Upon getting a new MacBook with its M3 (Pro) chip, I looked at some games to play to see how it fared. This got me to download the Battle.Net app and install their supported games. One such game was World of Warcraft. It’s been at least ten years since I was a paid member and I’ve forgotten almost everything about that experience. Nonetheless, I jumped back in with a new character and blasted through the free first 20 levels. Now, I am seriously considering getting back into the game and paying for a subscription. At the same time, it’s gotten me to play a few other MMORPGs to see if they can keep my attention.

My World of Warcraft character on a Diablo-themed mount

A lot to grasp at first

It’s been a long time since I last played WoW. Although I didn’t buy the game at launch in 2004, I think I started playing the game around the 2008-09 range and probably stuck around for 3-6 months. I honestly don’t remember how far I got, and since my original character is long lost, I cannot remember what character class or faction I used. 

This time around, I began as a Blood Elf and jumped right into the story. Again, I have no idea if they’ve changed the onboarding process over the last decade. So, is this the start of vanilla WoW or have they modified the start to reflect the half-dozen expansions that have been released over the years? On the surface, WoW is easy to understand, but its systems are deep, and I don’t think the onboarding is that great. Yes, the early story campaign missions flow from one area to the next, and do a bit of onboarding, but the overall process feels weak.  

I wanted to ride a mount and explore leisurely, but I didn’t know how to do that. I have tons of free mounts that I’ve collected playing other Blizzard games like Diablo, Overwatch, and Hearthstone. But it wasn’t until I started fooling around with the menus that I how to mount one. At this point, I was already at the free level cap, so further exploration didn’t make a lot of sense. 

My World of Warcraft character

Still, I couldn’t stop playing

I managed to reach the free level cap in just over seven hours. The process of getting to level 20 was pretty straightforward. I think I probably would have reached it much faster had I not died a few times. Again, I wasn’t grasping the need to take breaks between fights. If I went into an area with too many foes, I almost always ended up dying and needing to find my soul to continue.

At the same time, I think I was dying a lot because my gear was weak. I wanted to improve my equipment but I didn’t know how to do it or where to go. Gear weakens in combat or when you die, and personally, I don’t think they do a good job of explaining that to you until it happens. So, I had to figure out out how to fix my gear and didn’t know how to improve it either. No clear signs to tell you who sold gear or how you could forge your own.

Even with some early-game frustrations, I was still having fun. For a game that’s almost 20 years old, there is a lot to explore. While the free content is fun, it’s clear that to get the most out of the game, you need to get a subscription.

A gameplay section from Guild Wars 2

But is this the proper MMO to play?

Over the last two weeks, I have been contemplating getting a subscription to WoW. They have 6 and 12-month subs that amount to about 17 dollars a month for us Canadians. It gets you access to almost all the expansion content, except the most recent release, Dragonflight. Also included is access to WoW Classic.

For me, there are two key things to consider if I want to invest the time to play an MMO. The first is how easy it is for me to get started. The second is how much time will I need to invest regularly. As someone who enjoys playing a lot of different games, I don’t want to feel like I have to play 10-20 hours a week to keep up with the narrative.

Because of that, I’m not too sure WoW is right for me. I started looking at a few other MMOs, and to be honest, I’ve already played a lot of them in the past. I was huge into Guild Wars 2 when it was first released back in 2012. I’ve returned to the game a few times over the years but I haven’t kept up with the expansions. I also didn’t finish the main campaign.

A cutscene from Lost Ark

A few other MMOs to sample

Other than WoW and Guild Wars 2, I also have a character in Star Wars: The Old Republic (full disclosure, I work for Electronic Arts but wasn’t an employee when the game first launched) but I couldn’t really get into the game and just sort of fell-off. I jumped back and it’s taking me some time to get used to its mechanics. For the longest time, I was stuck on a campaign fight I couldn’t win. It was only once I learned how to summon a companion that was I able to win the fight and progress the story.

I downloaded Final Fantasy XIV a few months ago, but barely started it. Not sure why I didn’t bother getting past the intro section, but that’s where my character currently is. In 2022, I played a bit of Lost Ark, but fell off it after a couple of days of playing. Recently, I logged back in and have enjoyed myself so far. Lost Ark feels more like Diablo than the other MMOs, which might be better suited for my play schedule.

After looking at a few complied lists of the best MMORPGs to play in 2023, it seems like the consensus is that Final Fantasy XIV is the best of the bunch, but all of the others I’ve played are mentioned in a positive light. Other games regularly referenced as good MMOs to play include RuneScape, The Elder Scrolls Online, Eve Online, and Black Desert. Funny enough, I have the base version of Black Desert on Steam, so I’ll download it and try to give it a shot before the year’s end.

My character in Final Fantasy XIV

Still not certain

As it stands, if I had to pick one MMORPG to play, of those that I’ve sampled over the last few days, Lost Ark narrowly beats out World of Warcraft. Although I spent the majority of my time playing WoW, Lost Ark feels more approachable and doesn’t give me the feeling that I need to put in a lot of time to have fun. I’m still considering putting in some actual time into Final Fantasy XIV, and maybe even sampling some Black Desert. Hopefully, I can find a game that clicks with me and keeps me engaged.