They say that travel broadens the mind. In the case of mmo games, the minds of players and characters should be incredibly broad as adventures are found in a wide diversity of settings. One of the more potent lures of online games is being able to explore and travel through a world that is far different from our own. While there are many different worlds that players can venture into, there are some common settings that are regularly used in mmo games that should be quite familiar to the average gamer. Let’s lace up our hiking boots as we examine the top five settings used in mmos.
The first item on our list of the top five mmo settings is the underground. There’s something quite primal about venturing into the dark depths of the earth, travelling through caverns and coming across hidden marvels, even a lost race perhaps. Many mmos feature underground adventures, and we should not forget that the typical mmo Dwarf comes from this perpetually dark realm. Most online games feature quests that take place in majestic caves or lost catacombs. My personal favorite underground location in online gaming is the Underdark in Dungeons and Dragons Online, where the fearsome Drow rule supreme.
Dungeons and Dragons Online Underdark
Next on our top five mmo settings list is the aquatic realm. In older games, the world of water was either an impenetrable barrier or a cause of certain death due to drowning. Now mmorpg games utilize the aquatic realm as another source of high adventure. Many games have released expansions that feature the underwater depths, with some more recent examples being RIFT and Perfect World International. There can be hidden dangers in the deep blue sea, but also some great rewards. I’ve always enjoyed how Guild Wars 2 seamlessly allows players to venture down into the watery depths. Still, I do find that a good number of gamers do tend to shy away from water. Perhaps it’s that danger can come at you from all sides (such as above and below), which is not the case on dry land.
The idyllic woodland is our next choice in our top five mmo settings. Every gamer has ventured through the deep forest in search of glory and completing quests. If there elves found in the mmorpg, chances are that there will be plenty of forests to run around in. Heck, if you start out as a Night Elf in World of Warcraft, you’ll be seeing forests for quite some time as you begin your adventuring career. While the dangers found in most mmo forests are of the natural variety (bears, wolves, and boars, oh my!), there are also desperate bandits and, naturally, monsters. From giant spiders in Lord of the Rings Online to dryads in Dungeons and Dragons Online. Not to mention that other fey races (pixies and such) are normally found in the sun-dappled glades of the deep forest.
Our forth entry on our list of the top five mmo settings is the final frontier: space. Needless to say, this is the default setting for any sci-fi mmo, but it can appear in other mmos as well, notably superhero-themed games. Gamers travel through the inky blackness of space to find and explore new planets. Players can build virtual empires of political alliances that span vast swathes of territory in games like EVE Online or just go boldly where no one has gone before in Star Trek Online. While space provides a tremendous opportunity for exploration, it also provides a great setting for some spaceship combat. From Elite: Dangerous to EVE Online, space can be quite deadly for the unwary or the unarmed. Just remember that in space, no one can hear you scream.
EVE Online spaceship
The last entry on our top five mmo settings list is the most common setting of all: the dungeon. What would mmo games be without the humble dungeon? The dungeon has served as the cornerstone of online gaming since mmos first started, and their dominance existed before that in pen-and-paper roleplaying games. The most influential tabletop rpg of all time (that started the entire roleplaying hobby) even has dungeons in its title. Of course, I’m talking about the venerable Dungeons and Dragons. Practically every raid in online gaming takes place in a dungeon. Millions of gamers go on a dungeon run on a daily basis to accumulate loot and gear. Whether they’re filled with undead, ors, cultists, or some other evil monsters, dungeons are a cornerstone of gaming, and I would rank them as the number one mmo setting.
There you have it, my friends, our list of the top five mmo settings. Every online gamer worth their salt has spent countless hours adventuring in each of these settings (with the possible exception of space if a gamer limits their playing to fantasy mmos). There are other settings that spring to mind, such as an urban setting or hellish dimensions, but I felt that our list of the underground, the aquatic realm, forests, space, and dungeons are the most common mmo settings that players encounter on a regular basis. While most of these settings are accessible to us in real life, they’re not quite filled with the same dangers and rewards that are found in online games. When I venture into the woods, I only come across a geo-cache and perhaps a snake as opposed to a tribe of orcs that have a large pile of gold and some helpless villagers to be rescued.