Perfect Ten: The best expansions for specific MMOs

    
17

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.”

SWG

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.”

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.”

17
LEAVE A COMMENT

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Wilhelm Arcturus

No EverQuest expansion call? Cowards!

On the EQ2 front, at the time Echoes of Faydwer seemed like hot stuff, but a lot of it really did not age very well. Going back I think Desert of Flames was really better and more enjoyable despite the flying carpets. More than a decade later that desert still looks good while EoF content looks like the original Tomb Raider… old and awkward.

Mines of Moria is the worst expansion for LOTRO… except for all of the other ones.

On the WoW front I think WotLK was the right call, but MoP needs an honorable mention for most underrated WoW expansion. I was skeptical of MoP, especially after Cataclysm, but it was a solid run that only suffered from odd lore and the whole Garrosh Hellscream nonsense. Easily my second favorite WoW era, but it can’t beat Northrend and Arthas.

Reader
Bango on Laurelin

MoM the best expac for Lotro? No. Why? Radiance.

Reader
Bryan Turner

I’m surprised regarding your choice in LotRO, everything I’ve read when it comes to leveling guides goes out of their way to find ways to avoid going into Moria altogether; as a matter of fact I’ve heard comparisons regarding Heart of Thorns that navigating the jungle was just as bad as trying to find your way through Moria (meaning people hated it for exploration purposes).

If anything I’d suggest that Moria was so poorly received that it caused Turbine to make LotRO F2P because so many people dropped their subs that they couldn’t afford to make a decent Mirkwood Expansion which pissed their fan base off even more.

Reader
Ben Stone

I hated Moria, Left the game until they moved through them.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
thalendor

I’m going to go with Legion for WoW. Yes, there are still some design features going all the way back to Vanilla that have been abandoned and I wish would be brought back: the dungeon design philosophy, elite areas being relatively common while leveling, and some other things. However, despite that, I feel like the game was in it’s best state pretty much ever during Legion. Several additions, like world quests replacing traditional dailies were nice, but the one change that really sealed the deal for me was Mythic+ dungeons. Keeping dungeons relevant throughout the expansion as challenging content with a viable alternate progression path to raids is a great idea, making Mythic+ dungeons, IMO, the best new system added to the game since launch. And that makes Legion, to me, the best expansion for WoW thus far.

hurbster
Reader
hurbster

If we are not including One Tamriel, it has to be Morrowind, with WOTLK just behind in my opinion. Quite a fan of GW:Factions as well.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

I duno why people are so obssessed with WoTLK calling it the best expansion. Its important one of course and better then TBC sure. But lets compare it to MoP.

Quests: MoP had better questing experience.
Zones: MoP had more beautiful zones. And it didnt have godawful zones like Icecrown or useless onces like Crystalsong forest.
Features: MoP introduced more new features. It also had a new class, but it also added a new race, scenarios, cross realm zones, challenge modes, pet battles.
WoTK only had new class and achievements.
Dungeons and raids: both were strong in this so its a tie.
Soundtrack: MoP wins no doubt about that.
Lore: matter of taste but I much more enjoyed Pandaria’ lore than Northrend’s. Its more deep, more interesting, and we knew story of Arthas before WoTLK.
PvP state: veterans claim that PvP was the best in game’s history during MoP’s era. Every spec was relevant, classes were fun, arena teams were varied. In comparison arenas during WoTLK were unbalanced mess.

So really, why WoTLK is better then MoP? Just because it had an iconic villain? Im sure if someone makes the same comparison for Legion it will be far ahead of WoTLk either.

Reader
Robert Mann

MoP also had some incredible lore foibles and retcons that go well beyond those of WoTLK, even though I noted that being the big start to them below, and MoP also had quests that shoehorned you into doing things that players rebelled against even more strongly than the forced PvP aspects. Some people completely refused to finish the first zone, and simply quit, for example.

There were some other issues, and to each their own of course, but just noting a couple potential things that would detract from MoP. I know a lot of people had fun there, of course! Just saying that, yet again, it isn’t all roses.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

what lore foibles? and why people refused to finish the first zone? I dont remember any issues with it

Reader
Ben Stone

MoP would have been my vote too, but lots of people can’t move past the Kung Fu Panda thing. Definitely the most polished expansion, and the last time PvP was even close to being balanced.

Alex Js.
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Alex Js.

All great choices, but I’m not sure if I’d consider ESO’s “Morrowind” expansion as something notable. In fact, this is the ONLY expansion from any MMO that I bothered to return. The overall setting was pretty “meh” from overall level design to music (even though I really, really liked the original TES: Morrowind I’ve played long time ago and which was one of my most favorite RPG games), I didn’t care for instanced PvP they added (I don’t like this kind of PvP gameplay in any MMO) and the new Warden class felt awfully weak.

I did like the fact that ZeniMax issued me a full refund for it, though.

Vaeris
Reader
Vaeris

JTL and Second Age picks are spot on. Man I miss those days in MMO gaming: the good, bad and ugly.

Reader
Siphaed

No mention of Path of Fire for Guild Wars 2? Far better than Heart of Thorns.

Also I’d say for World of Warcraft….ready for it: Cataclysm. Just because it did so much to change the original rather than just leaving it the same static world for nearly 10 years.

Reader
Robert Mann

I’d debate WoTLK, but based on certain foibles rather than player numbers or general reception. There was a lot of problems around trying to push PvP on PvE focused players, the vehicle combat issues, and some lore problems that people harped on with the first really big retcons of WoW. All of which get far less attention than the positives in general, but were major deals to many people (including two of the biggest mechanic based rage quits of raiders in the history of MMOs, which is interesting in a game that was renowned for a solid endgame setup with interesting mechanics *at the time, although since… not so much*). Also, DKs were the start of the xpac class OP—->UP in a month trend. The fact that they failed so hard at balancing them initially is a big demerit to me, and the failure to learn from that… well, is something that future xpac’s got a big – from.

I do think they added some good ideas and systems there, including expanding upon old things. Although, again, some of those turned into problems (Wintergrasp win trading anyone?) Still, I don’t think the system improvements should be ignored, only that they get far too much attention for that (and just for Arthas/LK, whom I do not find as awesome and inspiring as many seem to) as compared to the things that were done poorly or other iconic villains.

I don’t know whether that would convince anyone that a different xpac for WoW should be tops… but I do think there’s reason to consider some of the others regardless of their flaws. Namely because WoTLK gets a ton of glossing over of similar flaws, despite the drama around them.

**Pretty much agree with the rest that I played/know. Not entirely sure with the WoW one, as there’s so many pros/cons to weigh with things… but I’d likely say BC of the ones I played, and maybe Legion from what I have heard from friends who still play since I have been avoiding Blizz. Maybe those in game still have some input?**