It’s older than World of Warcraft and RuneScape. It’s an extremely basic, 2D MMORPG that you play in complete silence. The player base has been dwindling exponentially for years and there have been infamous bouts of scammers, griefers, bots and player-killers. For the most part, the community is uncooperative, selfish and rude. Oh, and you could probably play the entire game using just a mouse.
So why am I still eagerly playing it after fifteen years?
Initially, I’d say it’s nostalgia. We all have that one game that claims ownership of our fondest memories, or that specific title that we constantly feel compelled to go back to despite years having passed us by.
When I started playing Tibia, I’d never actually experienced playing games on PC or even online for that matter. It was a whole new world for me, quite literally. I’d gone from single-player titles on my PS2 to a sprawling open world filled with adventure, opportunity and real people. It was mind-blowing. I experienced mechanics I’d never seen before and interacted with a world in ways I never knew possible. I was hooked.
However, my subsequent relationship with Tibia would prove to be a tumultuous one over the next decade and a half. I’d come and go as the constant updates ebbed and flowed and the game and its community peaked and troughed. I made friends and then drifted from them. I created powerful characters but eventually lost them. Each time I went back into the world, I would feel that pang of nostalgia, but it wasn’t ever quite right.
I’ll be honest – I was very close to considering it a dead platform. It remained installed on my PC for almost two years, not being played and wasting away. I’d long-forgotten log-ins and character names and for a while, it drifted completely out of my consciousness.
But there was a spark.
“Let’s see what Tibia’s like now,” I thought.
The developers – CipSoft – have been extremely consistent in keeping the game updated. They regularly pump in new content and quests, fresh locations and new and revised creatures. The engine will have a tweak or two, the UI will change, and they’ll introduce new mechanics. Tibia however, still looks the same – and almost plays the same – as it did ten years ago.
Yes, I’ve lost the friends I hunted with, the majority of the player base consists of characters hundreds of levels higher than I, and there are elements I just do not understand, but it’s still Tibia. The diverse, sandbox world is still there – the hunting locations remaining the same as they ever were. The city streets I walked as a teenager are unchanged. I know where to go, what I need to take with me and what to expect when I arrive.
To an unassuming third party, Tibia is unfathomably terrible. My fiancée regularly glances over my shoulder as I’m playing and jibes me with a comment like, “ugh, you’re playing that rubbish again.” I can wholeheartedly agree – at first glance, this is no modern-day epic. There’s a simplistic charm in the 2D environment; it’s well designed and populated nicely. The sprites are on-point and generally quite interesting. After all, CipSoft has spent the last 22 years ensuring there are hundreds of creatures to hunt, weapons to collect, spells to learn and dungeons to raid. It’s just not going to win awards for ingenuity any time soon.
As a game, it ticks my boxes. It’s a strange choice considering my all-time favourites, but it fulfils the criteria I want from this genre. The world is expansive, there’s lots to see and do and I have complete freedom. You can play how you want, when you want and with who you want. It’s an MMORPG that can be played completely solo, or as part of a hunting party, or a guild. There’s an effective commerce structure and plenty to do for even the free-to-play players. Tick, tick, tick.
The community for Tibia is still there, but as I said – it’s dwindling. On a good day, you’ll see fifteen or twenty thousand players online at any one time, but that’s the absolute maximum. These players are spread across 77 servers (PVP and non-PVP) globally, but it’s far-fetched to say they play in complete harmony. Kill stealing and scamming is prevalent (despite reparatory efforts by CipSoft), and there’s definitely a “class divide”. The extremely high-levelled, premium players look down at the free-to-play, lower level characters with scorn, and undermine them at every opportunity.
Such is gaming the world over, I suppose.
However, for all its flaws, Tibia is still one of the best games I’ve ever found for killing time. At a lower level, your hunts will be fairly laid back and without complexity. You can relax while playing, as the learning curve is extremely forgiving, and you play at your own pace. Sure, you might stumble into a pitfall with a dragon, or find yourself boxed in by a handful of angry orcs baying for blood, but that’s the luck of the draw. It really is just a shame that – statistically – new players are fewer and fewer. The nine million or so characters registered on Tibia are predominantly the players with a longer tenure making several forays into the world, often as a different vocation each time.
After these fifteen long years, I still have plenty left to do. There’s always another dungeon I haven’t explored or a creature that is new to me. There are vocations I myself haven’t ever played as, and there are quests I’ve not even discovered. There’s a whole new game out there in regard to “Premium”. If I were to part ways with around £62 a year, I’d get access to exclusive (and enormous) new territories, upgrades and advanced customisation, and a pretty neat real estate mechanic. I’ve never taken that plunge, but owning a house in a virtual city I’ve known for more than half my life sounds pretty cool…
If you have some spare time on your hands and are between games, I really do recommend giving Tibia a try. I think it’s most likely a ‘Marmite’ game – you’ll either love it or hate it. Overall, it’s seriously low-commitment, can run on a potato computer and takes an extremely low bandwidth to play. And hey, it’s celebrity-endorsed. PewDiePie claims it’s his favourite game of all time…
Here’s to another fifteen years.
For further reading, check out this recent article on playing MMORPGs as an adult gamer:https://www.growngaming.com/adult-gamers/too-old-to-get-into-mmorpgs/