The Best Fantasy-Based MMOs To Play In 2023

MMORPGs are the gateway to untold worlds that we could never visit in real life. Whether you want to be a superhero, swashbuckling pirate, or space marine, there’s an MMO with a world that will fit the bill. There is no doubt, however, that high fantasy is the most prolific of all MMORPG settings. After all, who doesn’t enjoy the thought of exploring a world full of fantastical beasts, wielding legendary swords with herculean strength, or drawing upon elemental forces to cast devastatingly powerful spells?

With decades worth of fantasy MMORPGs to choose from, finding the right one can be an epic quest in and of itself. To help you begin your journey, here are the 10 healthiest, most robust, and most promising fantasy-based MMORPGs to play in 2022.

Blade & Soul – Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting

Blade and Soul

Release Date: January 19, 2016

Platform(s): PC, Android, iOS

Payment Model: Free to play

With a world steeped in Chinese mythology, Blade & Soul is the perfect option for players looking for high-flying stunts and action combat full of supernatural martial arts styles. As your character grows in power, you will choose from multiple magical and martial techniques as you string together powerful combo attacks to dispatch your foes. The Dual Blade class was introduced in 2021, bringing your choice of character classes to 14. This variety of playable classes offers a wide array of weapons, from the bare fists of the Kung Fu Master to the giant axe carried by the Destroyer. There’s even a Zen Archer and Gunsmith for players who prefer to stay at a distance during combat.

With the upgrade to Unreal Engine 4 in the latter half of 2021, Blade & Soul looks and runs better than ever. Significant issues like long loading times have virtually been wiped out, and the world’s visuals and kung fu special effects are even better than before. Now may just be the perfect time to jump into B&S and get your kung fu fix.

Neverwinter – A Natural 20

Release Date: June 20, 2013

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Payment Model: Free to play

Neverwinter was the Dungeons & Dragons MMO everyone was waiting for when it was released in 2013. The action combat and preset character classes are a departure from the control players allowed in a typical cRPG. However, choosing the Forgotten Realms campaign setting was a major plus (unlike the Ebberon setting of Dungeons & Dragons Online), and Drow Elves were everywhere as players tried to emulate their favorite D&D ranger. And let’s not forget that there were dragons to slay.

Neverwinter saw a slew of changes in 2021, effectively giving anyone wanting to try out the MMO in 2022 a whole new leveling experience. First and foremost was the “level squish” that adjusted the level cap to 20. This means players will be able to level much faster than before. And since levels are achieved at key milestones in the story, you no longer have to worry about out-leveling the story. Several zones were also removed from the leveling process, so players should also notice higher population levels in the remaining zones as they level up.

On the flip side, Neverwinter also added some new content in 2021. Multiple updates gave players additional zones full of quests to complete and added the Bard to the playable class list (the first new class since 2016). 2022 is off to a good start as well, with the Dragonbone Vale update already live on PC and coming consoles in February.

All in all, the recent changes and continual flow of new content make Neverwinter a must-play MMO in 2022 regardless of whether you’re a D&D fan or not.

Guild Wars 2 – Something For Everyone

Release Date: August 28, 2012

Platform(s): PC

Payment Model: Free to Play

While other MMOs tend to lean towards either PvE or PvP, Guild Wars 2 offers players a balanced blend of content to choose from. Start your day with some solo questing, then gather a few friends to run some 5- player fractals or 10-player raids, GW2’s instanced dungeons. GW2 also has larger group-based content in the form of massive-scale world events where players fight together to take down epic world bosses. For PvP fans, GW2 again offers small and large-scale options. You can opt for small team-based arena-style fighting if you wish, but GW2’s World vs. World combat is some of the best massive-scale combat you can find in any modern MMO, with the three faction maps pitting hundreds of players against each other.

2022 is sure to be an exciting time for GW2 players. Guild Wars 2’s third expansion, End of Dragons, is set to release in February. Not only does End of Dragons bring another epic story that will take players to the land of Cantha (first seen in the original Guild Wars Factions expansion), each profession will receive a new elite specialization. EoD will also introduce multiplayer mounts, skiffs, new strike missions, and the most important piece of any MMO – fishing.

