Massively OP’s 2019 Awards: Best MMORPG Expansion


Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2019 awards continue today with our award for Best MMORPG Expansion, which was awarded to Elder Scrolls Online’s Summerset last year. Every major update and expansion to an MMORPG was eligible for this award, as long as it launched in this calendar year. Don’t forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end!

And the MassivelyOP staff pick for the Best MMORPG Expansion of 2019 is…


Andy McAdams: I went with FFXIV Shadowbringers for this one. The story, the horror of the story was amazing. I loved the Dancer class – it was so much. While there were still missteps with gender locking of races because … well, we never really got a good reason, it was overall a great expansion. The other contender in my mind was ESO Elsweyr and while I loved it, it didn’t hit with the same resounding “thawump” that Shadowbringers did. Plus Ardbert. That guy made the expansion for me. Or silver-fox Urianger. Probably Ardbert though. Definitely.

Ben Griggs: Elsweyr. Elder Scrolls Online was somehow able to one-up itself by centering an expansion on an Elder Scrolls landscape that we’ve never seen before: the land of the Khajiit. Elsweyr brought not only added to the considerable amount of content in the game, it also introduced the necromancer class for those with a penchant for death (and life, and death again) and destruction!

Brendan Drain: I fully believe this one should go to No Man’s Sky’s Beyond update in August. Despite developer Hello Games’ confusing protestations that it’s not an MMO because it doesn’t have a subscription or microtransactions, this is the year that I believe No Man’s Sky legitimately became an MMO. Beyond added full ambient multiplayer to the game, meaning that if I’m in the same star system as another player then I can bump into them. It added a new social hub players can transport themselves to from anywhere in the multiverse, and we can use it to visit and see other players’ bases. This update also completely overhauled the game’s progression system and rebalanced almost every aspect of the gameplay. If every developer kept their online games updated in the way that this small studio manages, the genre would be in a much better state. If we don’t consider No Man’s Sky to be an MMO, my vote would go to FFXIV’s Shadowbringers expansion. After years of companies building up hype for expansions that didn’t exactly deliver, Shadowbringers has restored my faith that big-hitter expansions and storyline arcs are back on the menu. This feels particularly poignant in a year in which Guild Wars 2’s Living Story has really started to flounder. Colin did a fantastic write-up of some of those problems back in July, and Tina’s drill-down into the recent story ended on a bit of a sour note.

Brianna Royce: I have absolutely no reservations about nominating FFXIV’s Shadowbringers here – it’ll probably never be my pet MMO, but when even haters and mainstream non-MMO players are holding the expansion’s story up as the pinnacle of the whole damn franchise right alongside hardcore MMORPG fans, you know it’s done something right.

Carlo Lacsina: Shadowbringers. This expansion is such a great example of excellent storytelling. When it’s so good that even non-mmo players decide to pick up this game we know it’s good. While I personally don’t think FFXIV is GOTY material since it’s not essentially doing anything new to the genre, this expansion just pushed the boundaries of what makes great storytelling. The addition of Gunbreaker just seals the deal too, as pioneers of a sword with a trigger, Square-Enix made an unforgettable and powerful class. One so good, I’d argue it’s one of the best tanks in any MMO.

Chris Neal: Shadowbringers. Shadowbrings wasn’t just an outstanding Final Fantasy XIV story. It wasn’t just an outstanding MMORPG story. It was an outstanding Final Fantasy story. An outstanding video game story. Though there were a couple of pain points and filler quest steps at times, by and large it was probably one of the best narrative experiences the game, the IP, and gaming in general has put out.

Colin Henry: Shadowbringers. I don’t play Final Fantasy XIV, but those who do made it clear that this was an incredible expansion. It’s little wonder, with new races, new classes, and a story that I’m told is one of the best in the franchise. What’s not to love?

Eliot Lefebvre: There’s no contest here. Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers was such a strong contender that if I didn’t dislike giving multiple awards to the same game (which I do), I feel like you could use it as a strong argument in favor of FFXIV just sweeping the awards. A moving story. Amazing content. An amazing world. Beautiful music. It’s not absolutely perfect, but it managed to pass even the high bar that FFXIV has already consistently set for its expansions, which in and of itself is excellent.

