PAX West 2016 was an exceptional year for online multiplayer games and MMOs. Generally, these types of fan-centric conventions have an overwhelming focus on the next lineup of AAA single-player titles like Fallout, Assassins Creed or Dragon Age, but this year we were treated to an extremely large variety of MMOs. I now have the difficult task of deciding which ones were the best of the convention.
Best Booth: ARK: Survival Evolved
There were a lot of really great booths at PAX West 2016, but nothing is quite like being able to ride on top of a massive tyrannosaurus rex. Now, ARK did have the T-Rex at PAX East this year, but they upped the ante by also throwing in a dragon. Although not as big as the T-Rex, it did give fans who prefer staying closer to the ground a great photo opportunity. These creatures were so popular that the lines to take pictures dwarfed many of the actual games at the show.
Best PvP: Atlas Reactor
It’s not very often that a game introduces a new type of player vs player combat. Generally, games will innovate by trying new mechanics with traditional aspects of gameplay. Atlas Reactor, however, manages to take gameplay previously found in single-player strategy games, such as X-COM, and transforms it into fast, exciting and simultaneous PvP action. With Atlas Reactor, Trion has managed to combine the fun, competitive aspects of a MOBA with the strategic thought process of chess.
Best Strategy Game: Dawn of War 3
If there’s one genre that’s been sorely underrepresented in the last decade, it’s the real-time strategy. These games used to be the cornerstone of the PC gaming market and helped kick start the competitive gaming scene with titles like StarCraft, Total Annihilation, and Command & Conquer. Recently, however, you’ll be lucky to find one that isn’t made by Blizzard Entertainment, but it seems we’re finally getting another full-fledged Dawn of War RTS. And how it delivers after all of these years. Unfortunately, my playthrough was bitter sweet as I only got to experience a single mission and definitely wanted more. Any RTS, or Warhammer 40k, fans should be eagerly awaiting this one.
Best Survival Game: Osiris: New Dawn
There are so many survival games in a state of purgatory (alpha, beta, early access, etc.) right now. Well, here’s another one to add to your list. This biggest difference between Osiris: New Dawn and all of the others is that it’s actually fun to play right out of the gate. Sure, DayZ, ARK, or Rust can be a great time once you’ve figured out how the games work and you’ve started to establish yourself in-game, but Osiris doesn’t make the early game feel so tedious. An enjoyable experience from start to death is something that the emerging survival genre has been sorely missing. Plus, who doesn’t want to want to role-play as Matt Damon in the Martian (with the addition of xenomorphs).
Best CCG: Duelyst
The grid-based battlefield is what separates Duelyst from every other digital card game on the market, which allows it to deliver a much deeper experience than many players are used to. With the recent launch of the Denizens of Shim’zar expansion, Duelyst is truly starting to create a name for itself in the CCG world that is primarily dominated by Hearthstone. The new expansion was shown off at PAX West and multiple decks were featured for players to try out that utilized recent card additions. If you’re looking for a new type of CCG that relies more on strategy than luck, Duelyst should definitely be given a chance.
Best MOBA: Fractured Space
It had been quite some time since I’d given Fractured Space a look after its Early Access release in 2014. If you’re looking for a gorgeous space shooter with MOBA gameplay mechanics then this is it. Each ship is beautifully crafted in the Unreal Engine 4, the space combat is easy to learn but difficult to master, and the pacing is intense. Unlike traditional MOBAs, however, the ability to aim and out maneuver your opponents is key.
Best Mobile Game: Vainglory
With its Summer Season Championship taking place at the Amazon Meeting Center in Downtown Seattle this year, Vainglory has once again proven that mobile games can be taken seriously. In a sea of quick cash grabs and reskinned RPGs, Vainglory sticks out as one of the few skill-based mobile games that has emerged into the international eSports scene. With premiere organizations, such as Cloud9 and TSM, starting to take notice, it’ll be interesting to see how far Vainglory can go.
Best Indie MMO: Hero’s Song
What do you get when you combine Diablo, Rogue, and John Smedley? You get one of the most ambitious indie MMOs of all time. Hero’s Song utilizes click-to-move combat, permanent death, and the ability to handcraft massive MMORPG worlds. Instead of having a set history, players can help decide what takes place through choices such as deity presence and world size. This means there’s finally an option to have a fantasy MMO without elves (or only elves if that’s your thing). Basically, Hero’s Song goes against everything we’re told should be part of an MMO, and that makes me very excited.
Best MMO: World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft just released its Legion expansion and spilled the details on patch 7.1. There are already very few MMORPGs that can compete with World of Warcraft, let alone right after it drops a highly anticipated expansion.
Most Innovative: Dual Universe
Although extremely rough around the edges, Dual Universe is attempting to change the way servers work in the MMO genre. Through the use of new technology, it plans to have servers that can adapt to player population density. If there’s a massive cluster of players in a single region, resources are pulled from less populated areas in order to maintain stability. The end goal is to allow more players on a single server than ever before while allowing them free reign to shape the world. Even if Dual Universe doesn’t become massively popular itself, the technology that it uses could help reshape the genre.
Most Anticipated MMO: Hero’s Song
If you’re looking for the next big theme-park MMO, Hero’s Song is not the game for you. Instead, Hero’s Song allows the player to generate 10,000 years of story before diving in and creating their own unique experience. The history of your server will determine things such as where magical items will appear, the races available in-game, and how factions treat each other. Furthermore, players will have full control over their custom servers and can toggle between single-player or allow hundreds of other adventurers in at any given time. As far as sandbox MMOs go, Hero’s Song could finally be the game where every choice matters.
Best in Show: World of Warcraft
With the release of an exciting new expansion, new content announcements, and a stunning booth, World of Warcraft easily wins the PAX West 2016 Best in Show award. The contents of patch 7.1 were unveiled by game designers Luis Barria, Cory Stockton, and Eric Maloof during a panel on September 3rd, which included key details on the ‘Return to Karazhan’ and Legion companion app that will allow players to micromanaged their Order Halls and World Quests anywhere they go.
Throughout the weekend, the Blizzard booth was packed with players testing out the new Demon Hunter class and exploring the broken isles. Not to mention there was an awesome Doomhammer replica just hanging around. While World of Warcraft hasn’t been the cool new kid on the block for quite some time, it still knows how to keep fans excited.
How were our picks this year? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to check out all of our PAX West 2016 coverage.