The Game Of The Year Awards 2018 Edition

Welcome to the Game of the Year Awards 2018 Edition. Note that only games released in 2018 qualify for these awards!

Without further ado, I give you our games of the year.

MMORPG of the Year - MapleStory 2

2018 was not a busy year for MMORPG releases. While many existing games received major updates, few new contenders made an entry. Even our pick for MMORPG of the year, MapleStory 2, is a bit of a fudge since it was initially released in Korea back in 2015. Despite a 3 year wait for the Western release, MapleStory 2 enjoyed a very successful launch. The bright, welcoming graphics combined with many social activities make MapleStory 2 appealing to a much broader set of gamers. The game's first major update, the Skybound Expansion has already begun rolling out and should help keep the game fresh well into 2019. MapleStory 2 still faces problems, but it in a far better state than some of Nexon's other recent launches.

Best Expansion - Path of Exile: Betrayal

Another year, another record breaking performance by Path of Exile. The Betrayal expansion, released on December 8, synthesized the best features of the previous patches from this year and combined them with a host of improvements that made the gritty free to play action-RPG more accessible than ever. 2018 was a big year for Path of Exile behind the scenes as well, with Tencent buying a majority stake in Grinding Gear Games, the New Zealand based developed behind PoE. While many were worried what Tencent's controlling stake would mean for the game, the Betrayal expansion shows that the new boss in Shenzen is happy to let the winning formula play out. Path of Exile is slated to launch for PlayStation 4 in February 2019 which should bring even more players to the game.

Most Anticipated - Lost Ark

After years of anticipation, speculation, and more anticipation we finally have Lost Ark within our sights. Lost Ark launched into open beta in its home country of South Korea on November 7th and became one of the top streamed games on twitch, at least temporarily. Losk Ark combines the fast paced combat of action-RPGs with the persistent elements of traditional fantasy MMORPGs. Coupled with a host of other features including sea travel and island discovery, Lost Ark offers plenty of feature to keep players logged in. Recent PR stumbles by Blizzard surrounding the Diablo franchise have only made players more eager for the launch of another big-budget action RPG. 2019 will likely be the year those gamers get their wish. Smilegate, the Korean developers have already inked a publishing agreement with for the Russian version of the game. An EU/NA publishing agreement should follow in early 2019.

Card Game of the Year - Magic The Gathering Arena (MTG:A)

Finally, the veteran trading card game gets a worthy digital version. Unlike previous MTG digital iterations, Arena is free to play and players can earn cards through in-game activities. At launch, Wizards of the Coast was especially generous with an event that offered players multiple free decks for winning matches. While pioneering the trading aspect of the card game genre, Arena offers no trading, but a 'Wildcard' mechanic helps players get the cards they need to make their decks work. MTG Arena beat out another card game designed by Richard Garfield this year, Valve's Artifact. Despite Valve's history of game development, Artifact launched in an incomplete state, with a retail price, and with no way to earn cards for free. It will be interesting to see how both games develop in 2019.

Most Innovative - Survived By

Inspired by Realm of the Mad God, Survived By offers a much more developed rogue-like MMORPG experience mixed with real-time bullet hell gameplay. While the pixel art style is a nostalgic throwback, the game has a number of innovative features. Chief among these is the rebirth system where upon death, you start over as an off spring of your previous character. Players earn a special currency called Valr as they progress, and upon death this currency can be used to upgrade all future characters. In this way, Survived By still offers sense of persistence and progression while maintaining the high stakes environment of a perma-death game. Survived By is free to play, but still in Early Access on Steam. It hasn't found a large audience, but we are huge fans of any game mechanic that raises the stakes and forces MMORPG players to sit up straight when they're grinding away.

Best Battle Royale - Ring of Elysium

Last year saw a niche genre go mainstream. PUBG and Fortnite conquered the world, but there's still plenty of room in the market for smaller Battle Royale style games, if they are able to offer a unique take on the genre. Tencent's Ring of Elysium is just such a game. Despite being yet another realistic military shooter set in a slowly dwindling island, Ring of Elysium managed to do enough things different, and to do enough things well to carve out its own slice of the pie. Players, either solo, duo, or in squads, must survive an oncoming winter storm by skating, snowboarding, or gliding through a snowy, boreal terrain. The twist is victory is not just magically secured by being the last man standing. Instead, up to 4 players can climb up a rope ladder extended by a rescue helicopter. Ring of Elysium is a must-try free to play alternative to PUBG and Call of Duty's Battle Royale mode.

Most Disappointing - Bless

Bless Online was one of the most expensive MMORPGs ever developed, with Neowiz pouring over $60 million into the game before any localization, advertising, and maintenance costs were included. When a Western version was first announced, first by Aeria and later by Neowiz directly, many MMORPG players saw salvation. The excitement only grew when we were told a whole new action-combat system had been implemented. Tens of thousands purchased Founders packs and poured into the game servers when they first opened. Guilds got organized, streamers were ready, but it all quickly fell apart. Far from improving features from the initial 2016 Korea/Russian version, the official English version actually launched with an incomplete class list, and included basic translation errors even during the tutorial at the very start of the game. The hype quickly turned to rage and thousands started requesting refunds. The call for refunds was so high that Steam extended their usual 2-hour window. Bless eventually left early access and is now free to play, but the playerbase has dwindled significantly. The Korean version, the home market of the developer, has since shut down which does not bode well for Bless's future in 2019.

Mobile Game of the Year - Old School RuneScape (OSRS)

Old School RuneScape isn't the first persistent world MMORPG on mobile devices, but it is the first to bring such a big MMORPG franchise to the smart phone while maintaining cross-platform play. It is primarily for this cross platform capability that OSRS gets our mobile game of the year award. As the hardware capabilities of smartphones continue to improve and converge with those of consoles and PCs, we hope to see more cross-platform games coming out in the years ahead. Blizzard could have spared itself some grief by making their recently announced mobile title, Diablo Immortal, cross-platform rather than mobile only. In the mean time, OSRS's mobile port has brought a whole new generation to the classic fantasy MMORPG that first launched back in 2001.

Lifelong gamer always looking for the next virtual adventure. I'm still waiting for the next big MMORPG. Until then, you can find me hopping between multiple games.