Perfect Ten: The best MMORPG updates and expansions of 2016 (that aren't Legion)

Sometimes you have to exclude something from a list. I could, for example, praise World of Warcraft: Legion for being a really good expansion yet again... but I already did that. Heck, we already did that. It won an award and everything. And it deserves that award, but let's be real, we did not suffer at all from a paucity of updates over the past year. So it's time to honor some of the other updates that were great this past year that haven't gotten enough recognition.

Of course, this is my own curated list, so if you're looking for objectivity combined with a subjective rating like "best," you may be looking for love in all of the wrong places. Let's take one last look through 2016 at all of the really cool game updates that made the onslaught of deaths and tragedy at least slightly more pleasant.

All over.

1. The Elder Scrolls Online - One Tamriel

Yeah, this update is really a shoo-in. I can think of lots of updates in history that have managed to almost completely rewrite a game's structure like this, but very few others that did so with what seems like such a small change... and one that's been almost universally well-received. Between this and the upcoming housing update, The Elder Scrolls Online seems to be abandoning a lot of its initial assumptions about what players want in the wake of actual feedback; that alone deserves praise.

It's a solid enough update that I can think of a lot of people who hated the game initially who might genuinely want to go back and try it again. That's rare.

Life is not what I wanted.

2. Star Wars: The Old Republic - Knights of the Eternal Throne

In some ways, Star Wars: The Old Republic seems to have suffered from a bit of an identity crisis for a while. It feels like the developers know that something isn't being handled quite right, but they're not sure exactly what, so every new expansion brings a total focus on something else that doesn't nicely mesh with the last installment. But Knights of the Eternal Throne is a pretty solid attempt to capitalize on what the game does well without outright discarding things like progression and group content.

Of course, it also launched with an endgame progression system that seems hand-tailored to annoy people, but no one gets things right on the first attempt. The question is where the game goes from here... and I wonder whether we'll be surprised by the answer.

Oh no, it's all we are.

3. Star Trek Online - Agents of Yesterday

Despite being a pretty big fan of Star Trek, I've never cared for the original series. It was incredibly progressive for its time, yes, but I had neither a youthful connection to it nor the benefit of seeing it when there was nothing else like it. But I know there is a fandom, and that's always posed something of a problem for Star Trek Online; it's hard to really have that era be represented in a game that's so resolutely focused on the bulk of the prime universe's continuity in the TNG era.

Having the whole thing be a matter of time travel, then, is simultaneously appropriate cheese for the setting and remarkably clever, allowing the designers to indulge fans of the franchise while simultaneously moving things forward. It might not be as meaty in some ways as prior expansions, but it works and it works well, and for that it deserves a nice big nod.

birb

4. Guild Wars 2 - Season 3

The reaction to Heart of Thorns does not appear to be what the Guild Wars 2 team expected. This does not entirely come as a surprise, seeing as how HoT did a lot of things to make GW2 into a game that it was not; much as with PvP in City of Heroes, the people who wanted those things had largely moved on by the time the expansion rolled around. So while I don't think Season 3 of the whole Living World content is necessarily the best thing ever, it is something like a return to form. That alone deserves praise.

Everything's cool out here. Like, emotionally.

5. RIFT - Starfall Prophecy

This might just the most grumbled-about RIFT expansion we've ever seen, but that doesn't mean it's actually bad. Speaking as someone who's generally an outside observer, I suspect most RIFT players are usually happy with a given expansion; it's rare to see one that gets the same degree of criticism as Starfall Prophecy, which (not unlike HoT) has an awful lot of people complaining that it changes the game in ways that no one really wanted.

That having been said, it's still a nice, big, meaty expansion for the game, and for every complaint I've seen about time-to-kill issues, I've seen another person who's genuinely enjoying the expansion. So I'll mark it as the Hawaiian pizza of RIFT's expansions, the sort of thing that some people are going to loathe while still being well-made.

Everyone flies free.

6. EVE Online - Ascension

Yeah, it's hard to ignore the sea change of a long-time subscription game going free-to-play. EVE Online's system for free players is a bit restrictive, sure, but it happened, and that shakes up the entire dynamic for the game. Probably. We haven't had a lot of time to see how it'll work out over the long term.

STOP COMING TO MY HOUSE

7. Final Fantasy XIV - Revenge of the Horde

The problem with discussing Final Fantasy XIV patches is that the game is alarmingly consistent. The game puts out such steady, reliable patches that it's hard to separate them and think of them as large, discrete units; each new patch contains lots of new content, lots of new stories, new systems, and so forth. Heck, it's my main game and I sometimes forget things like getting new hairstyles in every single patch, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. Highlighting a specific patch outside of an expansion isn't easy.

However, I'm still going to nominate the 3.3 update, since that was both when we got the Palace of the Dead (which I love) and the conclusion of the expansion storyline. That alone was a new approach, but it also meant that we have more time and space to set up the expansion while still feeling like the prior story came to a decisive close. I can only hope this lesson is repeated and taken to heart for Stormblood, as well.

Who wants short people!

8. ArcheAge - Revelation

Well, it was a great update for watching drama, at least.

