aun Egg —4
Descriptors:
Fantasy, MMORPG, Free-to-Play, Cash Shop, Turn-Based Combat, Pixel Art, Crafting, Indie, Cross-Platform, PvP, Open World, 2.5D, Story-Focused, Turn-Based Combat, Mounts, Pets, Collectibles.
Positives:
This game’s initial presentation is highly polished. The music is well-composed and fits each setting. Battling other Pokemon is quiet easy-to-learn given the quality of the design of the battle screen. There are hundreds of Pokemon to collect, a Pokedex to complete, lots of regular and special events to participate in, and as of the time of writing this — a very active player-base. I really enjoyed playing this game despite having almost no prior experience with anything created from the Pokemon intellectual property. If you remove the Pokemon property and replace it with generic fantasy MMO pet collection with turn-based battles, I’d still recommend this game.
Negatives:
This game becomes quite mindlessly grindy as you level. You’ll likely just walk back and forth in a grassy area, rapidly click the mouse to fire off attacks, and keep moving on — only to occasionally stop to heal. Most of the maps feel overly linear and claustrophobic. The GUI makes it difficult to figure out what each button does at first. It’s nearly impossible to know which spells to keep and which to replace without pre-existing knowledge of the game.

[7] Project Wasteland: The Mythiclands (4)
“Underdog MMOs” series

Scores: Aun Egg — 4, Aun Meg — 4
Descriptors:
Fantasy, Comic/Stylized, MMORPG, Buy-to-Play, Cash Shop, Building, Early Access, Mystery, Crafting, Housing, Indie, RvR, PvP, Open World, 3D, Story-Focused, Action Combat, Unreal Engine 4, Mounts, Pets.
Positives:
It’s a 3D open world, story-driven with trade skills, fantasy MMORPG created by a single developer that’s not woefully incomplete or massively broken. Meg and I were somewhat overly generous with our scores for this game but we legitimately did have a lot of fun exploring the terrain, fighting the bosses, and finding diary pages and learning other pieces of the lore and story as we progressed. The writing is a bit amateurish but maintains a conversational tone — which actually works quite well when the written materials of this game come mostly from a farmer turned mercenary who kept a diary and random locals. If this developer had an artist, UI designer, writer, and a contract programmer specializing in programming combat, this could be a really great game.
Negatives:
This game uses a lot of purchased assets. The assets are placed in a coherent manner and tend to match the general theme of a given area. The UI is very amateurish looking, with lots of information ending up off of the screen (i.e. a mobs health meter if they are right in front of you) or in an area where it looks out of place. PvE combat gets really boring towards the end of the game with the 4 meat-gate bosses you’ll come across. It suffers from many of the pitfalls of single developer 3D MMORPGs but is at least a game with a complete story / quest line and lots of working content to complete.

[8] Crowns of Power (3)
“MMO Necromancy” series

Scores: Aun Egg — 3
Descriptors:
Fantasy, MMORPG, Tab-Target Combat, Free-to-Play, Cash Shop, Building, Crafting, Housing, Indie, RvR, PvP, Open World, 3D, Story-Focused, Pets.
Positives:
Unique character build system that allows for learning skills from a variety or focusing solely on a single of magic. Being able to wield melee weapons, shields, ranged weapons, casting magic, and summoning pets can be done by essentially any character in the game. Maps are quite sizeable, providing lots of terrain to explore. Engaging in unwarranted PvP actions results in accruing points. As certain point thresholds are reached, the player moves from innocent status, to outlaw status, and finally to the most severe status: murderer. Consequences for death become increasingly punitive as your status moves from innocent to murderer and a single action won’t take you from innocent to murderer. It’s a fairly good system that allows for correcting from accidental actions while serving to punish rampant gankers.
Negatives:
The core gameplay loop and map design are about as generic 3D fantasy MMORPG as you can get. Many buildings don’t actually touch the ground. Lots of assets are placed improperly and lots of low quality textures subtract from what would be an aesthetically-pleasing, albeit dated, presentation. Quite a few sections of the maps are empty. Most PvE combat engagements play out in the same way.

