A Different Take on the MMORPG That Was Cut Down in its Prime
I began playing The Matrix Online right after it got out of beta, around the same time that World of Warcraft was just beginning to pick up steam (and subscribers). Having gotten bored with the fantasy genre, I decided to try out Monolith's take on the MMO and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was.
The story picks up right where the film The Matrix Revolutions ends: Neo, having sacrificed himself for Zion, is gone. And while The Architect kept his word, about allowing the humans to leave the Matrix should they choose to, peace is far from achieved. A new faction of fighters has shown up, and they will do anything to make sure the treaty between Zion and the Machines does not last. For the first year, The Matrix Online was actually written by the Wachowski brothers (the writer/directors of the films), and the voice acting was provided by the actors.
In terms of gameplay, MxO borrowed quite heavily from the standard MMORPG, but did break off into its own unique branches that made jacking-in frequently worth it. Players could change out their specialties completely, depending on what they were doing. Instead of picking one class and being stuck with it, if you needed to learn or use a skill from another class, you simply had to train for it and then you were free to use it whenever you pleased.
For that first year of MxO's existence, the community was king. WB Games made sure to have events going on all the time, and developers, game designers, and mods would actively participate in the game. WB made sure that players felt like they mattered, and it made for a very unique MMO experience. While World of Warcraft was exploding in numbers, many WoW players would come over to MxO and be blown away by how much those in charge of the game actually cared what players had to say.
Unfortunately, the death of The Matrix Online would slowly begin when Warner Brother Games sold the title to Sony Online. Sony was more interested in some of Warner Bros. other properties, but could not buy them without taking MxO as well. Soon, the events would stop all together. The updates would slowly dry up, and developers would drop off the game one-by-one. Subscribers, too, left en masse, sick of Sony's lack of recognition for MxO. By mid-2009, there was only one original developer left actively trying to stay on top of the many bugs and security holes. He saw the signs, and also left. After that, SOE pulled the plug, and the Matrix Online was gone for good.
The Matrix Online truly was one of the more unique MMOs that has come out in the past decade. While it suffered from the same problems all MMOs do (bugs, glitches, grinding to level up), its story line, gameplay, and how much the original devs and mods actually cared for the subscribers really made it shine. It was an unfortunate end to a game that never got its chance to shine.