I'm only half-kidding. On the one hand, yes, ArcheAge's latest update had a whole lot of cool stuff including two new races, and that's good. But I think the update is also worth noting because it is in many ways a perfect shot of how a poorly handled launch for a patch can mar its reception. The server issues that plagued the game have ensured that people will remember that rather than the actual patch content, and that alone should be taken as a lesson for the future. You can have the best content in the world, but you're still not going to be able to deliver great memories if none of it works.

The constant high-heels-and-scanty-clothing issue is something else.

9. Black Desert Online - Constant imports

There's something at once awesome and annoying about imported games with lag time (something FFXIV does not have, I'll note). On the one hand, you know exactly what's heading down the pipe in the future, so that's a good thing. On the other hand, it also means that anything you're doing now is tempered by the updates you know will be coming. In Black Desert Online in particular, adding new options and gameplay styles to the various classes (along with outright new classes) means that players really have to make a hard choice between what's in the game now compared to what's coming very soon.

So it's nice to see that the localized version of the game has been going nuts localizing content at an incredibly fast pace; while the localized version of the game hasn't quite caught up to its native version, the lag time has been narrowed significantly. It's taken about a year to get the game within spitting distance, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's very little lag by the end of the year. Kudos.

But hey, maybe it's great.

10. Destiny - Rise of Iron

Sure, it's not on PC and is a genre I don't particularly like, but every time someone tries to argue that Destiny isn't an MMO, I grow stronger, so that alone amuses me. And since we're still seeing rumors that the game's sequel will come to PC, I remain happy about each new installment teaching Bungie how to make a good MMO. Add in a third-person camera and I'll be overjoyed.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line "Perfect Ten."
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28 comments
Doopadoopa
Doopadoopa

Archeage.... REALLY.... Archeage made it onto this list of best expansions? A handful of starter zones that nobody goes to, 2 new races, 2 new abilities for each skill tree, and server outages for over a month. 


No new gear/armor. No new PVP content. No new raids, dungeons or anything. 


Please game journalism better if u ever want respect guys. Yall are sucking at it. Do some research.

RyanMahaffey
RyanMahaffey

Okay, Destination: Arcterra was amazing, I am glad this is such an unbiased website...



Starfall should be nowhere near this list. It was buggy, lacking in content for 40 dollars, and has the community on constant outrage.

Lawilc01
Lawilc01

RE: SWTOR -


"without outright discarding things like progression and group content."


Out of curiosity -what are the conditions for the amount of group content needed for this statement not to be false? Does "outright" imply that it's simply >0?

Estranged
Estranged

Thanks for mentioning Destiny: Rise of Iron, it is a damn good expansion.  Much fun.  

ManastuUtakata
ManastuUtakata

"Final Fantasy XIV - Revenge of the Horde"

Somehow, "Lok'tar ogar, kupo!" comes to my mind when reading that. o.O

StevenWilliams3
StevenWilliams3

Revenge of the Horde was amazing! Experiencing the final fight with Nidhogg and the amazing, satisfying end to the story (and to Lord Edmont de Fortempts' amazing narration) was my highlight of the year.

Scarecrowe
Scarecrowe

Rift's expansion may be well-made (arguable due to the bugs that still riddle it) but I would never call it a "big" expansion.  Storm Legion was big. Nightmare Tide was big...ish.  Starfall Prophecy is a 5 level increase with less than 4 levels of quest content to get you there. You have to do all the carnage (kill X monster) quests, run crafting dailies, and grind instant adventures to make the last level.  It's probably even worse if you didn't sub back. 

Siphaed
Siphaed

So the One Tamriel update is like the anti-NGE for TESO?

Kane Hart
Kane Hart

@Siphaed I would actually say the one before it? I mean it's a big leap but the one that add attacking any NPC/Stealing seems to be the really big one bring people back. 

Qarran
Qarran

Blade and Soul's Silverforst Mountain expansion should be on the list.  Less the 5 months after launch it dropped with a wealth of content, new skills, and new battlegrounds and dungeons.  It was and incredible offering and NcWest added weapong upgrade paths so you could enjoy the new content with out having to grind out new gear first.


And the story was superb.

Reht
Reht

As much as it pains me to say it due to my utter disillusionment with Daybreak Games, EQ1's Empires of Kunark expansion was better than Rift's Starfall Prophecy.

DanielMiller3
DanielMiller3

Blees online, october expansiin. Mystic job, 5 and 10 man dungeons, a lvl cap increase, new areas. I say it ranks above the ffxiv but below the others.

tobascodagama
tobascodagama

Half of these "best" updates and expansions come with caveats, but LOTRO's unreserved successes this year go completely unmentioned? K.

denhith
denhith

@tobascodagama We must be playing different games.  Let's see...first off, Turbine neglected to tell their customers there would be no EU datacentre three days before it was supposed to go live (even though, they knew for months it wasn't going to happen).  The move to the new data centre in the U.S. has led to more performance issues than prior to the move.  Minas Tirith should have been a pivotal moment in the game's history but instead it was a laggy, spiky (FPS) mess, with a host of mundane, back and forth quests that Turbine eventually had to address--buy giving us a mithril coin fast travel option for them (of course $$).  Instance clusters were released buggy, with exploits that stayed live for months and the new raid (first in 3 years) had such poor performance issues, folks across all servers had to lower their graphics settings just to play in it.  Lets not forget the layoffs of course. The only "success" was the Feature Instance system but it took them a few patches to get that right because they messed up the loot (being an almost 10 year old game, you would think they could get at least that part right out of the gate). I could go on, but...hey, if you have low expectations for what you consider a success then more power to you.

xpsync
xpsync

Since launch I've reinstalled eso close to a dozen times, and reluctantly so again for the One Tamriel update. 