Elder Scrolls Online – Bringing New Content To The Elder Scrolls Franchise

Release Date: April 4, 2014

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation5|4, Xbox X|S|One, Stadia

Payment Model: Buy to play

In the same way that Neverwinter tries to adapt the D&D ruleset to an online setting, Elder Scrolls Online attempts to morph the single-player world of the Elder Scrolls franchise into a massively multiplayer experience. And overall, Zenimax has done a great job of it. In fact, ESO caters to solo play as much as it does to a multiplayer experience. Go it alone or group up with some friends, the choice is yours.

The world of ESO is strikingly similar to the single-player offerings, too. Set 1000 years before the single-player offerings, the time offset allows ESO to have a unique look and story while still being similar to the settings we have all come to know and love. All of your favorite guilds are here, as is vampirism and other afflictions. And although combat is adjusted to account for multiple players, after a short acclimation period, you’ll be swinging swords and slinging spells with ease.

In 2022, Elder Scrolls Online will be breaking new ground, literally. While previous expansions took us to familiar locales like Vvardenfell and Skyrim, according to Zenimax, 2022’s expansion will be taking us to “a never-before-seen world and a tale that has yet to be told.” So why wait for The Elder Scrolls 6 to release when you can experience new adventures in Elder Scrolls Online?

Black Desert Online – Beauty Is More Than Skin Deep

Black Desert Online

Release Date: March 3, 2016

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android, iOS

Payment Model: Buy to play

For the longest time, gamers accepted that you had to sacrifice graphics quality if you wanted to play an MMO. When Black Desert Online launched in 2016, that all changed. And due to the graphics update in 2018, BDO still has one of the most beautiful worlds in any MMO to date.

BDO has more than pretty pixels to offer, though. With 23 classes to choose from, players are sure to find a class that will fit their preferred playstyle. The action combat can be a lot of fun for anyone wanting to make a name for themselves with spells or blades, and an in-depth gathering and crafting system will keep players looking for more peaceful pursuits quite busy. And let’s not forget that the guild-based warfare found in Black Desert Online makes it an excellent choice for anyone looking for some PvP action.

Developer Pearl Abyss recognizes that many players don’t want to grind forever just to get into the action, so for those wishing to take the fast path of advancement, BDO has Season servers with accelerating leveling. When Season servers are open, players may create a single Season character that will gain EXP at an increased rate and receive additional gifts to aid you in your progression. Then, when you are ready (or when the season ends), you can “graduate” from the Season server and transfer your character over to the regular server. With the Winter Seasonal Server up and running, and with the PC version getting a rework of 17 classes back in December (the console update has been delayed), 2022 looks to be the perfect time for new and returning players to jump into Black Desert Online.

World of Warcraft and WoW Classic – Against The Ropes But Not KO’d

Release Date: November 23, 2004

Platform(s): PC

Payment Model: Monthly subscription

World of Warcraft has lost its way in recent years. I’m not suggesting that WoW is on the brink of shutting down or anything, but it’s hard to deny that it has lost its edge. With each expansion, more and more players have joined the ranks of the unsubscribed.

Over the years, what started as a murmur turned into a deafening roar of, “I want Vanilla!” The cries became so loud that Blizzard actually caved in 2019 and released WoW Classic. And holy crap, everyone and their brother signed on the dotted line and drank the WoW Classic Kool-aid. Since the initial hype, things have settled down some. Burning Crusade Classic Phase 1 launched in June 2021, followed by Phase 2 and WoW Classic Fresh, albeit with less fanfare, probably due more to the current climate surrounding Activision-Blizzard than player interest in the projects.

Even as other MMOs continue to chip away at what was once a massive player base, both WoW Retail and Wow Classic continue to chug along as two of the most popular MMOs around. And with the recent news of Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision-Blizzard, 2022 is sure to be anything but quiet for WoW players no matter what their preferred flavor of the MMO happens to be.

Lord of the Rings Online – The One IP To Rule Them All

Lord of the Rings Online

Release Date: April 24, 2007

Platform(s): PC

Payment Model: Free to play

At the heart of any great MMORPG is a rich world in which to adventure. You would be hard-pressed to find a fantasy setting with deeper lore and legendary stories than Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Lord of the Rings Online does a fantastic job of building upon this lore by thrusting players into epic storylines where you find yourself working with main characters from the source material.

