As a veteran of World of Warcraft (WOW), Guild Wars 2 (GW2), and The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO), the shelter-in-place of 2020 has led me to revisit all three of those games in recent months. Which MMO is worth playing this year? Let’s dive into the discussion.
Guild Wars 2 is the only one whose base game and max level cap are available for free. World of Warcraft (still) has its monthly $15 subscription, while ESO requires players to own the base game, but its $15 monthly membership is optional. From a budget perspective, GW2 is the most finance-friendly, and ESO is the most cost-effective for its subscription, giving you 1650 in-game currency in return to buy game content.
They are all great games, and I enjoy playing all of them. However, they all have characteristics that make them unique. GW2 is known for its watercolor graphical style and user-friendly interface. Its friendly community always welcomes new-comers, and someone is often there to help you if you ever get stuck. The quests of GW2 are more dynamic in players’ choices on what approach to take. I often feel more engaged because I sense more impact with the mission direction I choose.
ESO takes on a more realistic graphical appearance, and its interface has improved over the years, becoming much clearer and easier to use both on PC and console. Even though the world map is huge, you rarely feel lost, thanks to the improved navigation symbols and detailed zone information. Missions sometimes let players decide the NPCs destinies, which, along with the wonderful voice acting, keeping me engaged in the experience. The community of ESO is generally friendly, and I have had great experiences playing throughout the years.
WOW‘s graphic looks colorful and cartoony. It has more voice acting these recent years, but I find myself skipping through reading the quests and hardly knowing what is happening if I pay less attention. It was sad to say that the gameplay is often repetitive, and I feel no power or impact on the story plot, simply following robotically through the game pre-designed script. Unfortunately, the WOW community is not always friendly, so be prepared for some overly competitive, unfair, or mean treatment from time to time.
Outside the in-game storytelling, WOW has the most novels, and they all provide amazing stories on-paper for those who want to read. GW2 and ESO both have a couple of books out, but they are not updated for the most recent productions. Therefore, I think WOW performs the best with building the world and introducing their stories through multiple media. I love the whole Alliance and Horde stories, and I enjoy seeing all the characters dancing through their struggles from beginning to end.
GW2 and ESO both contain various factions who join forces in wars against the chaos, the evils, and the enemies. Yes, you have a sense of good and bad, light and darkness throughout the stories, but they are not as compelling or deep when it comes to character development or world expansion.
GW2 hasn’t had new expansions for some years, although they keep producing Living World events for existing stories. However, players have to pay to unlock the full story experience. I played the Living World previously, and I have to say that I am not particularly fond of its stories. I appreciate the extension, but I can surely live without.
ESO is releasing its latest expansion in summer 2020, which will take players back to the Skyrim after 1000 years of in-game time. It’s very exciting to see how they construct the zone and how they rework the vampire functions. I hope the story will be richer and deeper than the previous expansions.
WOW also has its newest expansion coming up in 2020, taking the most beloved female character to the throne of Lich King. It is sad to see them building her up to this path, but I am more interested in how they plot the whole story at the end and make it satisfying for long-time fans.
Yes, I know, we are talking about multiplayer online games, but how about those who just want to play solo? The good news is that they all offer a solo experiences to some extent. ESO is the most solo-friendly; you can totally play the whole game by yourself if you so desire without major issues.
GW2 base game is great for solo, but its expansion is doom of solo players. The overwhelming enemies everywhere will force you to join with others just to survive. WOW stays in the middle of the scale, which not only allows you to have some decent solo experiences, but also requires you to group up with others in order to shorten the grind or to complete quests easier.
Which one to choose then?
It all depends on your needs. Want no expenses? Choose GW2. Want amazing new expansions? Choose ESO or WOW. Want personal decisions on missions or characters? Choose GW2 or ESO. Want engaging game novels? Choose WOW. Want a friendly community? Choose GW2 or ESO. Want a great solo experience? Choose ESO. Want wonderful world-building and character development? Choose WOW.
I love them all, truly, and I play them all. But I don’t play them all the time, at least not all at once. So, what are your needs? I am sure you will find the one for you.