Justin Olivetti: Shadowbringers leaped to the front of the pack on this and didn’t relinquish its throne for all of 2019. Not only did it offer a ton of content, but its story had the MMO community buzzing in delight, tossing off phrases like “best Final Fantasy story ever” left and right. I’ll throw in a personal nod for LOTRO: Minas Morgul, which is surprisingly engrossing content from a small dev team.

Mia DeSanzo: I was impressed with Shadowbringers, and I don’t even play FFXIV. It had generally good reviews from people I know and trust, the story really had an emotional impact on players, and the streams I saw almost got me back into FFXIV. There were other games with good expansions this year, but FFXIV was the clear leader of the pack in my mind.

MJ Guthrie: Shadowbringers, Warframe Empyrean. I want to say Warframe’s Empyrean for the tremendous scope it brings to the game. But, since this is a MMORPG category, I think I can go with Final Fantasy XIV’s Shadowbringers. I do not personally play it, but I have been listening to its impact on players and it was a very robust offering that had players pretty pleased. And it almost got me to sub again!

Samon Kashani: None of the games on my radar put out an expansion this year, although one did make a… saga.

Tyler Edwards: Back when I was just a commenter at MOP rather a writer, Final Fantasy XIV was my pick for “most overrated MMO” every time that poll went up, so suffice it to say I’m not a fan of the game. But even I have to acknowledge that everyone who plays it seems overjoyed by Shadowbringers. I think it deserves the award.

Final Fantasy XIV’s Shadowbringers won our award for Best MMORPG Expansion of 2019. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What was the best MMO expansion or major update of 2019?

  • Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers (40%, 283 Votes)
  • Elder Scrolls Online Elsweyr (14%, 97 Votes)
  • WoW Classic (9%, 67 Votes)
  • WoW Rise of Azshara (2%, 11 Votes)
  • No Man's Sky Beyond (6%, 41 Votes)
  • LOTRO Minas Morgul (7%, 50 Votes)
  • SWTOR Onslaught (2%, 14 Votes)
  • Black Desert's Great Expedition and console launches (0%, 2 Votes)
  • ArcheAge Unchained and Shadows Revealed (1%, 6 Votes)
  • Neverwinter Undermountain and Uprising (0%, 1 Votes)
  • EVE Invasion (1%, 8 Votes)
  • RuneScape Land Out of Time and OSRS Morytania (0%, 2 Votes)
  • Warframe Empyrean (1%, 8 Votes)
  • Guild Wars 2 Living World Saga (3%, 18 Votes)
  • DDO Masterminds of Sharn (1%, 8 Votes)
  • EverQuest II Blood of Luclin (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Albion Oberon and Percival (0%, 0 Votes)
  • DCUO Justice League Dark and GU92 (0%, 2 Votes)
  • Destiny 2 Shadowkeep (2%, 16 Votes)
  • Blade and Soul Legacy of Hongmoon and Empyrean Shadows (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Star Trek Online Rise of Discovery and Awakening (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Legends of Aria New Dawn (0%, 1 Votes)
  • MapleStory 2 Project New Leaf and Guilded Glory (0%, 0 Votes)
  • TERA Skywatch (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Path of Exile Synthesis and Legion (2%, 12 Votes)
  • Star Citizen 3.5 (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Aion Mark of the Vandal (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Skyforge New Horizons and Ignition (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Trove Going Green (0%, 0 Votes)
  • PlanetSide 2's summer update (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Fallout 76 Wild Appalachia (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Anarchy Online Rubi-Ka 2019 (0%, 2 Votes)
  • Revelation Online Heaven and Earth (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Anthem Cataclysm (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Villagers and Heroers A Tale of Earth and Sea (1%, 6 Votes)
  • EverQuest Torment of Velious (1%, 9 Votes)
  • Ultima Online High Seas patches (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Ashes of Creation Apocalypse (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Nothing (3%, 20 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments!) (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 612

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How does MassivelyOP choose the winner?
Our team gathers together over the course of a few weeks to nominate and discuss candidates and ideally settle on a consensus winner. We don’t have a hard vote, but we do include written commentary from every writer who submitted it on time so that you can see where some of us differed, what our secondary picks were, and why we personally nominated what we did (or didn’t). The site’s award goes to the staff selection, but we’ll include both it and the community’s top nomination in our debrief in January.
How does MassivelyOP populate this poll?
Poll options include all expansions and updates nominated plus a smattering of others that caught our eye.

