6 MMO zones too depressing to play

desolace

Not every MMO zone can be a winner. It’s got to be terrifically tough for designers to attempt to come up with yet another variation on a fantasy landscape with a twist, and I can’t completely blame them for sometimes dipping into the well of stock biomes (then again, Trove has candyland, so it’s not like we have to depend on that well).

I’m deeply affected by my environment, both in real life and in games. A downer zone will make it a trudge to progress through, sucking my interest from the game faster than I can click the button to log out. With that in mind, here are six MMO zones that I feel are too depressing to play.

(1) Old Desolace (World of Warcraft)

I know Desolace got a makeover in Cataclysm, which might have been the smartest thing that expansion did, because boy did I hate this place back in the old days. It was a grey, barren landscape with a heavy sky, the occasional boneyard, and not much else. There’s a good reason that it earned the nickname “Depressolace.”

(2) Angmar (LOTRO)

I know it was important to establish Angmar as an “evil” place, but the devs did such a good job doing that that they created a land where oppressiveness permeated every second of play. The sky was ugly, the trees twisted and stripped of foliage, the cities ugly slabs of stone, and the soundtrack kept pumping out a whine that grated.

(3) Galeras (WildStar)

At first glance, Galeras might not seem as bad as these other places; it’s got some good patches of greenery and trees. But out of all of the zones I’ve played in WildStar, it’s by far the one that I resent the most. It’s ugly with its color scheme, its war-torn lands, that canyon strip in the middle, and it just goes on and on and on forever.

(4) Ziost (SWTOR)

The newest planet in SWTOR, Ziost is certainly a powerful setpiece that shows the tremendous power and lunacy of the emperor. But after a certain even occurs that transforms the planet, Ziost becomes a trudge through blowing ash that quickly loses all appeal. I couldn’t even stomach doing one set of dailies there, particularly after the lush forest of Yavin-4.

(5) The City of the Sun God (TSW)

There’s a lot of sun in this “city,” but it’s the wrong kind of sun — harsh, evil, looming. Call me weird, but I’d rather the gloomy forests of Transylvania to this place, which is by far my least favorite in The Secret World. Maybe it’s the lack of any sort of human outpost or settlement, maybe it’s the annoying navigation of the map, but I think more than anything it’s just a dead place that doesn’t want to be disturbed.

(6) Faultline (City of Heroes)

An earthquake-ravaged area is actually an inspired idea, but the execution of it in Faultline was anything but enjoyable to explore and fight in. It was especially annoying if you didn’t have flight or teleportation, because some of the gaps and crevices were too huge for super-jump and super-running. More than that, I found the blocky buildings that you couldn’t explore tilting at all angles off-putting and not worth fighting over.

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16 thoughts on “6 MMO zones too depressing to play

  1. repgrind September 9, 2015 / 9:33 am

    To make Desolace even worse, back in the day you didn’t even get a mount until level 40, so you had to run through the whole zone.

  2. Stormwaltz September 9, 2015 / 9:42 am

    Angmar was my first thought. I didn’t spent much time in Faultline, so my shunned zone in CoH was the covered labyrinth of Perez Park. I remember it sometimes taking 30 minutes for my group of friends to find the path to a mission door and get everyone safely to it.

    Maybe iit’s just

  3. Stormwaltz September 9, 2015 / 9:48 am

    Sorry – my phone spazzed out while I was typing, and can’t find a way to edit accidental pre-post. I was saying:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I found original Guild Wars post-Searing zones incredibly off-putting. There were design issues with that (I HATED having to fight to move anywhere, even after I’d theoretically leveled past an area), but it was mostly the endless wasteland and ruins that killed my desire to play the game. I struggled to keep playing.

  4. Rowan September 9, 2015 / 10:25 am

    Really, any drought-stricken zone does that to me (e.g. Westfall or the Barrens in WoW). Until straight-up deserts, which are oddly more tolerable to me. Though I still find Tatooine the least appealing of planets I have visited in SWTOR. Quesh would be a close second, if it were bigger. But I agree with those places on your list that I have visited. CotSG in TSW is the worst, a desolate landscape coupled with a dark ride-style maze of passageways that make it impossible to run straight to the objective.

  5. Ayoù ça te fait mal? (@bambocheur) September 9, 2015 / 11:19 am

    Angmar in LOTRO: the soundtrack really grates on me here too and totally makes me want to leave the zone. The skyline also weighs heavy on me as well as the Mob density. And, in the middle of the zone, there’s a north/south death line that greets you, instantly informing you that you need to complete Book VI (iirc). Be that as it may, the storylines here worth those inconveniences for my time. In my last run through of this zone back in January, I counted at least 6+ fellowship quests that unlocked one by one as you completed one.

  6. bhagpuss September 9, 2015 / 11:34 am

    Plains of Anguish and Old Targonor in Vanguard take some beating. Ruins, undead and it literally never stops raining.

    I’m kind of glad Galeras is a low point in WildStar because that’s where I am now and it wore out it’s welcome a while ago. Good to know I’m getting the worst out of the way early.

