I have a habit of climbing any available surface in MMORPGs. This applies in the open world and even in dungeons. I just like to see if my character *can* get up onto this surface or that area. Not all games are created equally in terms of how much freedom a character is given to explore, nor in terms of whether a character has abilities that help with such exploration.
Neverwinter, as one of the MMOs I’m currently actively playing, has a mixed score card in this regard. Zones are generally pretty constrained in design, and often quite linear. That said the Undermountain areas do have some more complex and vertical locations that invite a bit of climbing or jumping. The game lacks movement abilities beyond the common dodge that most action MMORPGs build into the basics of combat. Some classes even lack this, the Fighter and Paladin have charges to reach a foe, but that’s no help if you’re trying to reach up onto a ledge.
Some zones do have more than one layer for the more explorative adventurer – areas that you can reach to see a fresh perspective on the same area. The expeditions tend to be pretty linear, however, even if the visuals can be impressive.
World of Warcraft, Classic
It is easy to think of all the linear dungeons in later World of Warcraft expansions and dismiss the game from this post’s regard. Many of the dungeons in Classic are decidedly non-linear. That is not to say that the more modern game only has linear dungeons, the Eye of Azshara during the Legion expansion offered several paths through an essentially open area, with differing challenges from the layering of the different debuffs caused by killing bosses in that chosen order.
However, from the perspective of exploring and climbing on stuff, Classic dungeons are something else. They are particularly complex compared to the dungeons from the first expansion, the era I joined the game in – Burning Crusade. In the TBC we saw the advent of a lot of very linear ‘corridor’ dungeons. Compare that to Vanilla dungeons like Gnomeregan, Razorfen Kraul, Uldaman or Black Rock Depths – sprawling mazes that offer many possible routes.
They also offer endless possible opportunities for climbing up things, jumping up or down surfaces or taking some hair-raising shortcuts. Just remember to dismiss your pets before you leap! That’s one of the joys of re-discovering such old content, the design philosophy was more open (or more naive about not walling off every possible shortcut canny players would take).
Dungeons & Dragons Online
I couldn’t write about explorative gameplay (the “because it’s there” factor) without mentioning Dungeons & Dragons Online. This game indulges the urge to climb/jump/dive on and off surfaces to the max in so many different ways. Characters can gain a good range of movement-related abilities or buffs to help out as well (jump skill buffs, sprint-style abilities, feather-fall, etc).
Yes, the game has some linear dungeons as well, mostly sewers, but that is in stark contrast to the labyrinthine layouts of the longer adventures.
It is a stellar game from this perspective. There can be a lot of enjoyable gameplay just from climbing up and getting back down again, by the safe and slow route or finding (and surviving!) a shortcut.
Happy adventuring memories in the making!