It’s still early enough in 2019 to do articles about the upcoming year, right? Well, I’m doing this one anyway, so if it’s too late then we’ll just have to deal with it. It’s easy to get caught up in talking about major issues in the genre, or community debates, or arguing with anthropomorphic versions of various game studios ad forget to point out that there’s stuff in the genre that I’m actually just… optimistic about.
That isn’t to say that any of the games on this list are unambiguous good things with no problems or that there’s no possibility for things to turn out badly. Heck, some of these entries are cases where I just as easily can write an unpleasant ending for the game instead of a happy one. But I’m optimistic about all the titles on this list, for reasons I will elaborate on… now.
1. Final Fantasy XIV
Oh, let’s be realistic, you knew this was going to be on here. I’m really always pretty optimistic about Final Fantasy XIV, which is probably unsurprising given that it’s my main game, puts out a reliable stream of high-quality content, and is also the only game wherein you can befriend a group of catfish-people by making them food sculptures. But this year feels like a particularly optimistic year, with the game’s third expansion due out in July and plenty to be excited about when that happens.
This is not to say that the expansion couldn’t be unimpressive or worse than its predecessors, nor does it mean that the game is immune from missteps. It just means that I think this’ll be a year of really enjoying myself in FFXIV, and hey, that’s enough.
By contrast, here’s a game I haven’t actually played yet at all. It may even be a while before I do play it. But I’m still optimistic about Anthem, even as I think it’s going to be a starkly divisive title; I suspect there will be people who either really like it or loudly ask who in the world wanted a Destiny clone from BioWare.
So why the optimism? Well, I think this is an MMO subgenre that actually does have a lot of potential… and from the work already done on multiplayer modes for the Mass Effect games, the foundation is there for this to be really fun. Yes, it’s lacking in certain elements that I consider very important, but I’m optimistic that those elements can be added and improved with time, and so I’m hopeful. We need more entries in this particular category.
Stuff is happening with Crowfall. That’s helpful! Really, this is a game that has always had an aesthetic and a gameplay philosophy that appeals to me, right down to the idea that the game is open PvP but is focused in how that’s supposed to work. From the outside looking in, this looks good.
People playing the test versions may have a very different point of view. But my optimism is undeterred.
4. Ascent: Infinite Realm
Yeah, there are rumblings of reasons why perhaps Ascent: Infinite Realm will not be the new hotness. Perhaps the new warmness. New lukewarmth. And if that’s what happens… well, I’ll be sad, but not crushed. It happens, after all.
But I’m still optimistic, because this is a game that has so many elements just highlighting that this could be extremely My Thing. Steampunk MMO with walker robots, airships, and a Victorian naval aesthetic? Sign me up. I’ll play this when it’s localized even if it’s not good. My love can power through lots of bad.
In all fairness, I’m worried about Trove. I’m worried about any game that was previously in Trion’s wheelhouse, but Trove in particular feels like a unique delight that must be protected and which I’m scared might not be. There’s lots to recommend it and lots of reasons to be worried…
Yet really, this is also one of the studio’s two standout titles in recent year, and so it seems likely that this one has a brighter future than some of its contemporaries. Optimism! It can’t be like Gamigo bought these games just to shutter all of them, right?
6. The Elder Scrolls Online
All right, it’s time to stop talking about how The Elder Scrolls Online took its more lackluster launch state and really improved over time. At this point, the game’s updates and improvement have fallen into a pretty steady cadence… in a good way. Frankly, I’m optimistic about the title because while I don’t expect to be wowed by it (I’ve got other things for that), I expect it’ll finish the year without majorly flubbing anything.
We can think of some other titles that probably will flub things this year, but… again. Optimism.
7. City of Titans
2018 was not a great year for this particular superhero project. It wasn’t a terrible one in the sense that it could have been worse, but I’m mostly hoping that 2019 sees a lot of good developments for City of Titans and the start of players being able to, well, fly around and be super. And since I get to be optimistic here, well, I’m going to be optimistic and say it will be.
This isn’t to say that I’m not hopeful for any of the other post-City of Heroes projects to do good things. This is just the one on which I’m turning my Optimism Laser. And if that actually does anything… well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
8. Star Trek Online
Here’s the thing about Star Trek Online. While I’ve long adored the game, it’s had a big problem for several years in that all of the new material for the franchise was being produced in the alternate timeline from the films. But the past couple of years have seemed to involve the owners remembering that people actually really like Star Trek as a franchise. (It’s almost like the reason Enterprise tanked was the show itself instead of the franchise. Hmm.)
That means new stuff is happening. Sure, the current main series is a prequel, but it still expands the world and gives the designers new things to play with, and one of the fixed points in STO’s design philosophy is that it’s better to pull things from the television shows than just make up new stuff. So having more to draw from – and even more soon, it seems, with the talk of more shows – give me a lot of reason to be optimistic.
9. Peria Chronicles
Yeah, all right, I think this game isn’t real. It cut some really neat-looking promo reels, but considering the long silence I think that’s all we’re ever getting. But I want it to be real and so, again, I’m being optimistic. Peria Chronicles is coming, and it’ll bring food, and water, and it’ll smite our enemies.
10. World of Warcraft
Optimism? Here? Yes. As much as I put this down as a game with an uncertain future, I am actually optimistic about World of Warcraft. Not because this expansion feels salvageable at this point, no; we’ve got a trash fire of a year in front of us. But because I think this is the trash fire wherein it’s just too much to continue ignoring how the game’s design philosophy is hurting it.
That’s my spot of optimism here. It’s a hope that falling numbers and negative reception bring around a look at the game and a realization that the Mythic raiding paradigm is killing the game, helped not one whit by haphazard class design, bloated leveling, and storytelling that would need to step up significantly to reach “acceptable.” The sort of thing that can prompt a large-scale reworking of fundamental pillars, perhaps even of the game.
It may be a long shot, but hey, that’s what optimism is sometimes.