GOTY 2016: Oldest Dog, Newest Trick Award

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This year we've brought back our category awards to recognize achievements in specific areas of game development. There are ten awards in all, with two new ones being awarded every day this week. Keep checking back for more winners!

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Oldest Dog, Newest Trick: World of Warcraft: Legion

Blizzard Entertainment | August 30, 2016 | Windows, macOS

Runners-up: AM2R, Street Fighter V

I’ve long described myself as a “recovering World of Warcraft addict.” On further thought, I realize I’ve been playing the game for nearly 12 years at this point — an honor typically reserved for niche 4X games and old first-person shooters. Days of my life were sunk into the base game, and though I mostly checked out for the game’s first expansion, I ended up back on the hook for the second, raiding and shooting the shit with friends. 

Following the halcyon days of Wrath of the Lich King, WoW got a bit too complacent, grew a beer gut and went on a downslide. Cataclysm had some interesting ideas but terrible story and execution. Mists of Pandaria was mechanically decent, but lost a lot of people in its change of theme from the game’s history. And 2014’s Warlords of Draenor set the bar for expansions nice and low; it offered an unprecedented lack of post-release content, expecting players to cordon themselves off in a one-person garrison.

Without getting too “inside baseball” about it, Legion succeeds where its three most recent predecessors failed. In fact, it may be the best expansion in the history of the world (of Warcraft).

Legion, at its core, is all about making it easy to get to the meat of the game. Once you reach max level (110, a good 50 more than release) a wealth of activities is made available, from an ongoing guerilla campaign to a reworked daily quest system. For the casual player, cosmetic appearances have been reworked to allow convenient (and frequent) look-swapping. For the hardcore, the Mythic+ system brings back challenging 5-man dungeoneering reminiscent of the original game. (I’m a big fan of both, for what it’s worth.)

Though I’ve dipped my toes into every WoW expansion to date, Legion is the first one since Lich King that I can enthusiastically endorse. It’s even managed to lure back some of my die-hard friends who played in that era, particularly those who said they’d probably never play again. The latest batch is pretty potent; if you’re looking for a new drug, this may be your ticket.  — Spencer Tordoff