Which ongoing game has improved most since it launched?

(Image credit: Rare)

Fallout 76 just received a major improvement with its Wastelanders expansion: Appalachia is a much more alive and interesting place thanks to its new NPCs. Sea of Thieves has yet another new update adding a new faction, an Emissary system that will provide a guaranteed reward for PvP, premium cats, and more. And PUBG just released an upgraded version of its Vivendi map with trains and a theme park.

And that's just the past couple days! Games are constantly providing new reasons to either keep on playing or come back for a fresh look at what's new. Which brings us to our question this week:

Which ongoing game has improved most since it launched? We've got answers from our staff below, and a few from members of the PC Gamer Forums. We'd love to hear yours in the comments!

Diablo 3

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Jody Macgregor:  Not just because they cut out the auction house, but because they cauterized the wound, rebalancing loot around its absence. Now when you kill a scorpion instead of it dropping a shower of gold and three magic hats you'll never use, instead you might get a staff you actually want. There's less loot but it's more likely to be what you need, which made it exciting again. 

Also, and I can't overstate the importance of this, they unlocked difficulty options so you don't have to finish the story on a way-too-easy normal mode before you can pick hard instead. You used to have to do that for every character you played, slogging through a version of the game where you probably don't need to drink a single healing potion until act two. As a habitual restarter it was a nightmare. Only it wasn't, because nightmare difficulty is called "master" now.

Final Fantasy XIV

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Phil Savage: I don't even play Final Fantasy XIV, but as an example of a development team working to fix something thought irretrievably broken, I can't help but respect the effort. Tom's 30-score review of the first version of the game opens with the line, "The kindest thing that can be said about the Final Fantasy MMO is that it has a good intro movie." 

It was a disaster. The only way it could be fixed was with something disastrous: the end of the world. Final Fantasy XIV returned as A Realm Reborn, essentially a new game set after an apocalyptic disaster destroyed the previous one. And it was good, and kept getting better with each subsequent expansion. We regularly celebrate the game now in our annual Top 100—last year placing it higher than WoW. It's arguably one of the best MMOs out there, and the only subscription MMO that it always feels like I'm on the verge of finally playing.

No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky gallery

(Image credit: Hello Games)

Andy Kelly: This was a mess at launch, with stuttering, crashing, and other annoyances getting in the way of me being a space explorer. And the game itself was pretty half-baked, with samey planets, repetitive systems, and not much to do. But now, after several massive, impressive updates, No Man's Sky is one of the best space games you can play on PC. There's been a little too much of a focus on base-building and survival in a few of the updates for my tastes. I'm in it purely for the exploration. But Hello Games really turned this thing around, and I honestly didn't expect the developer to still be releasing updates for it this many years later.

Emma Matthews: No Man's Sky saw a rocky launch that disappointed just about everyone. While it took a long time for Hello Games to do some damage control, a flurry of updates have brought the game back from the brink. The Beyond update was well received by the community and regular, smaller updates have continued to trickle out since. The game looks vastly different to how it started out, and it's certainly for the better. For example, you can now stomp around to your heart's content in a big exo mech, or try your hand at navigating the galaxy in a home-hatched living ship.

Sea of Thieves

(Image credit: Rare)

Fraser Brown: I've got a monkey that I've dressed up as a pirate. Everyone hates my pirate monkey, but I love him, and I love Sea of Thieves. Good game, good monkeys.

Chris Livingston: Will second that. With the immensely entertaining Tale Tales, the addition of fishing, and lots of other features added over the past few years, Sea of Thieves has grown from an utterly beautiful but somewhat empty sandbox hangout game into a much more fleshed out action-adventure. With it coming to Steam in the near future, I hope it'll find a new audience who didn't hop on board when it first set sail.

From the forums

(Image credit: Squad)

Zoid: You already know I'm gonna be in here mentioning Kerbal Space Program 😛

KSP has been developed far beyond where it was when it was first launched in Alpha in 2011. New parts, planets, and game systems have been added consistently since then. Having grown from its beginnings as a small little rocket physics sandbox on PC, KSP is now being used in classroom learning (an entirely new version of the game was released specifically for educational use), has had an expansion officially supported by NASA, has been migrated from Unity 4 to Unity 5, and has been ported to the PS4 and Xbox One.

I think KSP's 9-year journey is a testament to what a small team of dedicated developers can do when they are passionate about their game and supported by their community.

Frindis: While Lord of The Rings Online has one of the greatest online communities you can experience, it is also a place for regular updates for fans to enjoy, like new storylines, items, housing areas, dungeons, kinship updates, and events. It is celebrating it's 13th anniversary this weekend and even implementing a historic moment of the wedding between Aragorn and Arwen later this summer. How cool is that! 🙂

Croaker: Squad. For those who don't know, a good entry level borderline "mil-sim" first person shooter that manages to toe the line between the complexities of the Arma series, the gunplay of Insurgency, and the teamwork of... hmmmm, best teamplay game I've ever played.

It's amazing how much progress has been made in this game. Granted, it's still technically "early access", and has been since 2015, but I've felt since late 2016/2017 that this game has been plenty stable, with plenty of content. I have a feeling soon there will be several very well received mods coming out as well. You know it's pretty stable when going prone doesn't shoot you dozens of feet up into the air. Great game that I keep coming back to!

(Image credit: Grinding Gear Games)

Johnway: Path of Exile. I played it back at the start when it ended at act 3 after defeating Piety. Afterwards, (like most ARPGS) the game would loop back to the start except on a higher difficulty for better loot. It's at this point I uninstalled the game. I wasn't particularly impressed by the small amount of content and couldn't see the game improving. Fast forward to 2018, I give the game a second chance (because of a PCG article on the incursion league) and I was blown away at how polished the game had become and how much new content there was. It's even more impressive that it was a F2P game!

The game now had 10 acts, ascension to specialize classes, master challenges, hideouts, areas reworked, new areas, more story, etc. But more importantly, it had a compelling end game that I couldn't stop playing (906 hrs and counting...) . In fact the game is still improving with new content being crammed into the game whilst we wait for the sequel.

Don't take my word for it, Path of Exile won the 2020 BAFTA award for evolving game beating the likes of Apex legends, Destiny 2, Final fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers, Fortnite and No Mans Sky!

Stevie Ward: I mean, broadly speaking any MMO that's been around the longest that's still being updated would have technically improved the most, due to the sheer size and scale of performance, technical and content updates since their first iteration. EVE Online for example has continually had updates to the same single shard universe since 2003 and there's a few others which still stand up today with refreshed New Player Experiences, lore updates and in some cases complete overhauls of the subscription and revenue models. 

These online multiplayer games truly perfected and honed the 'games as service' format and formed the retention pillars you see reflected today in pretty much any game (PC, Mobile or Console) that has DLC, patches and graphical/technical/content updates. Not to mention engagement and retention concepts like Double XP, Live Events and loot drops. Golden Age MMO's with currently active dev teams, we salute you. ❤️

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.