I haven't posted in quite awhile as most of my free time has been destroyed by a combination of work and a decreasing ability to stay up past midnight. Once again, it came down to either writing about MMOs or getting to play them. I have been able to play a few new games since the last time I wrote including: Lego Universe, Cataclysm, and even some Rift. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to experience much of the raid content in these games, so my perspective is mostly from a single group.
Lego Universe was a lot of fun and I got to try it out in beta right before they went live. Net Devil had some really great ideas for the game, but the time to penis was a big issue for them. Part of the appeal of the game was supposed to be about being able to show off your giant Lego structures. Well that feature was pretty much disabled from the time I started playing. Some people were talking in the forums about giant phallic towers complete with fountains on top that lead to the ban on visiting other people's architecture. Other then that the game was like a simplified version of Legend of Zelda with some mini games thrown in. Fun for a couple of weeks but, not enough content for a full MMO.
After that experience I jumped back in DIKU land and started on a bit of a tank lark. Both Rift and Cataclysm have LFG tools and I enjoyed the instant queues for dungeons by wearing the heavy plate. One side effect of this was I found out what happens when you're the only tank online. A nice casual guild can get very authoritative and all of a sudden you start thinking twice about logging in and finding yourself being bugged to raid for five hours. This wouldn't have been so bad if I had the gear for it, but our guild had switch exclusively to ten men raids and gearing up multiple off-tanks had not been a priority.
Instead, me and a couple friends had been mastering heroic dungeons and we had a lot of fun for a couple of months. We did seem to burn out quicker on Cataclysm then Wrath of the Lich King though. Leveling was just too linear with the limited number of zones and most of of us already had a lot of max level characters. The old world revamp of Azeroth was very nice, but you hit the Outlands like a brick wall now. Eventually, a couple of us decided to try out Rift while some other friends decided to take a break from online games.
I love the class system in Rift. In my opinion it's the closest to perfection out of any fantasy MMO. The problem was that after a couple of months it became clear Rift was too much like the other fantasy games. The rift closings was nice change of pace, but we had accidentally leveled on a PvP server and didn't realize the implications until later. In the later levels you are expected to supplement questing with rift farming and things can get a bit slow if your faction is constantly outnumbered. Rift did have great expert dungeons which had more bosses then the normal versions. Unfortunately, just like Cataclysm this quickly got old for some of my friends.
Rift is probably the second best MMO I've ever played, but its too much like World of Warcraft. It would have been great if my friends and I had come to Rift from some other game. But starting Rift right after Cataclysm made the burn out happen much quicker. I think fantasy MMO's are going to be on hold for awhile and we're waiting for something different. At least one buddy of mine has become a rabid Old Republic fanboy and that seems to be the next target. There's also some talk of playing Diablo 3 as a group. A number of us still use Battle.Net to play Star Craft 2 mods so I wouldn't be surprised if we did that. At the moment though I'm MMO-less and enjoying the freedom to research and write about what's on the horizon.