Looking over the past two decades or so, MMORPGs have grown by leaps and bounds with regular releases, events, and (of course) expansion packs. Hundreds of expansions have now flooded the scene, with some of the longest-running titles seeing upwards of two dozen or more.
That got me thinking: Which expansion was the best? Not overall, I mean, but the best for each game that it serviced? Every MMO player harbors strong feelings about which was the best expansion for the titles they enjoy, and I have read many articles in which expansions were ranked, reviewed, and debated.
For this week’s Perfect Ten, we’ll be trying to put a finger on the best expansion for 10 specific MMOs. I’ve taken the additional step of polling the Massively OP staff to give me input on MMOs that they have played extensively over the years. So what’s the best? Let’s find out!
1. World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
While the best WoW expansion isn’t unanimous among the community, Wrath is a clear front-runner for fan affections. It had a better feature set than The Burning Crusade, memorable zones, a favorite villain, the introduction of Dalaran as a town hub, the debut of achievements, and the addition of the Death Knight heroic class.
Reader Dragonchirps chimes in, “Sailing through the fjords, as we finally go forth to Northrend to bring justice to Arthas? Still gives me chills.”
2. Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria
LOTRO has had some great and some, well, not-as-great expansions over the years, but it seems that Moria made a lasting impression among the community. While I wasn’t a fan of the overlong journey underground, it was highly ambitious and added a unique take on MMO zones. Plus, there was the addition of two new classes (the Warden and the Rune-keeper) to keep the fun going.
“The mother of all fantasy dungeons deserves this title,” Wanderv15 said. “Mines of Moria was epic,” agreed reader VilleUusitalo. “The hall with stone-trees with its music was/still is immersion never seen before in the game.”
3. Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind
I’ll let Larry handle this one: “ESO is easily Morrowind. It pulled on just the right nostalgic strings to pull in Elder Scrolls fans and introduced the right game play to attract new players. They rebuilt the island of Vvardenfell using the same map as TES III and solidified some of the history of characters we met playing the single-player game over a decade ago. The new Warden class and instanced PvP added huge new elements of gameplay for those less interested in story.”
4. Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed
“It has to be Jump to Lightspeed for SWG,” said Bree. “It was always ridiculous to launch a Star Wars game without actual space travel, but JTL actually did more than just slap in some on-rails junk: It added the best race in the entire franchise (ITHORIANS, NATCH) and more layers of factional/storyline play and walk-around-able decoratable ships and really fantastic joystick-based dogfighting combat that just no other MMORPG had. There were people who played SWG just for this gameplay (including my husband for many years) and almost never left space except to buy new ship parts.”
“Rather than giving me more of the same with a few new twists like most expansions, JTL complimented the whole Star Wars Galaxies experience by introducing an expansive space game,” wrote reader Budakahn.
5. EverQuest II: Echoes of Faydwer
MJ waffled a bit on this pick: “I think I would be torn personally between Echoes of Fadwyer (first new playable race, new starting city, new gear slots and gear stuff — adornments — and basically stuff for all levels and Destiny of Velious, which had just SO MUCH added with it: two new overland zones, 10 new dungeons, 300 new quests, over 1,000 more items, and more than 30 new monsters. That expansion also introduced flying mounts. Flying Mounts!”
Reader WandaClamshuckr agreed with Fadwyer: “Across the board, it was one of the beefiest expansions I’ve ever seen.”
6. EVE Online: Apocrypha
I’ll trust Brandon’s in-depth knowledge for this one: “EVE Online’s 2009 Apocrypha expansion is hands-down the game’s best and probably biggest expansion to date. The expansion revolved around the discovery of 2,500 new hidden star systems accessible only via a shifting network of temporary wormholes, and that premise fed into a whole series of new features touching on every aspect of gameplay. Wormhole space contained deep exploration gameplay, a new NPC faction called the Sleepers for PvE players to tackle, and components that could be reverse engineered by industrialists to build modular tech 3 Strategic Cruisers. The limited battlefields of wormhole space revitalised solo and small gang warfare, while the new ships and strategic use of wormholes as shortcuts fed into PvP at every level. Most of all, Apocrypha injected real mystery and unknown dangers into the game that took months to be uncovered by players, and a new wilderness that took years to explore and tame.”
7. Ultima Online: The Second Age
What do you think about this one, Bree?
“For Ultima Online, I would probably say The Second Age is the best all-around expansion because it brought in new baddies and a landmass that had been cut from the original game, and it has the most Ultima-like feel of every expansion added in 20 years. BUT that said, my absolute favorite expansion is easily Samurai Empire: EA really went all-out on the Japan-themed landmass, gear, decorations, housing tiles, monsters. It’s extensive and quite a departure from the original Ultima, but I just adore it. It added dimension and texture and challenge, and the Tokuno Isles are still my favorite spots to go hunting.”
8. Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
“Best FFXIV expansion is kind of narrow right now,” passed along Eliot, “but most people seem to be very happy with Stormblood and I tend to agree; it does everything Heavensward did, but better. Stormblood fixed a lot of the issues that Heavensward had with more sensible progression for crafting and gathering, more expansive area design, and some really excellent design on individual classes (even the ones I don’t like much are clearly well-designed). It also added two jobs that immediately made their way into welcome rotation; I find Red Mage to be one of the best-designed jobs in any game ever, and Samurai is a joy to play as well. There are criticisms of Stormblood, but by and large people are happier with Stormblood.”
9. Star Wars: The Old Republic: Shadow of Revan
For the final word, back to Larry: “For SWTOR, it’s a little tougher because there were many additions that I would not consider an expansion because of how little content was actually added. However, if I were to name one, I would have to say Shadow of Revan. The expansion actually started its release with some precursory flashpoints, then added quite a bit of other content when the expansion actually dropped. Players got two new planets, additional crafting items and skills, some great daily quests, and two new raids. Although not everyone was happy with the direction of the main story, most players were happy with the class-specific questlines.”
10. City of Heroes: City of Villains
Debate if you will its status as an expansion or stand-alone game, but most everyone agrees that City of Villains rounded out the superhero MMO experience with villains, devious power sets, and sinister quests.
“The opportunity to play as a bad guy was huge,” noted Reader Sargonnax. DrowNoble concurred: “City of Villains was great. Not only did it add new archtypes for the villains that weren’t just re-hashed hero types, but it was standalone. If you just wanted to play ‘red side’ you didn’t have to buy City of Heroes to do it.”
Techbot Alpha piles on the nostalgia: “CoH only ever had, and only ever NEEDED two expansions: City of Villains and Going Rogue. That was it. None of this endless, yearly, level cap-raising regurgitated bulls**t that WoW and its myriad clones have spawned […] It truly was an MMO before its time, and I don’t think a lot of people appreciate just how special it was.”