Welcome to 2020! We have plenty of MMORPGS to expect this year, and we look forward to all the updates and new content we’ll get from the existing ones we play. However upon reflection, which were the best MMORPGS of 2019? For our money, two come to mind – both of different payment models and styles, but clearly are a cut above the rest.
Final Fantasy XIV (FF14)
Square Enix and Final Fantasy XIV have had a pretty good 2019 overall, for obvious reasons. The start of the year was ordinary with the usual post Stormblood content patches that to be fair, had been excellent. With where both the game and story was going, it set up nicely for FFXIV’s next expansion which was Shadowbringers.
By the time it arrived, many already knew what to expect. Shadowbringers introduced plenty of new and fan-favorite features and mechanics. We got two new playable races – the Hrothgar and Viera. There were two new Jobs – the Dancer and Gunbreaker. On top of that, new systems like the Trust solo dungeons, an award-winning expansion story quest-line and much more. The expansion alone many felt, was worthy of being hailed the best Final Fantasy story to-date which coming from that fan-base, is a huge claim. Game Producer Yoshi P has been front at center as always this year, constantly giving updates about upcoming content and features through the Producer’s Letter Livestream series which is a big plus and more MMORPG developers need to take note of how Square Enix runs a live-service game.
Toward the end of 2019, players got spoiled even further thanks to the Shadowbringers content patches that brought us the Nier Automata collaboration raid, a further selection of challenging raids and trials, new equipment to farm the rebuilding of Ishgard for crafters and a new PvP map. FFXIV delivers on all cylinders this year and you would expect that from a subscription based game. If they keep this up throughout 2020 and beyond, there’s no doubt that this MMORPG will be here to stay for a long time to come.
The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO)
Zenimax’s Elder Scrolls Online is another MMORPG that is widely regarded as one of the best in 2019 – it even made it on Steam’s top pick of games of the year. But what made Elder Scrolls Online the MMORPG to play on Steam? In 2019, Zenimax did something they’ve never done before. For the first time since launch in 2014, the game has released all 4 DLC’s that carried the same story-line, characters and theme. Known as the Season of the Dragon, players would venture to Northern and Southern Elsweyr to save this ancient region from dragons. Dragons themselves were making a big debut in ESO too, having never been featured in such as main role in the MMORPG.
The four DLCs released throughout 2019 were big hits, especially the main Chapter (expansion) Elsweyr. The update introduced a new class – the much requested Necromancer, and it also improved many systems in-game. This includes overall server performance, guild finder tool, the marketplace and a bunch more. For the content itself, the continuous story arc was a breath of fresh air for ESO, and it gave the content a much needed MMO feel instead of having self-contained stories that differed all the time.
Elder Scrolls Online did a good job of putting itself in as many MMORPG conversations and events this year. Its many game convention appearances and award show attendance did create interest which helped its playerbase, and the fact that it constantly went on sale multiple times in 2019 was a huge attraction to newcomers considering it’s a buy to play game with an optional subscription. While there are many positives, we can’t ignore the negatives that arose last year. Most of the complaints are directed toward performance issues that while are still being worked on, it continues to affect a large portion of ESO’s players. Furthermore, the game’s difficulty overall once the Champion Points cap has been reached is no-where near engaging enough for an MMORPG especially in PvE content outside of Trials and Arenas. If ESO can address these issues in 2020, it will continue to be the best buy to play MMORPG on the market.