Perfect Ten: The worst MMORPG expansions of all time

    
158

A great MMO expansion brings so much to the table: fresh excitement for a game, new classes, innovative features, expanded vistas, additional races, and more. Pull it off right, and studios rake in big bucks while a spike in player interest sends the crowds in to see the current popular thing.

That’s a great MMO expansion, and we all have our favorites. But a bad one? One that goes down in infamy as the worst that the game had to offer? One that stinks up the joint, repels players in droves, and makes good, functional things far worse? Those are the ones that we hold grudges against for years.

Today we’ll be looking at ten of the worst MMORPG expansions of all time, specific to larger, more popular MMOs rather than itty-bitty ones. To be sure, some people still loved them and some of these packs weren’t quite as bad as some players made them out to be, but in general, here are ten releases that probably shouldn’t have happened as they did.

  1. World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

In World of Warcraft circles, debate is always hot and furious over the worst expansion. There are strong proponents of Warlords of Draenor, Battle for Azeroth, and even Mists of Pandaria to be sure, but the bulk of the vile seems reserved for Cataclysm alone. Blizzard’s attempt to destroy-slash-recreate the world left a bad taste in many a nostalgic gamer’s mouth, and the retooled talents, annoying dungeons, and scattered zones didn’t win many advocates either.

2. Dark Age of Camelot: Trials of Atlantis

Back in the day, DAoC had a fairly strong following for a PvP-centric game and was on the rise. Then came 2003’s Trials of Atlantis, which became a textbook example of an MMO shooting itself in the foot. Forcing players to go through a painful PvE grind to be competitive in the new PvP scene hobbled if not ruined the RvR foundation on which the game was built. It was a good lesson to developers: Don’t be too eager to introduce super-powerful gear if the cost is unbalancing your game’s economy and meta.

3. EVE Online: Incarna

Among the hot-headed and ruthless pilots of EVE Online, Incarna is the only answer to the question of a worst expansion. CCP had promised to take players outside of their cockpits for the first time, but instead of giving players stations and worlds to roam around on, everyone was effectively grounded and sent to their rooms. The community rioted, and the Captain’s Quarters feature ended up being so shameful to the dev team that it took it out of the game years later.

Swanky.

4. Lord of the Rings Online: Mordor

I’m sure that some of my fellow LOTRO players will disagree with me on this, but I still can’t get over what a colossal disappointment Mordor turned out to be. In what should have been the game’s crowning achievement as we followed Frodo’s path into the dreaded land of the Enemy, we ended up in a five-zone slog with the joy of lootboxes, few milestones, and the sly re-introduction of Radiance gear.

5. RIFT: Storm Legion

Picking a worst RIFT expansion is weirdly difficult because all of them are pretty bad in their own way. And that’s coming from someone who adores the game! But I’m giving the nod to Storm Legion, because Trion Worlds went overboard with the difficulty level and sloppy zone design while hoping that a mostly naked dragon girl would distract the fans.

6. Star Wars Galaxies: Trials of Obi-Wan (and the NGE)

This kind of has to be on here even though the expansion itself wasn’t outright terrible. However, the timing of the release of the New Game Experience — hot on the heels of Obi-Wan — ended up ruining the expansion for those who just started going through it. Smedley promised that fans would find Obi-Wan even more exciting with the NGE’s top-to-bottom game revamp, but in the end the pushback was so fierce that SOE offered refunds from customers who felt bait-and-switched.

7. Star Trek Online: Delta Rising

Despite Al Rivera claiming that it was the “best expansion ever” with widespread player approval, Delta Rising was a hot mess when it first released. We’re not just talking about the fact that it was infused with Vitamin Neelix, a character that pretty much nobody wanted to see return to the franchise; the expansion was a narrative mess and prone to getting bogged down in horrible ground maps.

To the team’s credit, Cryptic did pour in a lot of work to straighten out some of the more egregious issues and eventually turned this expansion into a respectable slice of content.

8. EverQuest: Gates of Discord

EverQuest players are somewhat used to dealing with uneven expansions, but Gates of Discord seems to be the worst of the title’s 200 or so releases. Probably the most egregious issue was the fact that the expansion was supposed to come with a level cap increase, a feature that SOE simply didn’t include nor would until the following expansion. Beyond that, it was a fairly broken and bug-riddled mess. Players left en masse, and John Smedley called the 2004 expansion “SOE’s worst mistake in five years.”

9. Star Wars: The Old Republic: Knights of the Fallen Empire

While some expansions are terrible right out of the gate, Knights of the Fallen Empire went the Trojan horse route with an initially crowd-pleasing release. However, in an effort to get back to its single-player KOTOR roots, BioWare went and transformed SWTOR into a single-player MMO that jettisoned open worlds in favor for heavy instancing and a storyline that proved more divisive the longer players went through it. Players weren’t exactly thrilled that all of their companions had taken off due to the five-year narrative leap, either.

10. Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns

While Heart of Thorns certainly has some fans and proponents, Guild Wars 2’s first expansion received (and continues to receive) plenty of vitriol from those who felt that it delivered a sub-par story while veering the game in an undesirable direction. Players were also generally not fond of the tougher zones, grindy progression, and the move away from dungeons and into raiding.

