So as everyone else is goofing off in the spirit of the holidays, it remains to me, your lovable intern, to hack out a top 10 list in honor of All Hallow's Eve. It's the least I can do since they're paying me in candy.
While every MMO incorporates horror at some point (even, yes, Hello Kitty Online's Cat-Tastrophie zone), and it's nearly impossible to escape a clutch of giant spiders in any game you visit, I've picked out 10 MMOs that best deliver a slice of October 31st. Some are old, some new, some canceled and some yet to come, but these are 10 of the spookiest MMOs in the world.
Are you afraid of the dark? No, not the normal MMORPG "dark" that's merely the daytime overlaid with a blue filter -- I'm talking about the pitch-black, inky darkness in which you cannot see your hand waving right in front of your face. Or more importantly, the wolf that's 10 feet away and preparing to pounce.
WURM Online may not look like a horror game (because it isn't, not really), but the developers tapped into a primal fear that many share. The combination of extremely vulnerable player characters, the danger that comes with the night, and the need for sanctuary and safety is straight out of the horror story playbook. If you've never heard of WURM Online and would like to learn more, please consult your local Free for All columnist.
If a mishmash of Lovecraftian mythos, zombie uprisings, Stephen King, sinister conspiracies, vampires, demons and the promise that "dark days are coming" doesn't get the heckles on the back of your neck, um, a-heckling, then just move along. For the rest of the class, The Secret World is one of the first major MMOs to take place in a horror setting, offering a subgenre buffet from the creepy to the bloodsplattertastic and everything in between.
Age of Conan entrenched itself deep in an M-rating, which meant blood, bosoms and terrifying visages of what lurks in the shadows of this gritty fantasy world. Not only is this a place where angels fear to tread, but Hyboria is populated with monsters eclipsing anything you can watch on SyFy (although I have to admit that Mansquito was pretty boss).
I asked our resident Age of Conan expert, Jef Reahard, what monsters creeped him out the most. "Onyx Chambers is a pretty nasty horror show in terms of mobs," he replied. "And frankly, the player necromancers (actually their pets) gross me out with regularity."
We may not know a whole lot about CCP's upcoming World of Darkness, but we have a surplus of information about Vampire: The Masquerade, on which WoD is based. Expect vampires, vampires and even more vampires in as many varieties as Crayola has colors. When an MMO is based around the non-romantic, non-sparkly side of bloodsucking undead, I'm guessing that it's going to be perfect for late-night gaming with the lights turned off.
Requiem should have stuck with its original subtitle -- Bloodymare -- considering that nearly all of the promotional screenshots of this F2P MMO feature gallons of the red stuff. I'm not even going to pretend to understand what Requiem: Memento Mori is about, seeing as how the Wikipedia story entry has more capitalized words than non-capitalized ones. The gist I got is that the world is now a horror theme park filled to overflowing, and you're tasked with culling the customers. However, since Memento Mori means "Remember you will die" in Latin, chances are you're going to join them sooner or later as well.
Newcomers to Fallen Earth are often surprised at the peanut-butter-and-chocolate combination of black humor and grim horror that exists here. Of course, what did you really expect to find after the world went to hell and is barely starting to come back? Cute fluffy chickens or freakishly mutated birds? Don't answer; that was rhetorical.
From prison rooms stuffed with corpses to a dog who ate his last owner (but, y'know, not all of him), Fallen Earth has a lot of fun with the world as a giant haunted house. It helps that it's so big and you often feel quite alone and unprepared for what may lie around the next corner...
One second -- the above picture is making the lyrics to "Thriller" go through my head: It's close to midnight and something evil's lurking in the dark... Under the moonlight, you see a sight that almost stops your heart...
Anyway, what were we talking about? Oh, that's right, spooky MMOs! I couldn't in good conscience leave out Dungeons & Dragons Online, seeing as how DDO sends adventurers into a multitude of scary places, from crypts to more crypts to -- steel yourself -- even more crypts. Players become so immune to the horror they marinade in daily that they don't even blink when they walk right up to a dead girl's ghost and demand loot. Callous!
I have a theory as to why zombies are so popular in video games. I believe it's because the devs never have to justify why you are going around slaughtering these people, nor do the devs have to give zombies elaborate backstories so you know that they're ultra-evil and deserve the swift chainsaw of justice. No, zombies are the stinking undead, and everyone knows that they don't believe in a live-and-let-live world. Heck, you're doing a community service by taking them out!
This is why I believe that Undead Labs' zombie MMO has a shot at glory. A world full of human-looking things that we really must unload all of our pent-up aggression on, all in the name of civil duty? Perfection.
Like its tabletop brethren, WAR is gritty, nasty world that sees its fair share of chaotic gods, walking skeletons, and people impaled on things that probably really hurt when it happened. There are plenty of zones in this game where hanging corpses, vicious beasts and mutated wonders make for splendidly spooky decorations.
I always felt that the Chaos beginner zone is one of the most atmospherically haunted locales in the game, especially if you take the time to wander off the beaten path and see the little Easter eggs the devs planted here and there.
If you want to find true MMO horror, then there's no place better to look than Hellgate: London. It wasn't just scary enough to portray the modern(ish) world overcome by demon spawn -- it is perhaps one of the few MMOs that can lay claim to making players pass out, scream and void their bowels when they discovered that their $200 lifetime membership went up in smoke when Flagship Studios folded.