War, what is it good for? Not much, actually, except for providing us with one of the most common settings for an MMO game. From knights clashing swords on the battlefields of old, to soldiers exchanging bullets and missiles in modern warfare, to the last of humanity mowing down waves of radioactive mutants in the post-apocalyptic future - war is everywhere in MMOs.
Let’s take a look at some of the more popular, interesting and challenging theatres of war MMO war games have used in the past, or should explore immediately.
MMOs have used so many different wars over the course of human history. From the Persian-Greco wars of Ancient Greece, through the savage raids of Vikings on Northern Europe to the crusades and other Medieval conflicts. That's without counting all the fantasy games that are inspired by real-world historical periods and events. Even with the hundreds of MMO war games out there, there’s still a lot of unexplored territory, from the times of Alexander the Great to the American Civil War.
World War II was fought on multiple fronts, with numerous different battles taking place each day, it’s no wonder so many games choose to explore it. There isn’t a genre that didn’t visit this setting at one point, from popular first-person shooters, through stealth games all the way to strategy war games. This abundance of WWII games has led some to believe this setting has been done to death, but with a conflict this intricate, there’s always more to see and experience.
The Cold War is among the longest wars the world has seen, and one of the more interesting ones. Since no large-scale fighting ever occurred between the two sides, you might think there’s not a lot for gamers to do in such a setting, but you’d be dead wrong. The political and military tensions make it the perfect setting for an online war strategy game. Deploying spy Units, signing secret agreements and managing proxy wars are the bread and butter of the turn-based strategy game.
In recent years we saw a shift in trends. Games moved away from WWII and into more modern battlefields. Most games refrain from tackling a specific conflict, and those that did try soon found themselves under fire, but modern settings are really hot right now. They give the player more destructive tools to play with, thus enhancing the game’s sense of empowerment. Soldiers Inc. is a good example, as it depicts a fictional war in a fictional country, yet maintains its root in realistic modern warfare.
Humanity is always looking towards the future, even when it comes to war. Futuristic games are seldom optimistic. Case in point, Total Domination takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth ravaged by nuclear war, but the human race is still fighting inside and outside threats. The further you go into the future, the more creative you can be. Augmented and genetically modified humans, aliens, mutants - you are only limited by your imagination, and maybe the laws of physics. Maybe. Of course, the future can bring with it all sorts of devastating, but admittedly cool weapons.
It is clear war plays a major part in today’s MMOs and video games in general, and this trend will not change anytime soon. Conflict is part of the human experience, and overcoming opponents is what life is all about. Combine it with the power fantasy of commanding troops in times of war, and you can understand why wars - past, present and future ones - fascinate gamers everywhere.