There is no way we can list all of the great updates in a given year. It’s not possible. We are always going to have a bunch of personal bias creeping into things; it’s inevitable, and there are updates that get missed or otherwise lose out in the court of opinion.
I mean, let’s be honest, how many people actually knew what was going on with Final Fantasy XI? Other than me, I mean.
The important thing is that this was a year of updates, a year of changes, and a year of new stuff being added to games. So today I want to highlight what I consider the best of the back for 2015. They might not all be the most popular, and they might be things that you’ve heard from me before, but I’m still giving them the nod over everyone else.
1. Final Fantasy XI – Rhapsodies of Vana’diel
Real talk: I like endings. We don’t get many of those in online gaming because the whole point is that you’re supposed to stay around as long as possible, and by the time an ending would make sense everything has usually just slowly petered out. So I have a lot of respect for the fact that Final Fantasy XI actually got an ending, a final concluding push before maintenance patches and quality of life expansions.
I also was immensely pleased by how the ending played out in the macro sense, up to and including the crossover bit with Final Fantasy XIV. The traveler from another realm doesn’t just leave, mirroring and referencing player migration. It’s cute.
2. Star Trek Online – Season 11: New DawnStar Trek Online, and I’m pleased with how it resolved, but the fact is that I never was super on-board with it. It felt like mashing too many mysterious threats into some sort of Mysterious Threat Barn Dance, with everyone dancing to the same villainous tune. I like when all of the various factions of the setting are working against one another and not all dancing to the exact same tune.
So I’m quite fond of the fact that New Dawn picks up after the end of that whole conflict and keeps moving through the galaxy. I like that we’ve put the whole Iconian thing to bed and can start moving in new directions. And while the designers had mentioned future plans before, I really like seeing that there’s life left in the galaxy once the war is over.
3. WildStar – Reloaded
There’s a strong “wait and see” element to WildStar at the moment, by my reckoning. I don’t know if it’s ever going to be what it could have been. I have no idea if it can really gain back the ground it lost. But its free-to-play update and conversion were steps in the right direction, by gosh.
This is one of those games that I stepped away from not so long ago, but it still kind of entices me to return. Similarly…
4. Star Wars: The Old Republic – Knights of the Fallen EmpireStar Wars: The Old Republic is that I know I wouldn’t be right back to having the great roleplaying experiences that I had when the game launched. People have moved on, after all, and my Jedi Knight’s supporting cast of autistic artists, shy doctors, enthusiastic cyborgs, and accidental Sith all rely upon players who aren’t there.
But oh my, the stories on display. The mechanical changes. The shift to companions. I have been watching this one with rapt fascination, and while it’s a way from here to see if the expansion sticks the landing, it’s sure as heck stuck the takeoff and gotten people talking about the game again.
5. Final Fantasy XIV – Heavensward
6. The Secret World – Issue #11
I went back and forth on this one. I’ve liked the stuff that The Secret World has been doing in general, but ultimately I went with Issue #11 because it felt more active. Issue #13 feels very much like a mop-up, but even Issue #12 was starting to move into that “clean up existing messes” territory rather than breaking new ground. But the game has been firing on high octane for a while now.
A shout-out should also go to The Park, of course, which I absolutely adored and left me wanting to see more in the not-too-distant future. I want to see another side story, this one was fun.
7. Guild Wars 2 – Heart of Thorns
I went back and forth on this one a lot, honestly. On the one hand, Guild Wars 2 did get our award already, and I honestly still feel like Heart of Thorns was sort of a mixed bag in terms of positive impact compared to just having an impact. On the other hand, I sure as heck can’t say that this one wasn’t ambitious. So the question becomes do I think misguided ambition is more desirable than functional stuff that doesn’t innovate?
Ultimately, yeah, I think I have to award ambition even if it slides further down on the list. I’m still not convinced that the effects of this particular expansion are all upside, but I do like that gumption.
8. Champions Online – Onslaught
I don’t think this update was super great in the grand scheme of superhero MMO updates or expansions. It wouldn’t crack the top 10 if there was any other name in front of the update. But a Champions Online update with even a little meat on its bones makes me very happy.
The fact that it’s not a full City of Villains/Going Rogue-style update makes me less happy. But the reality is that that was never going to happen; the money doesn’t exist to justify it. This is something that could be done without a huge pile of new resources, and for that I’m thankful. I still hope for some kind of revival, but I realistically know that odds are low. I just wish.
9. The Elder Scrolls Online – Console edition
Does this really count as an update? It does in my book, and I’m counting it, because there are a lot of people who will play this on a console but might pass on the PC. My feelings on The Elder Scrolls Online as a whole haven’t changed all that much, but they’re dwarfed by my feelings of irritation towards games that plan on a console version only to abandon that plan when it turns out that console versions are hard, guys.
The “never mind, we’re not doing it” route could have been what happened. It could have even been expected, in fact. But it did get ported, and whilst I think some of the elements that this version cut are fairly vital, that’s why I play on a PC anyway, isn’t it? I’m sure the people who are enjoying it on individual platforms would feel differently.
10. World of Warcraft – Fury of Hellfire
This has been a really bad year for World of Warcraft due to a number of aspects that the designers really could have handled differently. So it’s interesting to me that amidst all of the things the game has been doing wrong, it released a patch in the middle that did a lot of stuff right. I think this one tends to get scowly side-eye less due to being bad and more due to the fact that it’s a bad “last” patch of the expansion.
Truth be told? I think if we could have gotten more patches like this one either side, people might not have been quite so annoyed. There would still be issues with the game, but stuff like Tanaan Jungle and the fundamental ideas behind Timewalking dungeons are pretty great. It gets lost amidst what went wrong in general, but that’s forgetting all of the things that the patch did right.