The landscape of multiplayer games has changed significantly as more developers take on the games-as-a-service approach. So many multiplayer games look and feel much different in their current states compared to the launch product as new content, balance tweaks, and seasonal events transform the original experience. It’s what entices player bases to stick around for the long-haul and how these games continue to stay relevant well after release.
So, with our Best Evolving Multiplayer Games category, we look back at five games that underwent meaningful changes in 2018 and highlight what made these great experiences even better. For this category, initial release date and status as a final product were not factors, but rather our criteria was based on what made these games stand out and how they went above and beyond in the calendar year. In no particular order, the following are the five best evolving multiplayer games of 2018.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
Ubisoft has been ambitious with its approach to sustaining its tactical first-person shooter Rainbow Six: Siege, and it’s been paying dividends big time. Following a mild launch in 2015, Ubisoft stuck with it by serving the player base with constant patches and major content drops which helped elevate the game’s great foundation. In 2018 alone, Rainbow Six Siege had four major content updates: Chimera, Para Bellum, Grim Sky, and Wind Bastion. Collectively, these updates brought eight operators, two new maps, major map changes, and numerous tweaks to how existing equipment and operators work. Ubisoft has been able to maintain a delicate balance even when introducing additional operators who bring new abilities and tactics to the table.
No two matches are the same with environmental destruction, countless tactical possibilities, and unique in-match situations. Siege continues to thrive by supporting its community, being transparent with its roadmap, and delivering a distinct, deep competitive shooter experience that keeps on giving.
Fortnite: Battle Royale
If you had to point to the biggest story in all of games in 2018, you’d point to Fortnite. The free-to-play battle royale game has become a cultural phenomenon with the largest active play base in all of games, and propelled Epic Games to new heights of success. Fortnite separates itself from the pack by incorporating the building elements from the original Save The World mode which leads to so many tactical possibilities and unpredictable combat scenarios. But its rise in 2018 can be attributed to the impactful changes that come with each new season. Fortnite has been running on seasons which are broken into 10-week increments (its currently on season seven), and in this year alone, we’ve seen significant changes to the map, new weapons, different modes, inventive challenges, and wacky twists (like the limited time event that let you play as Marvel villain Thanos and use the Infinity Gauntlet to tear up opponents).
Sure, Fortnite still only has one map, but large swaths of it are hardly recognizable from its original layout as they’ve been reworked to fit a loose narrative that comes with each season. At one point rifts appeared that teleported players across the map, at another, a mysterious meteor came down to obliterate a whole town, and the swamp area eventually turned into a desert paradise. Fortnite has gone in so many different and intriguing directions already,, and it just keeps growing.
Since its release in 2016, Overwatch established itself as a premier competitive shooter. It might not be much of a surprise considering Blizzard’s pedigree and history of finely crafting multiplayer experiences, but it was its first foray into first-person shooters. In 2018, Overwatch continued the tradition of seasonal festivities with new character skins, thematic changes to it presentation, and occasional modes to fit the event. For example, the annual Summer Games took place in Overwatch with its vaguely-Olympic theme and included new cosmetics and the return of Lucio Ball, the 3-on-3 Rocket League-esque game mode. Lunar New Year and brought a whole assortment of creative skins, and the Winter Wonderland event is happening this month. Overwatch Archive: Retribution brought back the four-player cooperative PvE mode from last year’s Uprising, but made some tweaks and offered new pieces of narrative. And of course, new heroes are always changing how the game is played; 2018 introduced Brigitte, Wrecking Ball, and Ashe, all characters with their own backstories and unique abilities. Between its updates, additional content, and competitive spirit, Overwatch isn’t slowing down any time soon.
Warframe is a prime example of how a game can completely transform itself into something greater over time. The free-to-play cooperative third-person shooter had two expansions in 2018, designated The Sacrifice and Fortuna. These updates delivered a slew of content and reworked several elements of the core game. The Sacrifice in particular had a whole solo-only campaign questline and rewarded players with the Excalibur Umbra warframe. However, Fortuna brought more significant changes to the game by introducing an entirely new open-world planet to explore with a neon-lit city below its snowy surface. Traversal also changed with the K-Drive hoverboard which players can customize to zip around the surface in fashion. For the more quiet moments, Fortuna has fishing and mining, and the new hunting activity. It’s Warframe’s biggest expansion yet that’s on PC and will soon be on PS4 and Xbox One. Speaking of platforms, Warframe is now available on Nintendo Switch; although it’s made some concessions to run properly, there’s nothing quite like it on that console-handheld hybrid.
Pokémon Go is a unique experience that extends beyond the game itself. It’s very much that mobile AR game that got you up and out in the real world to catch Pokémon scattered throughout your city, but continual support has kept it alive and more active than ever before. This year, the game ushered in Gen 3 Pokémon (which brought over 130 additional creatures to collect) and have begun to rollout Gen 4 Pokémon along with a whole wave of super-rare Shiny forms. There’s also a weather system that accounts for the actual conditions in your environment; there are a number of status effects and boosts to certain types depending on the weather, like with rain that boost Bug, Electric, and Water type Pokémon.
Community events around the world have brought so many players together face-to-face to party up in real life to go on raids and catch new Pokémon. 2018 introduced Community Days that happen monthly and offer an exclusive move for a particular Pokémon that spawns at a higher rate and a shiny version of it to catch.