Last year was positively stuffed with updates, expansions, and cool stuff. A lot of years I struggle to remember which major updates happened in the past year, due partly to my own faulty memory but due largely to the simple fact that not a lot of them really stuck out for me. This year? We were awash in updates. Some games literally gave me multiple choices about which update I thought was “the best” just because, well, there were so many.
So the list that follows is, honestly, a fragment of what could be chosen. At least one of them is something you will probably disagree with. And that’s fine, because thankfully, last year (as mentioned) contained tons of great updates for people to enjoy. So without further ado, let’s delve into the best updates of 2017 and gush for a bit about how many cool things got added to games last year.
1. Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
I still point to Final Fantasy XIV expansions as a more or less textbook example of how to run game expansions right. This is the game’s second big expansion, it was extraordinarily good, and it released solidly in the middle of the year after much (deserved) anticipation. It isn’t perfect, but it’s about as close as you can realistically get with a boxed expansion.
At the same time, if we could start getting slightly smaller boxes for these, that would be nice. I am running out of shelf space.
2. The Elder Scrolls Online: Homestead
Wait, I’m giving this the nod for The Elder Scrolls Online? Yes, and for good cause. Because while Morrowind was exactly the content update you would want if you were a big fan of Morrowind, this was the content update that just by existing puts the lie to basically any MMO not offering player housing. This was added mid-stream in a game that had players clamoring for housing for years.
And then they did it, it was great, it worked well, and people were happy. Think of any game you enjoy that doesn’t have player housing, and realize that The Elder Scrolls Online showed it up by showing that you can totally do it. World of Warcraft? You no longer have any excuse.
The fact that the housing system is good is icing on a house-shaped cake.
3. Warframe: Plains of Eidolon
What’s that? It’s not enough to just add a new hosuing system, you have to make your non-MMORPG game into more of an MMORPG? Warframe leans back, says “hold my beer,” and gets on that. I have huge respect for this update just on a conceptual level, because it’s taking a game that was already well-received and expands it not just in terms of content but in terms of the things you can do within the game.
Really, there are a lot of things on this level through the year, with online games getting more persistent modes as part of an update along the way. I respect and appreciate that.
4. World of Warcraft: Shadows of Argus
There’s usually an “end-of-expansion” update for World of Warcraft, and said updates have gotten bigger over time. This one is pretty enormous. It’s functionally a new (albeit small) continent with new factions, new mechanics, and new stuff to explore, along with plenty of lore, hints about the future, content to run, and so forth. It was a nice, solid, meaty update that felt like a welcome addition to the game as a whole. Pity about the flying thing here, but we pre-emptively won that war elsewhere, so it had to come back at some point.
5. Elite Dangerous: The Return
It’s rare for mysterious forces in MMOs to feel half as menacing as they’re supposed to. Elite Dangerous managed it here; there had been slowly building rumors about the Thargoids, and once they finally showed up, players were immediately unsure about what to do. How could they be fought? What was the point? How dangerous are they? Are they all aggressive? What is the deal? And almost none of it required any intervention by designers; it felt fully organic for anyone who wanted to take part.
It also felt incredibly ominous, of course, and we know at some point it’ll be more possible to interact with these entities. But their alien nature alone makes the game feel dangerous in a way that is hard to pull off normally.
6. Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire
Good show on you, Guild Wars 2. You took a premise that a lot of people sort of looked at askance and really made it work, thus far doing far better than Heart of Thorns managed. I’m definitely someone in the crowd of “a core expansion feature is mounts, are you kidding me,” but the expansion makes it work simply by ensuring that mounts have a variety of uses and many of them aren’t based on just walking faster. They feel like an organic and welcome inclusion.
Plus, you do get to chase a deity across the desert. That’s always a fun ride! Assuming you aren’t the deity in question.
7. Lord of the Rings Online: Mordor
Part of me worried for a long while that Lord of the Rings Online was entering Zeno’s Expansion territory, where players would keep getting closer to Mordor without ever actually reaching Mordor. No, there was never going to be an epic conclusion wherein player characters smack the crap out of Sauron, but it felt like we needed to at least get to Evil HQ, you know? And then it happened.
An awful lot of stuff got mismanaged around this expansion, but while it thankfully does not appear to be the coda for the game, I appreciate that it finally got players to the destination that had been building up since launch. It took a long time getting there, but that’s part of the point, isn’t it? One does not simply walk in.
8. SMITE: Valley of Victory
Remember how I mentioned the whole “games becoming more MMORPG-like” trend? I count this. Admittedly, this particular update that added in SMITE‘s Adventures didn’t make it much more MMORPG-like, but I still applaud the effort just the same.
9. Path of Exile: War of the Atlas
My admiration of Path of Exile comes in many forms. The consistency of updates, the speed of them, the business model, the general warm and consistent feeling that the game offers. I am an outsider looking in here, but I still appreciate the game in buckets, and so it would be remiss not to include this update.
And it helps that this particular update seems to be particularly well received, based on my friends who love the heck out of Path of Exile. So hooray!
10. The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind
Man, you really thought I wasn’t going to include this one, didn’t you? Yeah, that’d be crazy. It might not rank up there as highly, but it still deserves a nod. It just deserves a smaller nod after the game stole its own thunder by just casually adding in a housing mode in the middle of the year like it weren’t no big deal.
This is not a bad problem to have.