As inevitable as the turning of the seasons, the summer hiatus of the regular instance group will soon be upon us. The weather will warm up, kids will get out of school, vacations will be planned, and sometimes we’ll just want to something on a Saturday night besides play video games. The prospect of getting all five of us online at once will pretty much vanish so long as the weather stays warm.
The timing for this is usually pretty good. We’ve often spent the fall, winter, and spring playing a single title… World of Warcraft usually… and a summer vacation from that generally goes a long way to restoring our interest in that game.
During the time of hiatus, a couple of us… sometimes just Potshot and I, sometimes more… often pick up another game to play. With that in mind, I started sorting out potential candidates for a summer run. My driving criteria was not to spend $60 on a box and to avoid signing up for another monthly subscription plan. Basically, my commitment is low, so I want to keep my spending on par with that… especially since I will certainly keep my EVE Online accounts active (one paid, one comped by CCP for running a fan site) and likely won’t cancel WoW since my daughter an I still play.
But with the change in the MMO landscape over the last few years, I should have plenty of free to play options available. I am not saying that I won’t spend money on any of these games, just that I do not want to commit to doing so up front. That is the point of F2P, right?
Here are the titles that have potential at the moment.
Lord of the Rings Online
This is sort of the default choice for a summer hiatus destination. I think some combination of our wider group has gone back to Middle-earth at least five times since our first run at it at launch.
Pros: Familiar, everybody has an account, I have a lifetime subscription, and Middle-earth is still just a nice place to be. I keep the game patched up and log in at least monthly to get my Tubrine Point stipend, which should be closing in on 10K. And there is music. We could literally get the band back together.
Cons: With the big class revamp, starting over again seems to be in order. Relearning classes has always felt awkward in LOTRO after being away for a while, and the revamp pretty much doubles down on that. Not the worst thing in the world I suppose. I love the 1-40 game. But they haven’t revamped 40-55 which, aside from Hollin, I find a bit tiresome. Things pick up about halfway through Moria, but then get tedious again on the far side. The lifetime subscription makes this an easier choice for me than others. Also, I am not sure if anybody else has as much nostalgia for the game as I do at this point.
This was a game good enough to supplant WoW for a few seasons.
Pros: Maybe the most generous F2P model of any of the MMOs I have played. You can get by very well without a subscription. Most people I know already have an account and some familiarity with it. I own the expansion and have a pile of their F2P currency, so cannot forsee feeling the need to purchase anything up front. Lots to like about the game.
Cons: The Storm Legion blues. The expansion never really clicked with me and repeated attempts to get enthused about it haven’t really worked, and I am not sure that anything has changed in the department. Starting fresh with new alts isn’t as tempting as there are only four core classes, and I have all four up to at least level 50. And then there is the usual “we stopped playing for a reason, has that overall reason changed?”
Guild Wars 2
Everybody’s favorite buy-to-play MMO.
Pros: I own a copy, so it is a no-money-down proposition… at least for me. Lots of bloggers I read still play it. Most of the likely members of a potential summer hiatus group already own a copy, and for those who do not, the price of the box has dropped. Looks very pretty. Dev team is off the overwhelming 2 week content cycle and is adding features to the game itself.
Cons: The usual “never really got into it” problem that also applies to the original Guild Wars. Never really struck me as a group game in any way. I still have a “chicken and egg” password recovery issue from way back when.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
The Tortanic still lives in F2P form.
Pros: It has been our for nearly two and a half years at this point, so it should be relatively bug free… right? Does not require me to install Origin… right? Devs have committed to content updates every six weeks or so… right? Can space bar through the long and awkward NPC expositions, which are the
curse burden hallmark of recent BioWare games. It is, you know, Star Wars… in some sense. I have preferred status as a free player due to pre-ordering and then cancelling the game way back when. Still seems to have a substantial player base by whatever measure you can find. Will make me hum Pop Muzik a lot.
Cons: It is an EA game and, as such, I am unlikely to ever want to give them money. Sorry BioWare team, but that’s who you chose to get in bed with. Still have to endure the horrible “puts words in my character’s mouth” aspect of the game, which doubles down by rewarding light side/dark side points for consistent use of words you wouldn’t say in any case. The usual “if I didn’t like it before, what makes me think things will be different now” conundrum. Not sure my family appreciates my humming. Can you say “tropes?” Or at least a feeling of having experienced things before?
Age of Conan
Pros: Not sure I have found anybody who truly hates this game. Has been on my “I should try this” list for ages.
Cons: Not sure I have found anybody who truly loves this game. Haven’t heard much about it in ages.
There are a few titles you might expect me to put on the list, but which did not make the cut. Perennial SOE diversions EverQuest and EverQuest II are not there. I am not saying, “never again” for EQII, but it has been black listed by a few friends and has a similar problem as LOTRO, in that I am good with the content up until what is now the mid-game… say level 60 in this case… but after that… not so much. EQ is much more of a focus of nostalgia… thus part of the post-summer hiatus routine… than a summer option. I probably need a new progression server option to get me back into it, and I have to wonder if we will ever see the likes of that again.
Other than that, I have yet to read anything to stoke any interest in The Secret World, Star Trek Online is dead to me despite having a lifetime account, and I could never bring myself to play more than a few minutes of Neverwinter outside of time spent with the group.
And I suppose we could forgo the usual MMO venue and spend the summer playing World of Tanks or War Thunder, both of which have a very low commitment, which seems well suited for a summer distraction. And a bunch of us own Diablo III.
We shall see.