2022 marks the 15th anniversary of LotRO, making it the second oldest MMO on this list. LotRO is anything but stagnant, though. With nine expansions under its belt, LotRO currently has six races and ten classes to choose from. There are also 40+ regions filled with quests, legendary items, and epic quests to enjoy as you level your character to the current cap of 140. With a world that big, odds are it’ll take you longer to explore all Lord of the Rings Online has to offer than it took Frodo to reach Mordor.

Everquest – The OG Of Fantasy MMOs

Release Date: March 16, 1999

Platform(s): PC

Payment Model: Free to play

The only pre-2000 launch title on this list, Everquest was the first true 3D MMO hit. Over 20 years since its debut, EQ has persevered through the release of WoW and shrugged off the release of a sequel in Everquest 2. Everquest has even survived developer Verant Interactive being absorbed and run by Sony Online Entertainment, something that other MMOs like Star Wars Galaxies could not do.

With 28 expansions under its belt, the world of EQ is enormous. That’s more than one expansion per year, and EQ doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, either. Starting with the transition to 64-bit servers and client software in February and ending with another expansion in December, the 2022 Roadmap is full of improvements, updates, and additional content.

It is difficult to find a previous EQ player that doesn’t speak fondly of their adventures in Norrath. Players consider it a badge of honor to say they were able to navigate the harsh realities of EQ at the turn of the century. EQ has stayed relevant by adapting many of the modern conveniences players expect in a modern MMO, including going free to play, microtransactions, and level boosts. Even so, EQ continues to be a stark contrast to the solo-friendly MMOs we enjoy today; EQ has always encouraged group play, with the friendships created while loitering around spawn points lasting long after players moved on to other games. This balancing act of staying true to its roots while adapting to current trends is what continues to make Everquest an attractive option in 2022.

Lost Ark – The New Contender In 2022

Release Date: February 11, 2022

Platform(s): PC

Payment Model: Free to play

Although single-player and co-op ARPGs like Diablo 3 and Path of Exile have been popular for years, MMOARPGs have had a rough go of it in the US. Titles like MU Legend continue on nearly unnoticed among the crowd of other MMOs, which is still a better fate than the short life of Trion’s Devilian. Developer Smilegate RPG and producer Amazon Games aim to overcome the genre’s troubled past with the release of Lost Ark.

Already released in South Korea, Russia, and Japan, Lost Ark was initially slated to release in North America and Europe during the already busy launch window of Fall 2021. Citing the need for additional time for better localization and extra polish, Lost Ark’s release date was delayed until February 11, 2022. This delay has only fueled the hype surrounding Lost Ark, with November’s closed beta test receiving primarily high marks. And with some truly interesting classes and specializations to try out, Lost Ark just might be the MMOARPG that brings the genre out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

Final Fantasy XIV – The New King Of Fantasy MMOs

Release Date: August 27, 2013

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5

Payment Model: Monthly subscription

A few years ago, there’s no doubt that World of Warcraft would hold the number one spot on any fantasy MMO list, with Final Fantasy XIV coming in a distant second or third place. But with WoW’s recent expansions creating an ever-growing pool of disenfranchised players paired with the Chernobyl-level meltdown of Activision-Blizzard’s corporate image, FFXIV was well-positioned to take over as the king of fantasy-based MMOs.

FFXIV has slowly built its player base over the years, focusing more on maintaining the player experience over grabbing as much cash as possible. FFXIV has kept its subscription-based monetization model even as the rest of the MMO genre turns to free-to-play and microtransactions to fill their coffers. And even with the horde of new players banging on the gates, Square Enix temporarily halted sales of FFXIV to mitigate the negative impact to current subscriber’s experience while they worked to resolve server congestion (they did the same thing when there were server issues at launch).

Final Fantasy XIV’s ascension to the throne was just a matter of luck and positioning, though.

FFXIV’s long-term success can be directly attributed to its fantastic storyline. Although the original story found in A Realm Reborn was a tad lackluster, the quality of the story arc has improved with each expansion. The story’s completion in the recently released fourth expansion, Endwalker, has easily placed the FFXIV story arc as one of the best in the industry and well worth the monthly subscription price.

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