The Best MMORPGs in 2019 for Casual MMO Players
I know what you’re thinking.. “But Stix, how can you use both “Casual” and “MMO” in the same sentence? Those two terms are antonyms – they directly contradict one another.
That’s not untrue. However, there are MMOs aimed at a more hardcore audience, and MMOs aimed at a much more casual audience.
These days I’m somewhere in the middle. When I began playing MMOs back when I was a teenager I played them for about 8 to 12 hours per day.
The reason for that? I had a very traumatizing childhood, was pulled out of school at 15 and was forced to work to support my family.
The only escape I had from the terrible situation I was in was to play MMOs – they were free for me to play and I could become something else – something that wasn’t.. Iunno. But that’s a story for another time.
As I said, these days I have closer to 4 to 6 hours per day to play, but a couple hours of that are dedicated to playing MMOs for the channel, so they’re not games I’d normally play by myself.
So with the 2 to 3 hours on average I have to actually play MMOs per day I like to tackle them casually. I don’t want to have to spend every second of my game time grinding. I don’t want to have to run hours and hours of dailies.
I don’t want to be forced to do the most difficult content to experience the game. That’s what this video is about.
Do allow me to preface this by stating that just because these MMOs are listed as being casual, or casual-friendly, that doesn’t mean they don’t offer hardcore content.
STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC
Star Wars: The Old Republic is an MMORPG set in the Star Wars universe. It was announced back in 2008 and was developed by BioWare, launching in December 2011.
The Old Republic wasn’t nearly as well received as Bioware had hoped initially, and saw a drastic reduction of players over the course of its first year.
But over time they managed to fix some of the issues people had initially, but by the time they had it was too late. But that isn’t to say that the game has a low playerbase number – far from it.
Whenever I played through the game there were always players out experiencing the game, engaging with one another and generally just.. having a blast.
So despite popular opinion, the game is still doing well enough to begin if you haven’t tried it.
The game really immerses you in its world by having what is arguably some of the best story-telling in an MMO to date, with Final Fantasy XIV being better or worse depending on the type of story-telling you prefer.
The Old Republic really gives you a lot of control over your overall character – the path they take and both the allies and enemies you make along the way.
Graphically, the game holds up alright. Sure, it’s nothing to write home about and honestly I never found it all that appealing regardless, but there’s plenty of emotion often displayed by NPCs during cutscenes.
The environments you get to explore are beautiful though, of which there are.. plenty. Lots of different worlds to explore as well.
Combat – which I’m aware is probably one of the more important things to players looking for an MMO is traditional tab-target, the kind of combat you’d find in something like WoW or Final Fantasy XIV.
It’s slow and has you cycle through enemies one by one while clicking your skills off cooldown.
Which I’ll be honest here, I’m actually a fan of, but if you prefer action combat like Blade & Soul or TERA, you’ll probably be turned off by this.
Now I won’t go too deeply into this specific subject as I’ve not played nearly enough to know how accurate it is, but according to the Subreddit, the official forums, and.. a lotta websites, the game is very difficult to play without paying.
While it’s technically free to play, a lot is locked from free to play players, and that turns them off initially.
Exactly what, you’ll probably wanna Google around for preferably prior to opting to play so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
GUILD WARS 2
Guild Wars 2 follows the original Guild Wars game, being developed by ArenaNet and published by NCSoft. It was announced and launched in 2012.
As a direct sequel to the original Guild Wars, ArenaNet opted to adopt the same features – including a lack of a subscription fee, which tempted a lot of players, especially considering most high quality AAA MMOs were pay to play 5 to 10 years ago.
After a couple years the game ended up going free to play, but not before boasting an impressive over 5 million copies sold and over half a million player concurrency.
Yes, the game was truly that popular a few years ago – and although it has had a noticeable decrease in the last year, it still retains a very active playerbase.
An interesting thing Guild Wars 2 does is scale the level of all players within each region.
To elaborate, this means that even if players are max level, upon entering a zone they’re synced down to a level appropriate to the zone that players are questing in.
