This is our new category for 2018, and we imagine it's one that will stay. More games are falling into that "games as a service" model—though not all of our nominees fit that moniker—extending their life with continual updates and support. They aren't necessarily a genre unto their own, but we thought it was worth recognizing those that do it best.
Here's the list of nominees (and here's the list of nominees for all categories):
- Hollow Knight
- Monster Hunter: World (Our Review)
- No Man’s Sky
Here’s what you, the readers, chose as the winner of the Best Evolving Game Award for outstanding continued development of an existing game. Our top three follow after.
Readers' Choice - Hollow Knight
Since its release in 2017, Hollow Knight has seen four updates. These aren't simple bug fixes or technical updates but large amounts of content for players to grapple with. From new characters, to new boss fights, to new mechanics, to even new songs for the soundtrack, Hollow Knight's collection of updates have done an amazing job of bolstering an already fantastic game.
Third Place - Fortnite
By Don Parsons
Few games have experimented with the idea of consistently evolving like Fortnite has. With its Battle Royale mode, Fortnite kept things dynamic and changing all the time. While many shooters build out an array of static maps, Fortnite has focused instead on having one map that they constantly change in a way that creates special events.
Things like the meteor taking down Tilted Towers were discussed and speculated about for weeks, and then it shifted up a significant amount of the gameplay. Kevin the Cube was another element that kept the game’s map and thus its strategies evolving at all times. Beyond that, Fortnite has had various limited-time modes, further expanded its armory, and they’ve worked on building up the original mode of Fortnite. Prominently they’ve also embraced the community with a third mode in Fortnite creative, and further evolved it with The Block, allowing community creations to modify the base map as well.
Fortnite showcases what a game can do being continually updated, and turning updates into special events that change how the game is perceived—don't just change the map for balance reasons, instead make it a special affair.
Second Place - Monster Hunter: World
By Travis Williams
Monster Hunter: World had an incredible amount of content upon launch—dozens of monsters to fight, massive areas to explore, fun missions to undertake, and a mind-boggling amount of weapons and armor to find. Since it launched last January, MHW has seen steady support from Capcom, from new monsters (let's hear it from everyone who's been stomped into dust by Deviljho, Lunastra, or Behemoth) fun holiday events, crossover projects from other games, and entirely new hunt types like the Kulve Taroth raid.
Every single bit of content has come with new gear to collect, new quests to undertake, and more fun to be had in just about every area of the game, and there's even more content coming in 2019, including an expansion that will add a new zone full of incredible new content.
At its core, MHW is about grinding for ever better gear, but with the constant addition of new content, the grind never feels like what it is; instead, it feels like progress, exploration, and discovery. I can't wait for more.
Winner - No Man's Sky
By Robert Grosso
When I reviewed No Man’s Sky in 2016, I was one of the few voices that gave the game what I felt due praise for its ambitions and the overall package. Many found No Man’s Sky lacking, of course, and it is hard to ignore the massive outcry upon the game's release, as it did have merit to some of the overzealous promises made by Sean Murray of Hello Games.
Two years later though, No Man’s Sky has turned a corner, and many fans are beginning to come around to the feelings of the original review. No Man’s Sky is not a game in perpetual beta or an unfinished gem, it is, frankly, a total package that now epitomizes the dedication of a game developer to their pet cause in a modern gaming economy.
It would have been easy for Hello Games to leave No Man’s Sky as it was in 2016. It was a massive game as is, with 18 quintillion planets to explore through a procedurally-generated galaxy in a bottle. It is a simulation, one that the game is acutely aware of in its own in-game mythos, but it is a simulation that does something no human being can possibly fathom: a galaxy in your hands that will never disappear.
No Man’s Sky will likely always be evolving, though. Hello Games' biggest update thus far, No Man’s Sky NEXT, added the long-requested multiplayer that has given the title fresh legs in 2018. More updates are planned, plus a growing galactic community has begun to expand as the galaxy is constantly explored further. No Man’s Sky shows no signs of slowing down at this point. In a gaming business where the service model is king, the galaxy is expanding beyond what was originally conceived in response to that model, making No Man’s Sky one of the more successful examples to the positive effects of continual updates to content.
The legacy of No Man’s Sky will be a complicated one, like all things worth talking about. What the game was will always be a negative footnote versus what the game is now as a more positive experience, which is emblematic of how No Man’s Sky has evolved for the better. Two years on, No Man’s Sky retains its relevance in the gaming world. Two years on, the game is still popular with a dedicated fan base. Two years on, the galaxy still beckons many to explore it further. I can only imagine what No Man’s Sky will look like in another two years. At this point, the sky is the limit.
What would your pick be for our Best Evolving Game Award? What do you think we got right? What did we get wrong? Let us know in the comments below!