A sense of grandeur in MMORPGs

Playing dungeons with our friends in World of Warcraft recently I was reminded of just how much I appreciate the background details that many players may not even notice as they race from boss fight to boss fight. The Battle for Azeroth dungeons continue a long tradition of very impressive settings for our five-person exploits.

As is usually the case the areas you can walk with your character are usually quite constrained, if not downright linear, but the illusion of wider spaces and layered environs is still important to me.

A lasting memory, recently revisited via Timewalking, is that of entering the Old Kingdom dungeon and being struck by the immense scale of the cavern within which the relatively small explorable space is painted. Considering how old this content is it remains impressive.

A slightly earlier foray into the mists of dungeons past had me equally appreciative of how effective the oversized scale for the corridors and carvings of the pictured Burning Crusade was. I can’t say I remember these details from back in the day, but then I was playing on an  almost clockwork computer by comparison and had to play with very low graphics settings.

Up-close with a cruiser in dry-dock

This same sense of scale and grandeur was very noticeable in my first ever playthrough of the Nathema content for Star Wars the Old Republic yesterday. Talk of the new patch has brought me back into the game but I had to do some catchup before moving on to the new stuff.


The play through took me longer than it probably should have because I kept pausing to gawk and screenshot stuff. There’s some wonderful environmental design in this content whether it’s the industrial/urban side of Copero or the untamed wilderness and ancient ruins of Nathema.

As my character wound his way up and then down deeper into ruins of Nathema it felt passingly like the many layered zones of the Heart of Thorns expansion of Guild Wars 2. Naturally there was a lot less freedom of movement in comparison but looking down and then back up to the path across these layers was impressive still.

Even if MMORPG engines can rarely cope with total freedom in large zones (Guild Wars 2 is a notable exception), I appreciate when the designers take pains to at least give an impression of a more expansive area than the paths we are given to follow.

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