A good chunk of my gaming time is devoted to playing MMOs with my husband and a close friend, it’s the reason why I often post on this blog about cooperative gameplay. In trying to find another game to play to fill the content-gaps between TSW issues, it’s rather noticeable how little challenge there is in early MMORPG gameplay.
We’ve recently sampled Neverwinter, a game that offers ample grouping-friendly content, but quite honestly, that gives little challenge to three players who are used to playing together. Our characters are in their late teens, level-wise, and none of the opponents have required any real thought or tactics.
We’re also going to be trying Star Trek Online, if certain client problems can be resolved (the game client seems less stable at the moment, possibly due to the expansion release?). The tutorial for STO is rather lengthy, and solo-only, so we’ve not yet grouped properly for me to judge whether missions will be three-times easier than solo, or whether there’s any attempt at scaling difficulty up for a group.
To date the only MMORPG that I can think of that frequently adjusts missions or quests for small groups is SWTOR – the game spawns extra opponents if you play such content with others. It’s an nice system, albeit one that relies on the game’s heavy use of instanced areas.
I could put the ‘rose-tinted’ glasses on and think back to early- WoW for the onetime presence of elite mobs in open world zones. Also if you’ve ever tried a Vanilla server for the game you may have experienced just how much weaker low-level characters feel compared to the heightened power levels you play in the modern game. It’s not necessary to travel back in time for open world challenges though: some more modern games, like Wildstar, have plenty of elite monsters out in the open world (those for small groups, and the zone raid-bosses too).
The occasional tougher monster, or end of zone boss fight, can be a nice challenge to have but it’s not enough to keep interest levels up if I’ve waded through hundreds of boring, “tough as wet-paper” opponents to get there. I wonder whether we need a game that offers a more consistent level of challenge throughout the leveling/early content. I suspect that the only games able to offer this, would be those making heavy use of instances, like SWTOR.
It may well be that it’s unrealistic to expect a MMORPG to be able to offer challenge to a coordinated group, while simultaneously allowing solo players to complete the same zones or content. Action RPGs like Path of Exile do allow you to select a difficulty level, however you have to play through the story to first unlock the higher difficulty levels. For me personally, one playthrough is usually enough for me to want to move on to another game. Is it better for us to try a heavy-instanced MMO, an ‘old-school’ MMO that relies more on mandatory grouping or some other genre altogether?