[9] Mad Pack (3)
“Underdog MMOs” series

Scores: Aun Egg — 3
Descriptors:
Hack & Slash, Fantasy, MMORPG, Free-to-Play, Cash Shop, Roguelike, Minimalist, Early Acccess, Indie, Open World, 2.5D, Action Combat.
Positives:
The three classes play significantly different from each other. The maps, while being a bit too linear, have a minimalist charm to them, and the UI is easy-to-use and matches aesthetically. The gameplay and aesthetic has an interesting (well-designed) Flash game meets modern Gauntlet feel to it.
Negatives:
Combat lacks a visceral feel. It’s not uncommon for attacks to go in a direction other than what you are aiming or for input lag to occur. There’s really not much content available currently. A skilled player could plow through this game’s content in a few hours.

[10] Puzzle Pirates (3)
“Before Azeroth” series

Scores: Aun Egg — 3
Descriptors:
Pirates, Puzzle, Free-to-Play, Cash Shop, Crafting, Housing, PvP, Isometric, Pets, Subscription (Optional).
Positives:
Puzzle Pirates fills a niche aesthetic and niche MMOG genre through it’s pirate-theme and by being a massively multiplayer puzzle game. The various puzzle games are mostly intuitive, explained adequately, and tend to rely on skill over luck. It’s fairly easy to find help from long-time players through in-game chat channels or by using the forums.
Negatives:
A lot of content is locked behind paywalls and grind-walls. The puzzle games vary immensely in quality, with some of the lesser tier puzzle games being overly simplistic and boring. The better puzzles tend to be reskins of other puzzle games that have much, much better versions. Some of the late game content is difficult to participate in as a result of crew sizes still being calibrated to larger population figures. This might be a case of the game just not being a game for me. If you love casual games, puzzles, pirates, and want a place to socialize with others — Puzzle Pirates might be the perfect MMO for you.

[11] Furcadia (2)
“Before Azeroth” series

Scores: Aun Egg —3, Aun Meg — 1
Descriptors:
Fantasy, MMORPG, Free-to-Play, Cash Shop, Building, Pixel Art, Moddable, Crafting, Housing, Sandbox, Isometric, Tile-Based, Mounts, Pets, Subscription (Optional), Social-Focus.
Positives:
Two-and-a-half decades of developer- and player-developed content has helped the world of Furcadia to expand to the point of having social spaces for almost anyone — ranging from spaces with educational games for young children to adult-only fetish spaces. Many of these spaces are well-developed within the limitations of the engine. Player counts continue to remain consistently in the triple digits, so it’s typically not too difficult to find help or a partner for socializing. DragonSpeak and the existing toolset makes it relatively easy to develop new content for the game.
Negatives:
Furcadia feels old. The UI hasn’t aged particularly well, movement is rather clunky and choppy, and much of the content here requires multiple participants. Given the playerbase consists mostly of long-time players who already have established cliques, your experience here might be quite lonely as a new player. It’s also easy to break many of the games, even unintentionally.

DATA

Average Scores for All Games of Each Publication:
Beyond Azeroth — 3.8, Underdog MMOs — 3.8, MMO Necromancy — 3.7

Average scores by Reviewer:
Aun Egg — 3.8, Aun Meg — 3.5

Tags — #ofGamesWithTag (PercentageOfGamesWithTag):

Building — 5 (45.5%) Hack & Slash — 1 (9.1%) Rougelike — 1 (9.1%)
Point & Click — 0 (0%) Platformer — 0 (0%) Skateboarding — 0 (0%)
Hidden Object — 0 (0%) Visual Novel — 0 (0%) Tower Defense — 0 (0%) Dungeon Crawler — 0 (0%) Top-Down Shooter — 0 (0%) Metroidvania — 0 (0%) 4X — 0 (0%)