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.”
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
da3dalus.bat

Phantasy Star Online 2: Episode 4 was just the worst I have ever seen. “Let’s take a a science fiction MMORPG and give it a slice of life story for it’s third expansion that just doesn’t fit.”

Reader
Crowe

I’ll have to disagree with Rift/Storm Legion. Nightmare Tide, sure. Starfall Prophecy, sure. Storm Legion though? Nah, that was the best time I had in Rift. The challenge was real but a skilled group could accomplish it.

Reader
Jay Madison

Planetside: Core Combat (aka, the Thing That Destroyed Planetside 1) is missing from this list.

Reader
Robert Mann

Personal opinion: The difficulty of both Cataclysm and Storm Legion are and were highly over-hyped. Frankly speaking, Cataclysm wasn’t difficult, even as far as the dungeons that were much maligned went. It just wasn’t faceroll easy as people were used to in the game. Honestly, faceroll easy is boring to me, so… it felt more like a dungeon should to me (although I cannot begin to say how much I miss things like traps, hidden doors, and puzzles in dungeons with most MMOs). As to Storm Legion, I played a vanilla Rift stormcaller DPS build without macros. The pure lack of key-flying difficulty made it seem easy as all get out, at that point. It might have been a little more difficult, but nobody was struggling to level unless they were REALLY poor at playing (or using an old spec and refusing to change, as was seen on the forums a lot at the time). I will say that the FOTM raid builds were a massive turn off toward the raid scene there (although at least they weren’t boiled down to “Avoid AOE, deal with adds, have gear, win”).

What they did wrong is the same thing. They both changed the game too much. They changed what people loved about their game. In a game design that thrives on static replay-ability, the themepark of eternal stagnation. I may sound a little trite there, because I do believe that a constantly moving world is far more interesting even if I can’t see and do it all… but when you have such a design you best stick with it.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Ken from Chicago

I thought the problem with STAR TREK ONLINE’s Delta Rising expansion was that it was the first time in years they had raised the level cap from 50 to 60 and the leveling curve was made far steeper on those last ten levels than the previous 50.

I remember reaching a point around level 54 where my character was not high level enough to do the next mission along the main mission path. That had never happened before. If you followed the main mission path, you always leveled up to take the next mission in the main mission path. You were forced to grind it out–until the devs got “feedback” from players and “smoothed” out the leveling.

Reader
Fenrir Wolf

It’s odd, because I’ve heard that Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria were where many more casual gamers started enjoying WoW, so it really is a matter of perspective.

Some liked the repetitive grind of old WoW, others not so much. I don’t play it, either way. Though I’ll give them that the worgen aren’t awful — aesthetically speaking.

Shrug!

Reader
Khrome

Wrong reason given for Incarna.

The riot was mostly because of the ‘greed is good’ memo that was leaked around the time of its release. Captains quarters being as limited as they turned out to be was certainly not helping: It was the P2W murmurs which got the riots going, where a dev was chasing jesus features while leaving existing features untouched and unpatched for a long time. Simply a case of ‘wrong priorities at the wrong time’, a disconnect from the community.

Reader
Tamanous

I played SWG when the NGE hit. I have NEVER seen a game audience vanish so fast from a game before. Mind you SWG wasn’t in the greatest place during it’s time peak-wise.

I was extremely off and on with my game play during Wrath Wow and Cataclysm destroyed any interest I had left. Merely due to Wow’s social and game impact I’d rank this transition the most impactful change in mmorpg history. It symbolizes far more than just game world and visuals but also the companies business approach changes that has directed this discussion to us today. My perspective is from my greater enjoyment of older style mmorpgs. Cata was a major transition caused by the large loss of early Wow players to the a large percentage gain of their newer audience.

Lotro F2P conversion was possibly my 1st experience in early era F2P introduction to western mmorpgs and I’ve rarely so many major guilds vanish so quickly. It wrecked the original community as clearly reflected in the forums at that time.

I only played the early days in so many older mmorpgs that I missed later game changing expansions. Some like Daoc where I heard one patch really killed the game for many RvR-wise.

Reader
officeape

I’m in the minority, but I enjoyed Cataclysm. Some of the newer features were a good fit for my relatively small guild.

I also enjoyed Knight of the Fallen Empire, probably because, at the time of its release, I had just come back to the game and was guild-less.

Reader
Coldrun ??

Agreed on Cata. The flavor of each revamped zone was hit or miss for me, but the smoothing out of quest flow in each area and giving the zones a coherent narrative was a major improvement I still appreciate to this day on alts.

The dungeons were brutal… but I have a bit of a soft spot for them, since it was the last hurrah of my mage regularly using polymorph in five-player content.

Reader
Fenrir Wolf

It’s a matter of perspective. I think some people just go for that really masochistic grind, along with the 40-man raids that just require extroversion out the wazoo. It isn’t that game any more. Which suits some and upsets others.

Time marches on. War may never change, but gaming certainly does.

Reader
PanagiotisLial1

Yes I dont find Cata bad either. It just wasnt better than WotLK

Reader
Sarah Cushaway

Frankly, the only semi-fun and semi-decent expansion since WOTLK has been Legion. Every single other expansion was just garbage for various reasons :/ but yes, Cata just ruined the old zones for me.