I took awhile getting around to it this time as i was so sick and tired of getting my hopes up that this will be the one, only to find out I've fallen for the "we saved ESO" BS once again, yep it's still the lackluster, mediocre talking wow clone.

I'm no longer disappointed in ESO is the understatement of 2016, it to me now is the MMO I've always wanted.

My biggest turn on ever since my first mmo (AC2) was exploring. Exploring huge open worlds is the reason i got so into mmo's to begin with.

Next i was exposed to SWG and boy was i lucky i was wearing my brown pants that day, i spent 3 months on Tatooine exploring before i ever took my first interstellar trip to another planet. Shortly after that, EQ2, ok... it was zoned but you moved so glacially slow through the zones due to movement and combat that it felt gargantuan. You could not help but look into the horizon with deep mystery, wonder what over the horizon and think... man this is going to be an adventure of a lifetime.

ESO is now a world.

melissaheather
melissaheather

BDO's steady stream of content updates and features and classes is one good reason I think why it won MMO of the year, and rightfully so.

But the one for me that really mattered was STO's Agents of Yesterday, I loved the film grain, TOS setting and uniforms and ships, I really pine for a lot more missions set in that time. A zone, as it were, that you can stay in or visit as you wish.  I'd really enjoy that.

Jnaathra
Jnaathra

SWTOR is "still" in the middle of its identity crisis. I am pretty disgusted that it is number 2 on this list considering the current endgame state (or lake of). 

Jnaathra
Jnaathra

@Ashley G Walker @Jnaathra It does better than WOW when it comes to story, but its idea of endgame content is Asian grinder with lotto boxes to make you even more frustrated. 

Greaterdivinity
Greaterdivinity

@Ashley G Walker @Jnaathra That may have been what it started as, but it's currently not sure if it's a single player, online RPG with a subscription option - or whether it's a korean MMO endgame grinder that re-uses content over and over and over and over again for more chances at RNG loot boxes!

xpsync
xpsync

@Jnaathra I gave up on swtor as an mmo a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. The reason I'm actually into it now is due to the fact that i did give up on it as an mmo.

Accept it for a the great stories it tells and it's a pretty damn relaxing entertaining game.

Ronin_
Ronin_

@Jnaathra SWTOR has been a solo-shitter abortion of an MMO for over a year.

Greaterdivinity
Greaterdivinity

I just can't get behind Starfall Prophecy at all. It's got a great skeleton but...

Content implied to be in at launch was surprisingly delayed till post-launch, only with the delay announced on launch day. Huge chunks of content have been turned on and off multiple times because it flat out wasn't working. Planar fragments are a nightmare and a massive money sink, terrible and lazy design. Class balance is a disaster and legendary abilities are the most boring thing ever. Encounter design and tuning in dungeons is beyond a joke. And I could go on for much longer. It was a "premium" expansion that they said was justifying the price with better quality and polish than NT, but it honestly launched in an even worse shape than NT did. A whopping two new dungeons and a "revamped" older dungeon that literally just had its numbers tweaked to scale it up and that was it. It looks insanely rushed as hell, like they had a ludicrously aggressive launch date that they realized they'd never hit, so they simply released the minimum viable product for the expansion and figured they'd fix it all after the holidays.

Honestly, it and KotET may be two of the least interesting, and most gross expansions I've seen in recent years. Both expansions have all but made me quit their respective games (and almost uninstall them), despite enjoying SWTOR casually and intending to finish the base class stories and despite my years spent adoring the shit out of and dropping tons of money in Rift. I'll save my KotET rant, as I've already made it in other posts recently, but oh boy is there a rant for that one, too : P

Reht
Reht

@Greaterdivinity Yeah, i felt the same way about Starfall, it's looked great until you realized there was very little substance.

Ashley G Walker
Ashley G Walker

"This might just the most grumbled-about RIFT expansion we've ever seen, but that doesn't mean it's actually bad." Unfortunately, the converse holds true as well. Legion, while having a good story*, has really nothing else making it worth playing on a long-term basis. Every expansion, we see a small (and growing smaller) surge in new or returning players, and afterwards, even more players leave for other games. Most of it is because WoW continually introduces more mechanics that arbitrarily change things to keep them feeling 'new', while not listening to the communities concerns about those changes. Legion was no different. If you didn't already have a reason to stay prior to Legion, you probably still didn't have one after you finished the story.


*Blizzard can always be counted on for a good story, whether it's an Empire Strikes back ending that makes you hate the villains or a Return of the Jedi ending that leaves you satisfied and thinking about what happens next.