The MMOS.com 2015 Game of the Year Awards
The year is almost at a close and as we reflect on the horde of MMOs, both offensive and memorable, we must raise our judges cards and declare the best of the year 2015. It’s been a strange year, with a cacophony of Early Access titles promising release sometime in the future. But we’ve chosen here to focus on games that released in 2015. And after endless bouts of cage matches and thumb-wars the MMOs.com crew has finally come to a contentious consensus. While Game of the Year awards are not signs of perfection they indicate the impression a game has made on ourselves and the industry.
MMORPG Of The Year
This year was quite a mixed bag for MMORPG’s. Nothing seems to have gripped the playerbase-at-large’s enthusiasm. And we’ve seen more pre-alpha tests preparing us for 2016 than full 2015 releases. MMORPG of the year is always a debatable point so to motivate comments we’re honoring the Gods of Skyforge. Love it or hate it, Skyforge is a highly polished free-to-play MMORPG that has cemented publisher My.com as a contender to be reckoned with. Instead of choosing between science fiction and fantasy, Skyforge seamlessly blends the two aesthetics to create a novel atmosphere. While it’s hub-based gameplay doesn't appeal to everyone (I’m on the fence), smooth combat effects and a unique grid-based advancement system distinguish Skyforge amidst the abundance of regurgitated MMORPGs. But it’s not too derivative to compete and pushes out content like a maternity ward. Skyforge stands on two feet in the MMORPG arena, and we’re curious to see how it fairs moving into 2016.
Best Pick-Up-And-Play Game
Rocket League. Does it really need an explanation? Out of nowhere, toy cars smashing into an enormous cybernetic ball boosted by NOS owned the Steam Charts. It’s the perfect pick-up-and-play game and a success even the developers didn’t expect, “It was very strange having such success.” Rocket League is a game friendly to casuals with a skill ceiling no boosters will help everyday players reach. Insanely fun, Rocket League is easily the biggest surprise success of the year, averaging nearly 17,000 players since its release. I have to wonder if the only factor barring its predecessor’s success was its name (Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars).
Survival Game Of The Year
Almost every survival game is still in Early Access (and may be forever, *cough* H1Z1), but there is an award that must pin some naked character’s chest. ARK: Survival Evolved, stand nude and illustrious for you are punching wood in the face with the MMOs.com survival GOTY award. Finally, a game with Dinosaurs that isn’t a cash grab. After the bait-and-switch disaster known as The Stomping Land, ARK arrived to rectify the missing niche. A gorgeous island brimming with prehistoric beasts challenges survivors to endure the elements and other players. While the character creator is a perfect compliment to Perfect World International’s freedom, and a consistent stream of updates overshadows nearly every other Early Access project. While optimization is needed to render the detailed world, frequent dinosaur updates gives ARK the gold, for now. Looking forward to another year of taming prehistoric behemoths.
Best Chinese Knockoff Game
Far to the East there is a vast land where copyright laws are followed like a New Jersey Stop sign, the glorious People’s Republic of China. The Middle Kingdom has given rise to such gems as One Piece Online 2 and World of Warcraft copycat Eternal Dream—even Blizzard’s lawyers cannot penetrate The Great Wall. But the award for hilariously obvious copyright breach goes to Tiny Mighty Heroes Unite, a Marvel universe where male heroes are perfectly plump and women heroes model for calendars during the day. It's introduced memorable champions such as The Archer—hurling toilet plungers at enemies instead of Hawkeye's arrows. Other memorable characters include Magnet Man (Magneto), Hurricane (Storm), and Mind Reader (Professor X). Ridiculously obvious, it’s probable Disney shrugs off Tiny Mighty considering it's free advertising. The Avengers: Age of Ultron did generate a whopping $240 million in China alone, so it’s no surprise that a microtransaction supported browser clone can keep its servers running. My Plan B is to move to China and create a Star Wars universe browser clone.
MOBA Of The Year
The MOBA market has one of the highest bars for entry, and League of Legends has sat on the King’s throne for ages. While there weren’t many MOBA releases in 2015 (Golden Rush is on another 2015 list) that doesn’t diminish Heroes of the Storm’s innovative qualities. Rather than following the traditional three-lanes base rush, Blizzard transferred emphasis to objective-based maps, keeping gameplay fresh and forcing players to coordinate if they want to secure victory. Thanks to a familiar roster of franchise-based Heroes, no items, and ease-of-gameplay, Heroes of the Storm is the perfect MOBA to jump into the genre.Compared to its predecessors, and considering how long it's been since release, HoTS has already proved itself impressively successful.
