Starting from level one and playing each game for at least 18 hours, we tested the highest rated MMORPGs currently on the market. Here's how they stack up against each other.
Neverwinter: Ravenloft expansion
This is by far the easiest of the games on the list. It's an action RPG, and from what I've seen your choices only matter as far as how your victory will look, but not whether it will happen or not. As a "Oathbound Paladin" and a "Great Weapon Fighter" (more on that in a moment) I pretty much tore through all of the content in the original game without touching potions or thinking very much about my skill point assignment.
Now, they may have nerfed this content to help you get to the endgame content, which they really want you to start enjoying, but there is such a painful repetition of patterns that by the time you get there you'll have realized that it's literally all one level.
Allow me to explain: Each area has a pattern. You enter, are given a series of fetch and kill quests for part of the area, and they end with you being asked to go to a different part of that area. This repeats until you get to the final quest, which is an extended "kill these enemies" quest. The enemies all function the same, the areas don't change anything mechanically, and none of your choices matter.
Speaking of which; I was surprised to see a game with the "Dungeons and Dragons" title go so "bro" with it's classes. When you select a class- which are not even close to the same as the pen-and-paper games- you are also selecting the gear they must use. As an Oathbound Paladin, for example, I was required to play with a mace, a shield, and heavy armor. My character could literally not equip anything else. Huge let down, there.
The upside to this game is that fighting is fun when you don't think about. It's closer to a "Dragon Ball Z" game than a "Dungeons and Dragons" one; you jump around the battlefield, dodging attacks and blasting baddies with your own. Unfortunately you will eventually realize that it's also just as effective to stand still and left click until the enemy is dead, and you will get bored immediately thereafter.
Total score: 2 out of 4
The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset
Price: 20$ for the base game and 30$ for the Summerset expansion
Ugh. I wanted to like this so bad. The concept behind it is super cool. When you complete this class in this world, the map changes for you to reflect your progress. You can build your class by selecting skills instead of choosing what you want to be before you've even tested the game.
Unfortunately, you start as a dead person, fight your way to resurrection, and are forever set forth on a path of epicness. This kind of "you are the chosen one" works fine in the normal Elder Scrolls games, because you're not playing with anyone else. Unfortunately when you're in an MMO, the illusion of you being the chosen one gets broken pretty quick when you're fighting for shoulder room with other chosen ones in the queue for a dungeon.
Another problem with immersion crops up pretty quickly for role players; everyone is magic. It ruins being a fighter when you teleport around the troll you're dueling rather than using your body and sword skill like Conan. It also ruins being a wizard when the thing that is supposed to make you special is shared by everyone to some degree.
Total score: 3 out of 4
Archeage: Legends Return
Amazing world with a unique blend of eastern and western fantasy. A world with magic, cannons, swordplay, gliders, and fantastical creatures. What I love most about this game is the customizable classes. Every player takes on three base classes which when taken together make a your overall class. It's a beautiful idea, but four years is a long time in video games.
This game came out in the US in 2014, and it shows. You access your skills by hitting one of dozens of buttons on a keyboard. I never felt the crunch of a mace driving into my enemies skull, and I never winced as a fireball singed my avatar. It's all button pressing an watching cooldown timers, making combat the most tedious part of this game.
That said, you can't beat the price and the non-combat activities in this game are great!
Total score: 3 out of 4
Dungeons and Dragons Online
Price: Technically "Free", but to get all the content you must pay a $14.99 monthly fee
Full of features I find dumb, yet it's my favorite MMO that I played in the last few years. Every element of this game is dedicated to recreating the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop experience. When you enter a dungeon, there's a narrator. Experience is awarded for completing quests and not for slaying monsters during those quests, which encourages people to treat the quest like their character probably would; avoiding combat when their resources are low.
The problem is that it's a 10-year-old game that hasn't kept up with the times. The graphics are dated and the player base is barren. You can't access most of the adventures without paying, and with no modern RPG amenities, there's no motivation to explore more of the game.
With a graphical overhaul patch and new advertising, this game could be something great once more. Sadly, that isn't likely.
Total score: 2 out of 4
Final Fantasy XIV
Price: Free trial, then a $12.99 monthly fee
Let me let you down gently; judging this one will take more time. I have played it for days, and literally can't tell you if I love it or hate it, but I can say it is one of those extremes. I love that you can control your character with a controller instead of God's worst mistake; keyboard and mouse. I love that your character gets a first and last name. I love the character customization. I love the robust RP community.
I hate that weapons are class-locked. I hate that the tutorial is mandatory. I hate that it's half an action MMO, and half an awkwardly laid out clicker.
To be fair, most of what I don't like about this game comes from culture shock. In Japan things like crazy-specific weapon restrictions are not considered game flaws, but rather story aides. The only fair thing to do is play this game more, and give you good people a proper review in a week. And that's the 1d4 commitment right there, my dudes!
Total score: TBD
UPDATE! See the final Final Fantasy XIV review HERE.