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Top 10 World of Warcraft Alternatives - Explore other worlds than WoW
World of Warcraft has grown to ridiculous proportions and today it's completely dominating the MMORPG field, making it really hard for other, similar, newer and occasionally better games to grab a market share. Sure, WoW is a great game - otherwise it wouldn't have such a huge following, but it's also dated. With this article I'd like to strike a blow for other PC role-playing games that new online gamers should at least consider before committing to an account at Blizzard. Some of them are subscription-based like World of Warcraft, but some are free to play once you've bought the retail game.
1. Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
Before its release, Age of Conan was surrounded by a lot of hype thanks to its detailed game world and much more mature themes than similar games - obviously, this is Conan the Barbarian we're talking about, so of course there will be blood, gore and gratuitous nudity as well.
Instead of taking off right away, Hyborian Adventures ran into some issues, primarily the impenetrable WoW brick wall, but also some technical snags and never really got a chance to grow as fast as it deserved. Most of the game's initial problems have been corrected now with patches and updates--it now has more rewards and a better PvP experience. The graphics in this online RPG are clearly some of the best and most up-to-date so far in the MMORPG genre, although it requires a fair amount of PC horsepower to look its best.
2. Eve Online
Eve Online is a sci-fi/space MMORPG that has been around for quite a while now and besides WoW it's one of the most densely populated games online. It's not just about action and player vs. player battles (although those are common too) but just as much about resource management and cooperation. The game's depth is both its strength and its weakness, as new gamers may have a hard time getting into the game. You need a hefty amount of persistence to carve out your place in the galaxy, but it's bound to be equally rewarding.
3. Guild Wars
Guild Wars is free to play once you've purchased the game, i.e., there are no subscription fees - once you own it you can just hook up to a server and start playing. On the other hand it has quite a few expansions that you probably want to stock up on if you get hooked on it. One reason why you might want to wait, however, is that Guild Wars 2 is around the corner.
4. Perfect World
This is an MMORPG that really shines in the character customization area. If you're one of those RPG gamers who like to tinker with your character down to the smallest detail, this game is for you. It also offers excellent graphics, a massive game world and an equally huge number of quests to complete. On the downside, some players have complained about unresponsive support, arduous downloads and occasional lag.
5. Final Fantasy XI
If you like the Final Fantasy series and Japanese role-playing games in general, then FFIX is a given. Although it has become even more dated than WoW, your choices are really quite limited in the JRPG genre. Square Enix has thrown in most of the components from the FF series and shuffled. You can level up in different jobs, breed Chocobos, and lots of other things you recognize from the Final Fantasy games. The result is an MMORPG with a huge following and a huge fantasy world to explore. On the downside, it feels quite old.
6. City of Heroes/City of Villains
If you want your player character to dress up in tights and play in a city setting instead of the conventional fantasy world, you may want to take a look at City of Heroes or City of Villains. City of Villains/Heroes has been praised for not being too hard on newcomers, and is often labeled a more 'casual' MMORPG.
7. Pirates of the Burning Sea
Pirates of the Burning Sea really stands out in the MMORPG crowd - not only is it devoid of orcs and elves, but you get to play a pirate, complete with sea battles and swashbuckling fights. This game is so different from the rest that it's probably not for everyone, but those who like the Caribbean setting and the pirate theme seem to enjoy it. Even though it's a few years old, the graphics are very eye-pleasing. There's also more to the game than meets the eye, such as fairly complex resource management and a host of different ship types and upgrades.
8. Lord of the Rings Online
The MMO take on Lord of the Rings is, just like WoW, made to appeal to the mainstream, casual player. It has several other things in common with WoW, but with both pros and cons compared to the "original". You get to play in the Middle Earth setting with all the familiarity that entails, which might be good enough for some gamers, and it offers pretty graphics. On the other hand, lots of players have complained about too shallow and repetitive game play.
Runescape is another "free" MMORPG with a more undemanding approach to the genre. The graphics aren't all that exciting - even after the upgrade to the 'HD' (High Detail) version - but it gets the job done and works well on older computers and laptops. Some players seem to love it while others hate it, and a decent amount of leveling up is apparently required to beef up your character to a playable level. It's still an alternative for gamers on a budget.
10. The Chronicles of Spellborn
The Chronicles of Spellborn also deviates from the fantasy standards by being set in a post-apocalyptic game world--in the 'time of the Enclave' (how's that for a Fallout reference?). It uses the Unreal Engine to provide the graphics, meaning that it looks good. As a matter of fact it puts a lot of effort into the looking-good part; weapons and armor are there mostly for show, as there are no stats associated with them. Naturally there are other skills and abilities you can level up instead. Chronicles of Spellborn is a relatively new MMORPG and it will be interesting to see how it's received.
After that list I'm tempted to say "there you have it!" But obviously there are plenty of other MMORPGs out there waiting to be discovered. The reason I wrote it at all was mainly to point out that there are lots of other interesting, captivating and addictive games than the so very Massively MORPG World of Warcraft. Now go out and explore! If you enjoy a good RPG, also have a look at my related hub: Top 25 Best PC RPGs Ever, all about single player RPGs.