This prevents players from running around 1-shotting everything and provides opportunities for players of all levels to group together and play together.
The game, like The Old Republic also has quite a strong emphasis on story. And although it lacks the options to truly customize your own path, and has less story overall, Guild Wars 2 offers players a very deep, emotional plot.
Graphically, it does show its age a little bit. It’s almost 8 years old after all and it definitely looks like it was developed in the early 2010s.
That doesn’t mean it looks bad though – quite the contrary. The game is still a very beautiful game, especially the further through the game you make it and the expansion content looks even better.
Speaking of, while the base-game is free to play, to access any of the expansions’ contents you’re actually required to purchase them. The purchase is a one-time fee and there is nothing additional to pay after.
Combat is an interesting hybrid of both tab-target and action combat. It isn’t nearly as action-based as Black Desert but at the same time it’s a far cry from being as slow and spammy as a game like World of Warcraft.
Not that I’m saying WoW has bad combat – I actually love WoW’s combat but that was just an example. Don’t bite my head off.
See, while melee combat is completely free-aim, ranged combat in the form of spell-casting and rifle or bow users don’t allow you to freely aim.
Instead, they select a target – which is cyclable, but you can still use your skills without a target. So yeah.. strange hybrid.
Neverwinter is an MMORPG developed by Cryptic Studios and published by Perfect World Entertainment in 2013.
It’s based on the Forgotten Realms city of Neverwinter from Dungeons & Dragons – and is completely standalone, having no connections to the popular Neverwinter Nights RPG series of games.
The game was pretty well received – not amazing but definitely an above average title.
However, if you’ve ever played any of Perfect World Entertainment’s MMOs like Jade Dynasty, Perfect World International or Forsaken World, you’d know how fast they’re capable of killing a game.
Of turning popular positive opinion into disgruntled criticism. And that was the fate of Neverwinter. See, the game, to date, still has a semi-decent population.
Not numbering in the tens of thousands, but numbering in the thousands nonetheless.
And there’s a reason for that – it’s because underneath every attempt by Perfect World Entertainment to destroy the game, it remains a constant source of entertainment.
The game is very much a themepark MMO with mostly instanced-off zones. But those zones, although instanced, are packed with players. It isn’t instanced in the way of Soul Worker or Closers.
Instead, the area itself has a loading screen that is required to go through to navigate to. However, if 30 other players move through to the same instance – you’ll see each and every one of them.
Some zones in specific, such as Icewind Pass is very open and incredibly large, but the game is 100% instanced.
Graphically, the game looks decent enough. I’ve honestly never been a huge fan of its character models but again, its scenery, animations, spell effects and overall graphical style is very detailed.
Combat is complete action – some people might say it rivals Blade & Soul or TERA in terms of enjoyment and freedom. I was honestly surprised that a free to play MMO like this had such good combat when I played it the first time.
FINAL FANTASY XIV
Final Fantasy XIV is the only MMO in this list to have actually launched twice.
Originally, the game launched back in 2010 and was such a disaster they completely shut down the game, overhauled it and re-released it in 2013 under a new title: A Realm Reborn.
Final Fantasy XIV is both developed and published by Square Enix – and honestly, after the storm of hate, criticism and.. a general state of panic for Square, I’m pretty sure most of us believed it was impossible to ever recover from.
However, here we are. The end of 2019, and the game at peak popularity levels.
Shadowbringers really helped it out with that, bringing the game to a whole new audience, propelling the game well above a million concurrently subscribed players – a first for the game. Yes, an entire million players.
It’s also one of the final few MMOs capable of running a pay to play business model, with the vast majority of other MMOs changing to a free to play model to attempt to survive.
Like The Old Republic, Final Fantasy XIV has one of the deepest, constantly evolving stories I’ve ever seen told in an MMO.
This game feels like a Final Fantasy title. It’s packed with tons of characters, is dark, emotional and it even brought Mrs Stix to tears at one point. I’m sure a lotta you guys can relate to that.