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Chestnut Bowl
Chestnut Bowl

Shadowbringers was a joy to play. Emet-Selch was a far better villain than I had expected. Learning the lore behind the First and exploring its history continues to be a delight for me.

Chosenxeno .

Shadowbringers wins this and having played WOTLK and Shadowbringers(and way too much in between lol) I believe that Emet Selch is the best MMORPG Antagonsist since Arthas.

Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron

FF14 is my current MMO and is one of the very few that has earned more than a year of my participation.

In a year where “doesn’t suck” would have been a contender Shadowbringers was a slam-dunk. Square has figured out The Forumla™. They deliver story and consistent PvE content to keep the masses entertained. I can’t speak to PvP other than the Nadaam mode is intriguing but not quite enough to get me to dip in.

Story is not something an MMO should be judged by. It’s one and done content. Story is the bailiwick of single player games that can devote the appropriate resources to that mode.

The ShB story is both fantastic and a huuuuuge impediment. I’ve taken 3 alts to end game. The last one took 200hrs to get there. While I’m something of a story player I skipped almost all of ARR and a good chunk of HW on the 3rd time through and it still took me an inordinate time to burn through that content to get to the content where MMO’s (are supposed to) shine.

14 does deliver on end-game content but the story gating is seriously detrimental to retention. ARR or post-ARR isn’t the problem. All of the story is a problem.


I had high expectations for Warframe’s Empyrean expansion, but those have now become hopes that it reaches its full potential in 2020 – the basics are great, but it feels like they rushed it out to get it released before the end of the year when it could’ve done with a bit more time in the oven. Most of the major bugs were fixed in the first frantic week of patching but it still needs a lot of work on balance and polish.


Yeah Shadowbringers was without a doubt the only real choice for this year.


Don’t play FF14 but considering the buzz I’ll take your word for it.

Viktor Budusov

I don’t play FF14 so Minas Morgul!

Elsweyr was… uninteresting and small. Zenimax could do things better. NMS is just doing what should be done before.


I wish I could stick with FFIX. I’ve tried to force myself into it a few times now, and the story and acting is genuinely awful. I mean, terrible in so many ways. What with the forced dungeon grouping to progress, I really don’t see the attraction.

Jeremy Barnes

Maybe try FFXIV instead


Maybe try being less of a smartarse?

Jeremy Barnes

I’ve considered your proposal and rejected it.

Kickstarter Donor

I respect your opinion completely, even though I disagree in every way, but do you mind if I ask why being forced to group up for a 15-20 minute dungeon every once in a while is a dealbreaker for you?


Some people just don’t want to be forced to do dungeons if they don’t want to. I’m the same. Did my time tanking in WoW, would not be unhappy if I never go into a group dungeon again.

blah blazh

I agree but I’ll also add that in FFXIV it is more than the occasional occurrence. It seems every few levels you are forced into a dungeon if you follow the main quest-line. The silver lining, in my opinion, is that the dungeons in FFXIV are relatively short. At least that has been my experience (I’ve only played through the core game and into their first expansion, not sure after that).

blah blazh

I don’t really care for FFXIV so I can’t really give the expansion a fair judgement. Out of the games that I’ve played on this list, I’d select ESO’s Elsweyr.


Do you guys remember when the Academy Award winners for best picture used walk away with 6 to 8 additional Oscars? Some of you might be too young to remember that, but, yeah, it used to happen more often. Remember Dances with Wolves? 7 Oscars. Epic movies would just clean up.

Well, that’s what is going on here with an epic MMORPG, FFXIV. It has already won what? Two awards? And it deserves to win many more.

I’m a fanboi? No. Just pointing out the obvious. In the broader MMO world this MMORPG is killing it. And rarely do you see the yo-yo effect with this game. Players play and stay.

Eliot Lefebvre
Eliot Lefebvre

See, speaking as one of the people doing the voting here, I generally try to counteract that. While there are some games I tend to feel definitely do not deserve multiple or even any awards (you can go ahead and guess which ones), I’d rather have different titles winning the big stuff on any given installment.


Nothing wrong with that. I’m simply pointing out that FFXIV had a great year and is worthy of many awards because they are doing well in all phases.

Bryan Correll

Goodfellas was robbed.