I am playing no MMO these days, which is odd because I started this blog as an MMO player. There are a number of reasons for why I am not playing any existing MMOs, but suffice it to say, I am just tired of the endless cycle. I am tired of never being able to “properly” impact the world for the better. I am tired of killing the same old ten rats, albeit with a new look and mechanic. I am tired of grinding. I am tired of farming. I am tired of competing for gear because having gained 85 goddamn levels means absolutely nothing in this day and age of the perpetual endgame gear grind. I am tired of all this.
I am not saying MMO’s haven’t evolved, the latest cross-realm raid pugging and Real ID grouping features from Blizzard are ground-breaking features. Eve Online set the bar for player-defined market economies and territory control very high, but suffers from its inherent complexity and that the oldest players are over 100 million skill points ahead of the competition, which, to say the least, is ridiculous. This is but two of many example.
I am looking for the second wave of MMO ingenuity. I am looking for the world-impacting mechanics of Guild Wars 2. I am looking for the level-less scope of the Secret World. I am waiting for light-sabers. And in the meantime, I am, keeping myself busy with a host of other quality multiplayer games, that are just not as massive.
Magicka’s Mutually Assured Destruction
I am playing Magicka these days with three of my friends, and it is a treat to play. There are no levels, no skill points, no game-breaking gear (there is gear), no additional spells or abilities to learn. Everyone starts off on the same foot and finds their preferred way to play. There are eight spells in the game, and five spell slots. You can mix and match the skills in Magicka in those five slots (or less, if you are pressed for time) to create unique spell-combinations. You can cast Fire with Healing to simultaneously heal and dry yourself. You can cast frost to freeze a water surface to walk across. You can sling earthen boulders, or add a dash of Fire to hurl fireballs. You are only held back by your imagination for how you decide to take on an obstacle.
Then you add three more players, and it gets a lot more fun.
There is friendly fire in Magicka. This means that if you are casting a death ray of Arcane energy, an ally who walks across that beam will also be instantly zapped. Given that all spells are both area effect, conical directional, and focused, the possibility of getting hit by an ally’s firepower gets multiplied astronomically. Battles are careful strategic endeavors, because your enemies will come at you from all directions and shooting any combinations of magical energies at them imply you have to ensure your allies are not caught in the spells’ wake. This adds incredible depth and scale to an already exciting game, and results in some of the funniest, and at times frustrating moments in my recent gaming history.
Borderlands Badass Co-Op
I played Borderlands a while back with a friend on the Xbox, but we got bored after about 15 levels. Partially because the vertically split-screen was headache inducing, and partly because I am not used to playing shooters on an Xbox controller. Two years later, Steam decides to have a massive sale on a Borderlands 4-pack. Two of my friends purchase it, and off we go, into the world of Pandora, in search of the 17+ million weapons the game has to offer.
It occurred to me very shortly after playing it with two other players that Borderlands’ Pandora is a cruel, gruesome and tough world. Enemies got tougher, tougher enemies got impossible and we learned what it was like to play a cooperative shooter where your combined abilities can result in the difference between life and death. It is not as intense, nor as teamwork dependent as Left 4 Dead but it does require skill, and planning and watching each others’ backs through the tougher moments.
The bottomline is that Borderlands, even two years after release, has turned out to be one hell of a game, especially when played with several players cooperatively.
Next post: The single-player games that are keeping me busy till a better MMO comes out.