Fantasy — 10 (91.9%) Pixel Art — 5 (45.5%) Comic/Stylized — 2 (18.2%)
Minimalist — 1 (9.1%) Mystery — 1 (9.1%)
Steampunk — 0 (0%) Cyberpunk— 0 (0%) Post-Apocalypse — 0 (0%) Warfare — 0 (0%)
Western — 0 (0%) Modern — 0 (0%) Gothic — 0 (0%) Voxel-Based — 0(0%) Comedy — 0 (0%) Futuristic — 0 (0%) Sci-fi — 0 (0%) Martial Arts — 0 (0%) Dark — 0 (0%) Gore — 0 (%) Psychedelic — 0 (0%) Pirates — 1 (9.1%)
Extreme-Difficulty — 0 (0%) Superhero— 0 (0%) Zombies — 0 (0%)
Vampires — 0 (0%) Furry-Friendly — 2 (18.2%) Anime — 0 (0%)
Adult-Themes — 0 (0%) Historical — 0 (0%) For-Young-Kids— 0 (0%)
Nudity — 0 (0%)

Action — 0 (0%) Adventure — 0 (0%) Horror — 0 (0%) Stealth — 0 (0%) Simulation — 0 (0%) Racing — 0 (0%) Strategy — 0 (0%) Puzzle — 1 (9.1%)
Card/Board — 0 (0%) Shooter — 0 (0%) Rhythm — 0 (0%) Typing — 0 (0%) FPS — 0 (0%) TPS — 0 (0%) Arcade — 0 (0%) Educational — 0 (0%)
Fighting — 0 (0%) Driving — 0 (0%) Roguelike — 1 (9.1%)
Beat’em’up — 0 (0%) Pinball — 0 (0%) Game Show— 0 (0%) Sports — 0(0%) MMORPG — 10 (91.9%) MUD — 1 (91.9%) JRPG — 0 (0%) Survival — 0 (0%) Sports — 0 (0%) Boxing — 0 (0%) Tennis — 0 (0%) Golf — 0 (0%) Basketball — 0 (0%) Baseball — 0 (0%) Football — 0 (0%) Soccer — 0 (0%) Hockey — 0 (0%) Rugby — 0 (0%) Pool/Snooker — 0 (0%) Wrestling — 0 (0%) Fishing — 0 (0%)

Tab Target Combat — 3 (27.3%) Action Combat— 4 (36.4%)
Real-time — 0 (0%) Turn-Based Combat— 1 (9.1%) Party-Based — 0 (0%)
Hex Grid — 0 (0%) Tile-Based — 3 (27.3%) Tactical — 0 (0%)
Text/ANSI — 1 (9.1%) Social-Focus — 1 (9.1%) Collectibles — 3 (27.3%)

Moddable — 2 (18.2%) Crafting — 8 (72.7%) Housing — 9 (81.8%)
Mounts — 6 (54.5%) Pets — 7 (63.7%)

2D — 0 (0%) 2.5D — 6 (54.6%) 3D — 3 (27.3%) Isometric — 2 (18.2%)
Open World — 9 (81.8%) Sandbox — 1 (9.1%) Story-Focused— 5 (45.5%)
PvP — 9 (81.8%) RvR — 2 (18.2%)

Indie — 9(81.8%) Open Source — 0 (0%) Cross-Platform — 2 (18.2%)

Free-to-Play — 9 (81.8%) Buy-to-Play — 2 (18.2%) Demo — 0 (0%)
Subscription — 2 (18.2%) Cash Shop — 7 (63.7%)
Early Access — 3 (27.3%)

Unreal Engine — 1 (9.1%) OGRE — 1 (9.1%) Eclipse — 1 (9.1%)
Custom/Other Engine — 8 (73.7%)

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Aun Collective

Aun Collective

We are a game preservationist, archivist, design and writing collective, focusing on multiplayer and massively multiplayer games. Also music preservation!