The freedom to roam

On Monday evening I had a pretty momentous moment in Lord of the Rings Online. I’ve been playing through the Gondor content and had reached, finally, Dol Amroth. Looking at the map to identify where my quests zones were, it suddenly hit me – my character had reached the open sea (or at least the Bay of Belfalas that leads to the same) for the first time in-game.

Open sea on the horizon

Open sea on the horizon

It was a pretty magical and immersive moment to stand and look around at the ships in the bay, the coast and the sea off in the horizon. This kind of moment is a reason why I love LOTRO specifically – the world is very expansive and contiguous. Ignoring dungeons and the gates leading in and out of Moria, the explorable world is one space. People do crazy-cool stuff like swimming the navigable length of the Anduin river in game or running half-way across the world transformed into a chicken.

The road leads ever onwards.

The road leads ever onwards.

Such freedom to wander or ride reminds me of certain other MMORPGs as well, my first proper online game was World of Warcraft and that game certainly has a very large virtual world to roam (albeit split into four separate continents). It’s one aspect that I appreciate about some games over others: Eorzea (Final Fantasy 14) is heavily segmented into walled-off zones and although SWTOR has some pretty large planetary zones, Alderaan or Belsavis spring to mind, these planets have a lot of barriers and instanced areas.

Loading screens, portals or shuttle rides connect fragmented zones.

Loading screens, portals or shuttle rides connect fragmented zones.

Wildstar fits into a middle ground with a mostly open world to explore but one that is more modest in scale. The parts of Nexus that we have available as players are however unusually accessible because of double jump and the Explorer path which, by design, offers the means to reach high-up or otherwise blocked areas.

Don't look down...

Don’t look down…

Exploration can be a lot of fun; I believe that a wide and connected virtual world adds to my  sense of immersion when playing. It is not necessarily the only or most important factor to influence which MMORPGs I choose to play, but I consider it a positive design choice when my character can roam free.

This entry was posted in FFXIV, Guild Wars, LotRO, MMORPG, SWTOR, Wildstar. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The freedom to roam

  1. zaphod6502 says:

    Will you be considering Black Desert Online? I think you would really like it (I am loving it).

    • Telwyn says:

      I’m still undecided about Black Desert. The sandbox elements look appealing but I’m really not a fan of gender-locked classes, how much class customisation is there also? Also I’m waiting on more people to reach the cap to see just how much of an issue the always-on PVP is once you hit the highest levels.

      • zaphod6502 says:

        I can get past the gender locking and the PvP as there is a very deep crafting and economic system driving the gameplay. I will say though there is a very steep learning curve and I have made frequent use of “How To Play” videos on YouTube. Even so the overall game is like nothing I have experienced before and the way all the games systems work is quite amazing. ArcheAge had glimmerings of this but was undone by the rampant property hacking and stealing. Thankfully BDO has instanced housing and shared farm plots.

        I think the difference with this Korean MMO is that the developers have designed the game they want to play and not a game that will simply generate huge amounts of income at the expense of the players. After the ArcheAge fiasco I was ready to give up on Korean MMO’s but BDO has been a refreshing change.

  2. I used to be a real snob for open world MMOs. I hated unnecessary instancing or excessive load screens. Eventually I softened on the matter, especially regarding games that wouldn’t really work without heavy instancing (like TSW or SW:TOR), but I still wish more MMOs would make a better effort toward large, seamless open worlds. This is one thing I’ll give WoW — they’re still giving us huge, rich, detailed, and largely seamless game environments.

Comments are closed.