Comparing the MMOs

I didn’t really intend for this to be a weekly thing, but I’ve been playing the three MMOs that I’m playing or trying out one morning a week and doing that lets me compare how they work in a way that I couldn’t easily do otherwise.  I’ve talked about The Old Republic a lot, so I’m only going to talk about it and what I’ve done there at the end when I compare them, and so will talk about Dark Age of Camelot and Star Trek Online before doing that.

Let me start with Star Trek Online.  I went back and played it for a bit, and finally managed to get through the tutorial level, where I was sent forward to the “modern” Star Trek time after getting “killed” in a major fleet action.  I was told to get a new uniform and a new ship, and while NPCs commented on my TOS uniform I’m not certain if I changed back if it would matter to anything.  Then I got a new set of quests from the Admiral there, and set off to complete them.  I had a really, really difficult time with the space combat in the first one and wondered if that was because of equipment, but it turned out that it was because I was using my starter ship because after purchasing my new ship I didn’t switch to it.  When I switched to it things went a lot better.

The quests are still fun and still attack themselves to Star Trek lore, which again makes this a pretty good Star Trek game.  There seem to be some other quests and the like as well, but once I get sent out into the galaxy the quests follow one after another through communications and so I never have to go back to the hubs and so don’t really see them.  There are some things to scan as well with a waveform matching mini-game which I guess is used to give you better results, but so far I haven’t been exploring them and only scanned some while on missions.  I may need to explore these things more later.

That being said, my second ship is a Constellation class heavy cruiser, so I’m flying around in a replica of the TOS Enterprise.  So that’s kinda cool.

For Dark Age of Camelot, the game in a lot of ways is an old school MMO.  For a lot of the quests I picked up in my second session, there weren’t even markers for where the things were, so I had to look up where the hill warriors were so that I could killed one of them and get a torch to make an item.  Which, when I completed the quest, I couldn’t use.  So I tried to sell it.  It let me, but only gave me a copper for it, which is annoyingly low.  Then again, I sold it back to the person who gave it to me at least once, so at least there’s that [grin].

I didn’t have a horse — or didn’t know how to use it — so the traveling was, in general, really slow and kinda annoying, especially when I had to run back and forth between two wide spread areas to complete quests.  That plus the fact that there weren’t that many quests available kinda soured me on the game a bit.  But then I followed the advice to seek out my trainer in Camelot and then following up on all the quests that were available there left me with a lot of quests to do which meant that I always had a purpose in traveling from area to area which made me enjoy things a lot more.  I also found a site that tells how to solve the quests which helped with that frustration.  I’m gaining experience more slowly than I’d like, but things are okay now.  That being said, if I wasn’t massively overleveled for the areas — I finished the quests in the starter village and surrounding area before going into Camelot and getting quests for the other areas — it would be far more frustrating, because I can explore the areas to find things without worrying about getting jumped too often.  If I had to clear areas so that I could go through them to kill named creatures or find specific monsters to kill, I’d be much more annoyed.  But it does look like I can create characters from different realms on the same server, and so it seems for me that the best approach might be to work in one realm until I get bored and then switch to another, because the three realms are what most attracts me to the game and I’m getting a bit antsy with Albion thinking that I might want to hop into Midgard or Hibernia soon.

While it has gotten better, the emphasis on forcing players to explore areas to find types of monsters through inadequate descriptions and not quest markers is a bit odd for Dark Age of Camelot.  And while TOR gives you bonus XP for exploring areas and exploring everything, DAoC doesn’t, which makes it all the more puzzling that exploring would be such a big part of it.  Then again, it is indeed an old school MMO, so that probably explains it and explains why some of the later quests do have quest markers.

The odd thing about STO is that there’s really no encouragement to explore at all, despite you being able to — and possibly needing to — find things in them that might be useful.  The quests proceed in order and don’t give you a lot of time to stop, and the travel to and from the various areas is long enough that you don’t want to just stop on it and at least so far I don’t get any readings or anything that would attract my attention to make me divert from my course.  Because of this, there’s also no real clear point, at least so far, where I can say that it’d be a good time to stop and pick up some other quests or do something else.  And since I can “sell” equipment I don’t want without returning to a hub, I don’t even have that to encourage me to stop and pick up quests.  This is in sharp contrast to DAoC where I’m always running back to the hubs to turn in quests and sell things off.

Given all of this, I find TOR’s story-based approach the best out of the three.  Like in DAoC, you encounter your quests as you go along and they are obvious, and so if you wanted to pick up all the quests to get the XP or be a completionist except for some that are out in the hinterlands it’s pretty easy to do.  That’s what I used to do, where I picked up all the non-heroic quests so that I’d be overleveled and so better able to handle the content.  But you are given a class story that drives you from area to area, which makes it obvious when you need to move on or should move on to the next area if you don’t want to do something else here.  They also have planet arcs that create a short story arc for each planet, which gives you something else to do that again moves you from area to area.  With rest XP and Major Experience Bonuses that I buy in the market and get for finishing the story missions, I now can get enough XP just from those two sets of missions, which speeds things up for me.  And, of course, once you finish the story and planet arcs for a planet, the game points you to the next planet or to an intermediate set of quests that then lead to the next planet, so you always know and have a reason to move on to the next area.  For STO, the area seems to be the entire galaxy and you just move from quest line to quest line, while for DAoC it seems like you should move on to the next area when you run out of quests to do in this one.  The sharp distinction of what you are at least supposed to be doing makes TOR both more engaging — I always have a set purpose that I’m trying to achieve whenever I play — and more compartmentalized and so easier to align to play sessions, by completing a specific area as I used to do or a planet as I do now.

Still, I’m enjoying all three of them, to varying degrees.  I will keep up with them through my vacation and may keep playing them afterwards if I can fit them into my schedule.

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