  7. Scott M. September 9, 2015 / 11:58 am

    Oh boy, I loved Faultline — still one of my favorite zones ever in any MMO.

  8. Chordian September 9, 2015 / 12:54 pm

    I actually found Desolace quite atmospheric, but I admit that it also overstayed its welcome. I was ready to leave for the next zone earlier than its quests wanted me to.

    One zone I found depressing was Mirkwood in Lord of the Rings Online. And to make matters even worse, it was practically all of an entire expansion pack.

  9. Silverangel September 9, 2015 / 12:55 pm

    I like Angmar. Surprised nothing from Rift made this list, but maybe the destroyed/death zones don’t make enough of an emotional impression to be depressing.

  10. Tyler F.M. Edwards September 9, 2015 / 2:16 pm

    I’m going to get a bit ranty here, but one thing I could never wrap my head around is why people complain about “depressing” zones in MMOs.

    The whole point of an RPG is that it’s a heroic fantasy. You’re the brave hero out to save the world from evil. That means throwing yourself into the heart of darkness. That means confronting evil in its lair. I love the dark, dreary, and oppressive areas in games. Those are the times I truly feel like a hero.

    One of my all-time favourite zones in an MMO is Icecrown in Wrath of the Lich King because that is a zone that really sells you on the idea that absolutely everything there is trying to kill you. I felt like such an epic badass just for setting foot there.

    On the other hand, to continue using WoW as an example, I can’t stand the Night Elf starting zone. Everything’s so peaceful and tranquil — there’s no sense of peril or adventure at all. Questing there doesn’t make me feel like a hero; it makes me feel like a gardener.

    That’s not to say I want everything to be gloom and death all the time, and there is definitely plenty of room for more pleasant areas when they’re done well, but when I think of the MMO zones that most stuck with me, most of them are the wilder, bleaker, more dangerous ones: Icecrown, Storm Peaks, Dragonblight, Blue Mountain, Carpathian Fangs, Krasarang Wilds, etc..

    And I really don’t get why you would chose to play as an adventuring hero and then complain about being sent to exactly the sort of places you’d expect an adventuring hero to go.

  11. Rowan September 9, 2015 / 2:57 pm

    @Tyler Almost all of your favorite zones you mentioned are snowbound, which is not the same as desolate. I see no reason why evil = grey and lifeless. My favorite zones—like Howling Fjord, for example—have plenty of danger, but are pleasant to traipse through as I do battle with Vrykul, Scourge, and the like. Give me a dark, overgrown forest or mountain stronghold any day over a bleak desert or ash field.

  12. weritsblog September 9, 2015 / 5:22 pm

    The contrast with the Ziost change was awesome. I was very impressed with the quality of the result.

  13. Jeromai September 9, 2015 / 9:46 pm

    Pre-Incarnate Dark Astoria was pretty depressing to me. All fog and gloom, can barely see more than a meter away, that sort of thing. Then you fly into one of the mob factions and the storm shamans start making even more swirling fog/cloud/mist…

  14. Sylow September 10, 2015 / 7:14 am

    On TSWs City of the Sun God: It might be just me, but while the area indeed is cluttered and hard to navigate and the place indeed is the valey which was hidden and locked away from the outside world for almost two milennias, i find that the (high quality) story brings in most of the depression. It’s a tale of dedication, love and sacrifice, and now it turns out that the sacrifice might have all been in vain. The whole maps layout and design just emphasizes and reinforces the story, without being depressing by itself.

    The same map, just with different NPCs and story placed on it, could be a happy and cheerful place in another MMO. (And in some MMOs it would certainly be, e.g. GW2, where even the end of the world and certain damnation are things to celebrate and cheer at. ) Thus all in all, for TSW and the City of the Sun God, being mentioned in this list is a clear “mission accomplished”. (Unlike a few other mentioned maps here, where the depression was not what they were aiming for. )

  15. pkudude99 September 10, 2015 / 10:55 am

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the entire damn Dusken continent in Rift’s Storm Legion expansion. Well, no. The 1st zone is fine, but then all the other zones on that continent….. got old very early in the 1st zone, so I muscled through thinking I’d get a reprieve in the next zone but no. The entire continent is one giant death rift with depressing lore, fugly landforms, and just….. blech! That continent was why I drifted off from that game. “Muscled through” to hit level cap on my cleric, but then leveled my rogue and warrior on the Brevane continent. Then told myself that Dusken couldn’t really have been THAT bad, so I tried to level my mage up over there again and got to 57 and…… stopped playing. Didn’t take it back over to Brevane — just stopped.

  16. The Iron Dagger September 10, 2015 / 8:22 pm

    Nobody’s mentioned Coldharbour from TESO. As pretty as any TESO zone is, one can only quest so long in that godawful blue-tinged wasteland without missing the beauty of Nirn. The effect is doubled if you spent any substantial length of time in Dawnguard’s Soul Cairn.

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