It seems like a lot of us like to complain a lot about games around here, and I'm no exception to that. But I was thinking about the times that games have exceeded my expectations and the following came to mind:
I heard this was a gankbox and all the players were psychotic griefers. I gave the game a try anyway and found two years of fun a lot of very cool people. There were a handful of jerks in public chat, but that's to be expected. The game offered my the closest online experience to Morrowind I've come across.
I played during the beta and there wasn't that much to do. By the time the game launched, I found that it had grown a lot. And it was free. It was great for a solid month of play (for me) and I still log in once in a while for a quick session.
I thought it would be an exploitative p2w/dress up game. I found that it was quite fun and challenging. It was also free, so I was glad I tried it and though I haven't played for a few weeks due to so many fun things to play right now, I'm pretty sure I will drop in again.
Another free to play game with a pvp focus. It's really pay to avoid grind. But "grind" in this game doesn't hurt you. You actually become better the more you play. So paying to level up more quickly actually hurt me. I found that by going back and mastering all the lower level planes I skipped over made be a much better player.
I was pretty disappointed by this game after launch and didn't expect to come back to it again after trying several times. When KOTFE came out, I didn't think I would even try it. But I read about all the QOL changes and focus on story and I'm glad I came back. It's my main game right now.
That's my list. The key for me, I guess, was having low expectations for all of them and then being pleasantly surprised.