I know the beginning of the game can be truly tedious to get through at times – specifically referring to the beginning of the game but how well the story ends up being developed.. is something unlike any other.
Graphically, the game looks pretty good. It looks its age – definitely, but that doesn’t stop them from introducing environments, characters, dungeons and areas that look truly breathtaking.
I’ve played my fair share of MMOs and this has some of the most beautiful dungeons I’ve ever seen.
Combat is tab-target, and admittedly for the first 30 to 40 levels is pretty slow. So much so that I can’t even defend it. I understand people’s frustration when first trying the game out.
However it also gets better, much, much better as the game goes on and you get more off-the-GCD cooldowns, but that’s no excuse for a slow introductory experience.
THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE
The Elder Scrolls Online is an MMORPG developed by Zenimax Online Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks in 2014.
The game is set on the continent of Tamriel – which might be familiar to those of you that have played some of the older Elder Scrolls games.
Yes, it is in fact set within the very same world. Originally, the game launched to.. a fair amount of criticism.
There were some bad design choices made and this lead the game – which was pay to play at the time, to completely overhaul a large portion of their systems and rebrand under “Tamriel Unlimited” while also shifting to a buy to play business model.
This worked out well because the game, currently, still has several hundred thousand players playing each month, selling over 10 million copies total.
Now if you’ve ever played an Elder Scrolls game you’ll realize right away that ESO looks just like your typical Elder Scrolls title. And it feels like it, too!
Graphically, the game is beautiful. Moreso than the majority of MMOs out there right now – character models are pretty basic, looking like a simpler version of Skyrim’s characters but the environments are gorgeous.
Interestingly, the game isn’t really fully open-world, but allows you to traverse between a large selection of zones. Just like Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV.
Each zone also has its very own story interconnected with the main story, providing players a lot of content to play through.
Combat is.. well, I mean, it’s honestly not as bad as some people say it is. If anything was reminiscent of an Elder Scrolls game, it’s definitely its combat.
It’s complete action, but at the same time, it’s the Final Fantasy XIV of the action MMO. Meaning that it isn’t nearly as bad as people make it out to be but it’s much slower and that bothers people.
BLADE & SOUL
Blade & Soul is an MMORPG developed by Team Bloodlust and published by NCSoft. It was released in South Korea in 2012 and launched in North America and Europe in 2016, after the hype for the game had largely died down.
Unlike literally every other game in this list, Blade & Soul is not related to any other MMO, any other movie or TV series.. although it does have an Anime series spun-off from it.
It never achieved popularity like some of the other games in this list but definitely had a very large, very active population for the first year of its launch.
How large that population was is unknown because NCSoft never really opened up about it but suffice it to say.. it was probably one of the most active free to play MMOs of its time.
Graphically, the game is absolutely gorgeous. Character models, environments, animations.. everything about this game is beautiful, with the exception of the characters’ fingers.. they were the length of my.. entire arm.
What, did you think I was going to mention a different appendage?
The world is large but utilizes instanced-off zones with loading screens separating them. The zones themselves can be occupied by hundreds of players though, and I’ve seen that first-hand.
Combat is.. highly addicting and is probably the fastest-paced action combat in this list.. by far. But admittedly the combat has been fairly nerfed down and simplified over time.
The one thing that prevents Blade & Soul from actually being truly great is its cash shop and pay to win elements. They are horrendous. You can ask anyone about this and they’ll tell you the very same thing.
Now the majority of MMORPGs listed have a lot in common: They have player housing, a lot of crafting, tons of outfits to procure, and don’t require 10 hours invested per day into them to truly enjoy.
You can take them more or less at your own pace, experience the game in its entirety, and even opt to tackle more difficult content when and if you have the time.
This is where the “Casual MMO” shines, providing you the ability to play at your own speed, complete content slowly over time.
I know the mentality in this day and age is “rush to endgame!!!” but some of us enjoy taking our time, and some of us don’t actually have the time.
So hopefully you enjoyed this list – hopefully you’re playing at least one of these games if you’re looking for something casual to sink some time into.