Combat in MMOs differs from game to game. Some games use a traditional system of combat where the player has an abundance of spells and abilities lined up in several hotbars like in World of Warcraft. With cooldowns and global cooldown, players are limited to certain abilities depending on when they last used it. For the interim, the player must let the character auto attack. On the other hand, some games use active combat with positional attacks and active blocking mixed with spells and abilities like in Age of Conan.
Personal preference usually dictates which of these two combat systems a person enjoys. Neither is innately better than the other, although some gamers live and die by one and hate the other. For me, active combat is where the real fun hides. With that in mind, here’s a list, in no particular order, of MMOs with the best active combat. After all, the lack of the auto attack is awesome.
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
Age of Conan gets a lot of heat because of its rocky launch and grind-ish nature, but AoC is solid game built around an excellent combat system. Players must be aware of enemy and personal shields and attack accordingly. Even with cooldowns still present on abilities, the player is always able to control a melee swing (or shoot a ranged weapon). By using the 1, 2, and 3 buttons players dictate where the blow will land. If the enemy doesn’t have a shield there, the strike hits for more damage. It’s an interactive system that lets players control what they’re doing and where they’re hitting. In fact, melee heavy classes must execute these blows in a particular order to finish powerful combos. It requires your attention and rewards you for your skill.
DC Universe Online
It’s important to feel legendary while playing a superhero MMO. Although, DCUO lacks in many areas, the combat is refreshing for the genre. Building up abilities with standard mouse clicks isn’t a completely foreign concept in the world of superhero MMOs, but when mixed with symbiotic relationships amongst the archetypes, it makes for a more strategic form of gameplay. A blocking system and combo system are also present in DCUO requiring a reactive player who is familiar with what is happening to his/her character and how he/she should respond to it.
Dungeons and Dragons Online
DDO formally slipped through the cracks when gamers considered the MMO greats. Today, DDO is known for being an icon of success in moving from the pay-to-play to free-to-play model. However, there is so much more to DDO. Aside from having a rich character development filled with feats, enhancements, and more, DDO utilizes active combat. You’ve got to be close enough to his your enemy and it has to land to bring damage. What makes DDO truly unique, though, is the fact that active combat is also mixed with traditional combat modified by the daily system. Players still need to worry about casting or using certain spells or abilities so many times per day (before they head to a shrine to start the next “day” cycle) while they actively swing, tumble, and dodge their way through dungeons.
Fallen Earth is a little like Star Wars Galaxies if it were in the post-apocalyptic southwest. The crafting is superior to most, an interesting player city system is imminent, and its fans are extremely loyal. Fallen Earth puts emphasis on being an FPS and an RPG while still being an MMO. With mutations players can cast spells, but the active combat is with each swing of your axe or shot from your gun. Players use a reticle in aim mode to line up shots, then a dice roll determines the power of the player’s shot.
Nexon’s physics based action title, Vindictus, is pretty hollow. You make a character with its gender tied to its class. You can customize it, but not extensively. Later, you take this character into the heavily shard-based world and basically queue at boats to do missions. All of that sounds pretty unbecoming, but the game is outstanding because of its combat. It’s completely visceral, uses grapples and grabs, and even has the player learn combos to devastate foes. The world around the player acts as a weapon with destructible objects like broken pillars, vases, and more. Not to mention, physics play a huge part in Vindictus. Players can use long chains to restrain a foe or spear it from a distance making the enemy drop to the ground in pain.
The last MMO showing off active combat is TERA. TERA’s not even out yet and already players can tell the combat is going to be marvelous. With controller support a guarantee, players will need to find their target, face their target, get within range of their target, and hit their target. There’s no tab-targeting and blindly firing your abilities in TERA. This active MMO should be out in 2011.