It's time to celebrate a handful of titles that have evolved over the past year, keeping audiences entertained with regular content updates and seasonal events. Now, we thought long and hard about including Apex Legends as it's a great fit for this category, but as it launched this year we decided to focus on titles that released pre-2019 and that served their communities with distinction throughout the last 12 months. Here are our top picks.
Final Fantasy XIV by Square Enix - Back in 2010, Final Fantasy XIV was an unmitigated disaster. Fans hated it due to performance issues and user interface quirks along with a heavy amount of grinding and poor social interactions. Nine years later, the troubled MMORPG has ended up in the entirely opposite position thanks to a hefty amount of support from Naoki Yoshida and his team after relaunching the game in 2013. Since then Square Enix has continued to support, maintain, improve and develop new content and experiences that have ensured that it's one of the best-supported MMORPG's available.
2019 was no different and it has been an outstanding year for fans and newcomers alike. The introduction of the Trust system allows players to team up with allied NPCs in dungeons when friendly players can't help, or if you'd just prefer to play by yourself. Jobs were tweaked to make combat more accessible along with continued patches to fix minor issues and new content to sink your teeth into. The Shadowbringers expansion managed to introduce an absurd amount of new and interesting content as well, with the Dancer and Gunbreaker jobs as well as even more races, such as the Hrothgar and Viera. And just to top it off, there were various crossover events such as one with Final Fantasy XV that introduced Noctis, his abilities and even the amazing flying car. And that's not even mentioning the Nier crossover: the cherry on top of a great year for FFXIV.
Overwatch by Blizzard - Overwatch is still one of the kings of the content update and has been keeping players buzzing ever since the game came out in 2016. Even though Blizzard itself has had a rough year as it lurched between controversies, the game has exploded into a full-on franchise thanks to a bustling and extremely active esports scene, along with regular seasonal events and updates full of new cosmetics and whatnot.
Of course, the core of Overwatch is the large and diverse cast of characters and maps. This year we were introduced to Batiste the battle medic, a troubled man from Tortuga with a mix of explosive damage who heals allies and damages foes along with an immortality field to help protect everyone. On the other hand, we got a gravity-controlling tank called Sigma who can ruin midair projectiles by turning them into a shield, create barriers out of nowhere and toss debris at everyone. Also new are two maps, Paris and Havana, just to bump up the numbers even further. Meanwhile, Role Play was introduced, letting players decide what class they want before they enter a game to prevent all sorts of arguments and tension during the draft.
Destiny 2 by Bungie - It has been a big year for Bungie. After leaving behind the safety net of the publishing deal with Activision, the studio is very much at the mercy of their own ability to keep pumping out great content for Destiny. External investment has no doubt helped the studio's situation and made a clean break plausible, but the onus is most certainly on delivering consistently engaging experiences to the army of Destiny fans out there. Bungie's player base has always been huge and despite a mixed critical reaction to some of the things that the studio has put out post-Halo, a strong following has built up around the franchise, not just on Xbox where once the studio was so dominant, but also with new communities on PC and PS4.
Obviously a big part of the content offering this year was the Shadowkeep expansion, a standalone offering that included a new raid, strikes, and PvP arenas, as well as the return of Eris Morn and a journey back to the moon. However, there was much more to Destiny 2's year than just Shadowkeep - New Light saw the studio repackage the game and release it as a free-to-play offering, a move that saw a wealth of new Guardians join the fight. It might not have always been smooth sailing for the studio, but with Bungie emerging from troubled waters relatively unscathed and in control of its own destiny (pardon the terrible pun), it's hard not to be impressed by the transformation undergone by Destiny 2 in the past 12 months.
Dead by Daylight by Behaviour Interactive - Asymmetrical horror game Dead by Daylight may not be as successful as some of the other games on this list, having not yet conquered the world, but the niche title has come a long way in 2019. While it's no Fortnite in terms of its audience numbers, Dead by Daylight shines bright in the horror scene with regular content updates keeping the game afloat well above the surface. What's more, the quality of each update and chapter has been fantastic. This year, the game has seen more licensed characters hit its playable roster such as Ghostface from Scream, Ash from Ash vs Evil Dead, the Demogorgon, Steve and Nancy from Stranger Things alongside other, original characters.
Aside from this, the game arrived on Nintendo Switch, finally received an update adding dedicated servers to the game as well as a long-awaited additional progression system called 'The Archives', which offers not only a cosmetic unlock system but narrative context to the game as well. We've loved escaping menacing killers and sacrificing oblivious survivors in Dead by Daylight this year and the game gets better with every update.
Fortnite by Epic Games - There's no denying that Fortnite has well and truly conquered the world. It could have been a very different story, however. Back in 2017, Epic's shooter launched as a paid co-operative PVE shooter known as Save The World, which didn't manage to grab much attention at all. After PUBG exploded on the scene, Epic decided to make its own take on the battle royale genre and the rest, as they say, is history. It's currently the number one game on the planet with over 250 million registered accounts and with its own competitive scene, tie-in events, and it has even managed to impact pop-culture with those infectious dance moves.
It's not just the unique promotional tie-ins with Avengers: Endgame, John Wick, Borderlands, Batman and Star Wars, all of which brought all sorts of new cosmetics and temporary gameplay events. It's not even the World Cup and the esports scene. What puts Fortnite at the pinnacle of online gaming is its unparalleled approach to narrative exposition through the various seasons that have come and gone, adding and removing things from the game in real-time to cultivate huge amounts of speculation and hype. A volcano appeared with new locations and secrets to find in Season 8, and then it erupted in S9, permanently changing the world once again. Then, the mother of all updates happened: Chapter 2. Millions watched, in-game and on streaming platforms, as the world and everyone's characters were sucked into a black hole, leaving the game unplayable until it returned a few days later with a whole new island to explore, new gameplay additions to learn, and an upgraded arsenal to master.
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