Best Drama 2015
It’s certainly been a glorious year for drama. Just follow Derek Smart's tirades about Star Citizen and you’ll find all the water-cooler gossip you need. But no drama beats the strangeness that was Inspirit Online, now a fading memory that doesn’t even grace the pages of MMOs.com. Inspirit Online was an illegal private server of Webzen’s Elite Lord of Alliance (a South Korean MMORPG). Mass confusion unraveled around the title when legal action was taken against the anonymous creators of Inspirit Online. Ultimately WEBZEN chose to publish ELOA in the West, and soon after Inspirit Online’s website disappeared into the void. Maybe the one good thing that came out of the drama was the release of ELOA, which otherwise may never been traversed by an English-speaking audience.
The Most Ridiculous Founder’s Pack 2015
Every day I start by combing through my MMOs.com email address, and every other day I was met with a Founder’s Pack advertisement from Trion World’s Devilian—starting at $49.99 and moving up in $50 increments to $149.99. Keep in mind that Devlian is a free-to-play game, releasing in Korea back in 2012. But if you reached into your wallet and coughed up $149.99 you were—possibly—invited to the alpha, and gained 24/7 access to test the game (any progress ultimately being wiped), amid other goodies. Mid-tier, at $99.99, only guaranteed players access to beta events. I remember testing games for free! Testing out a three year old game for as much money as is needed to purchase a Kindle Fire HD 8 is a clear winner for most ridiculous Founders Pack of 2015. And a sign of a new trend in the MMOs industry. Want to test a game, better cough up some dough. Way to keep up the spirit of Archeage Trion. Wear your MMOs.com ribbon proudly (that'll be $149.99—we're doing you a favor).
FPS Of The Year
While the award should clearly go to Warmode, we’re saving the Russian gem for another 2015 list (stay tuned!). Instead, the best FPS of the year goes to Block N Load, a game that defines its own genre. Mixing voxel based maps with class-based tactical gameplay culminates in an experience that exists outside of traditional elements. On a map made of cubes players choose a class and defend their base or attack their opponents. Using turrets, rocket launchers, and shovels to thwart the enemy leads to spontaneous and zany situations. It’s bravely innovative while also rehashing familiar elements, albeit wrapped in a new package. The “Team Fortress 2 marries Minecraft” matchup is well worth installing.
Best MMORPG Expansion
While many titles have released expansions in 2015 only one game can go home victorious. Guild Wars 2’s Heart of Thorns not only added an enormous amount of content to the finely polished buy-to-play game but invigorated the playerbase by making the base game free-to-play. Tack on the new Maguuma Jungle Zone, new PvP modes, and competitive leagues and a brilliant expansion has graced the shores of MMORPGs. It must be noted, its success is largely due to solid mechanics, and an overall progression system that borrows from its contemporaries and refines them like a katana. It’s an excellent MMORPG that any enthusiast of the genre ought to play.
Most Hype 2015
Hype: the opiate of the gaming community. Nothing generates excitement as much as a community rallying behind a spectacular trailer, concept gameplay, or fantasies of what could be. The dust around this year’s hype has generously settled around Black Desert Online. Surprised? It may be fair to owe the hype to rampant videos showing off the character creator. Regardless, no other key giveaway has generated well over two-thousand comments on MMOs.com, with new comments popping up weekly (it says closed!). While we find the buy-to-play model surprising, many Western players seem content to migrate from free-to-play back to a buy-to-play title in the hope that irritating elements will be left behind. Combined with action-oriented combat and you create a maelstrom of hype. Whether or not the game is judged for its gameplay or written off as a theme park will have to wait until 2016.
Most Anticipated MMORPG
While reflecting on 2015 is like drinking a warm cup of nostalgia, we’re also anxiously awaiting 2016. Black Desert Online, Crowfall, Paragon, and myriad titles are set to release. But only one can claim to keep us up at night. While Albion Online is distinctly impressive the award must go to Tree of Savior (“All roads lead back to Ragnarok Online”). We’ve been anticipating the RO spiritual successor since the last private server was uninstalled from my Compaq. While CBT was full of bugs and systems that simply didn’t work we cherished every moment slaughtering kawaii creatures without remorse. It’s a game that doesn’t appeal to everyone but neatly fills a long-missed niche. And choosing to launch on Steam is a brilliant move that will allow the player base to flourish. While the Korean beta begins this December, and no announcement has been made regarding the International release, we can’t help but keep our fingers crossed that we’ll be giving up on MMOs.com to grind away our lives in Tree of Savior.
Thanks for reading the first annual MMOs.com Game of the Year awards. While we’re sure we didn’t please everyone we hope you’ll leave a comment and let us know your choices. It’s been a fantastic first year and we can’t wait to cover all of the MMOs coming out in 2016. Thanks for tuning in ^_^