Let’s talk about value. A couple of weeks back, I did an article on the healthiest games at the end of the year; today, I’m talking about the best value for the money. Isn’t that the same thing?
No, it isn’t. Because health is about “what games have the most robust community and are most likely to be around next year,” but value is about “where can you get the most for the least money on a reliable basis.” And while there is a fair amount of overlap, it isn’t a one-for-one comparison.
You may recall we did this last year as well. This year, there have been some pretty significant shakeups, due in no small part to the fact that the value-for-your-money in some titles has gone down, and at least one title from last year’s list has outright closed. So let’s take a fresh look at the games giving you solid value for your dollars. Let’s even say ten of them, arranged in list format.
1. Final Fantasy XIV
This hasn’t changed much. It’s not exactly a mystery that this game is one of my absolute favorites, but it’s not on here as a great value because it’s a favorite; it’s a favorite in part because it delivers such solid and consistent value. When your biggest criticism is “are the big patches full of content too regularly deployed,” things are going pretty all right.
2. The Elder Scrolls Online
Here’s a game that has changed quite a bit… and all for the better. The Elder Scrolls Online has spent all year deploying more content and more options, and while you might not like having to shell out some money for an in-game house, the fact remains that you’re buying and decorating a house. You get an awful lot in the game for subscribing, you get a lot in the game if you choose to buy piecemeal, you get loads of options and stuff no matter how you choose to spend your money.
I’m really hoping that the game continues in the same vein it’s in well through next year, because right now it’s doing a very good job. And it’s also great value for the money, hence why it’s here.
3. Guild Wars 2
We had a pretty good year in terms of value for Guild Wars 2. Not a great year, maybe, but a pretty good one. And… then we got the whole mount skin lockbox deal, and suddenly the game has to take a bit of a nosedive in terms of value.
It’s been argued that these lockboxes are not the worst possible incarnation of lockboxes, which is technically true, but it’s still kind of a devaluing and dumb move that makes the game look far worse. We’ll see what happens next year; hopefully this is more of a blip than the shape of things to come.
4. Path of Exile
Not much has changed for Path of Exile from last year. (In terms of value, obviously. The game has gotten lots of updates.) It still gives a stupid amount of stuff away for free and still offers a small amount of stuff for free in such an unobtrusive way that it’s hard to be even remotely miffed about the point when the developers politely ask for a bit of money. It’s like some kind of shareware title that’s unaware it’s 2017 and still somehow makes money despite that.
Now, if they would just add a controller option, perhaps I would play the… what’s that, Lassie? There already is a controller option? Huh. (I have heard rumors about this, anyway.)
Part of me wonders if there’s some horrible thing that Trove has done that just somehow got lost in a sea of other nonsense because this has been the year when Trion Worlds manages to make everyone very unhappy as it tries to sell you stuff. Thankfully, however, we’re not talking about RIFT or ArcheAge here; we’re talking about Trove. And Trove remains a fun pixely hack-and-slash romp.
Or, at least, it seems to remain one. Has the studio started harvesting kidneys? That would definitely knock it down a couple of notches in terms of value; there are games that allow you to keep your kidneys.
6. DC Universe Online
Last year, I ranked this game a fair bit higher. My experience actually playing the game has made me a bit less inclined to give it high marks, and it has done a couple of weird things this year from a system standpoint; it’s also a Daybreak game, which makes me leery of it given the studio’s overall health and apparent attitude toward shutting down games. But it still gives you quite a bit to play through, and let’s be real, you can try out for free if you’re curious about whether or not you’re going to enjoy it.
Plus, you know, we did actually have a good DC Comics movie in 2017. Of course, it wasn’t the big tentpole film that was supposed to become a darling centerpiece, but let’s just enjoy Wonder Woman for being fun.
This game seems to have gotten slightly more love this past year than Star Trek Online, but you can pick either one to get a nod for their value. That’s not to say that either one is perfect, and there are still aspects of the business model that I find particularly… let’s say unsettling. But they’re certainly giving you good rewards for free, and while some money is probably expected, the net result is a pretty good value.
I’m really kind of hopeful that we learn more about the supposed Magic: the Gathering MMO next year, so then we could hypothetically put that here. Because let’s face it, this is a formula.
8. EVE Online
This has not been a good year for EVE Online in terms of health or overall stability. But it’s been a fine year in terms of value; the game still is unique in its offerings, and it also made a lot of effort toward keeping free players on par with paying ones and provide more options along that line. So it deserves a nod.
Fair warning, though, if you’ve never played the game: Do not expect exciting space battles where everything comes down to well-timed missile launches. The excitement you get from this will be of a different sort.
9. Final Fantasy XI
Oh, here’s a surprise! How good can the value be on a game that’s in self-described maintenance mode? Pretty good, if you can pick up all of the expansions and content for a song, take all of it on solo or in a tiny group with a couple of friends, and still get monthly updates for a game that, again, has been officially declared as maintenance mode.
Final Fantasy XI is no longer getting any major updates that we know of, but for a game that’s moving into sunset territory, it offers an astonishing amount of content in terms of storytelling, worldbuilding, and just straight-up interesting mechanics. If you’ve ever had some curiosity, you owe it to yourself to grab the title and give it a shot.
10. World of Warcraft
Yeah, I’m actually surprised. Legion had a downright good update cadence, and at least right now, it looks as if we’re moving into 2018 with a decent update cadence all over again. There’s a lot of stuff to do in the game, and if you haven’t done much or anything in World of Warcraft’s most recent expansion, you have plenty of projects to keep you busy… and the next patch for the game is poised to drastically overhaul the leveling structure of the game, so that’s another net benefit.
Plus, you can actually use in-game money to buy… well, other stuff in other games with the Blizzard tokens. It’s not, like, real-world cash payouts, but it’s a nice benefit if you’re farming those tokens and earning gold. So that’s pretty good value heading into the new year. Not that it doesn’t mean we’ll still be there toward the end of the year, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.