Massively OP’s 2019 Awards: Best MMORPG Expansion

    
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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…

FINAL FANTASY XIV’S SHADOWBRINGERS

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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