Ten Awesome Free-to-Play Online Games
You want to pay how much per month to play massively-multiplayer online games? Pfffft. Don’t assume that the best dungeon crawls, social avatar networks, or space simulations all require you to cough up part of your hard-earned paycheck once every four weeks. Free-to-play is the hot new topic on the MMO scene, and it’s not just relegated to C-level titles that never even made it into your local gaming store’s bargain bin.
But don’t take our word for it. Here are ten of the best free MMOs that will steal your time away without stealing a penny from your bank account. Take that, Blizzard.
Ace Online takes to the semifriendly skies and flips its steel wings at every other ground-based MMO in the market today. For those who are of the classic gamer variety, consider Ace Online to be kind of like Starfox, only with a ton of real-life people shooting you up instead of robotic AI creations. The game is primarily PvP-based, so don’t go rolling a character--er, plane--unless you’re ready to pull the trigger on living, breathing entities. Top Gun song not included.
Requiem: Memento Mori
If there is an MMO more deserving of a mop, we have yet to find it. Requiem: Memento Mori isn’t the most well-designed, free MMO of the pack, but what it lacks in addictive gameplay it makes up for in gruesome graphics and expansive class selections: 16 customizable paths for your character to choose from! You might not sink your life into this one, but it’s definitely a great stress-buster to check out, provided you’re not prone to hematophobia.
Drift City is a beautifully cel-shaded MMO that feels like a combination of Crackdown’s graphical style and Grand Theft Auto’s fun. Or, at least, the racing parts of Grand Theft Auto. You'll find no guns, swords, missiles, or other painful elements in Drift City--this game is nothing but racing and driving around. And even then, there’s a full questing system to make use of as well as the opportunity to gang up in teams and challenge other groupings to massive races.
Pirates of the Burning Sea
It’s been more than three years since Pirates of the Burning Sea's much-anticipated--and, sadly, much-panned--launch. The details might have changed, but the game’s core mechanics are still as fun as ever. Sail ships and pummel foes (computer or human) in strategic, cannonball-filled water fights. Or, if landlubbing is more your style, then try your best to avoid getting plundered as you live the life of a semi-carefree trader… or a swashbuckling, sword-bearing warrior. Heck, you can even run for Governor.
If jamming the same button over and over and over--as most MMO combat tends to go--doesn’t appeal to you, then perhaps you’ll enjoy the turn-based gameplay of Atlantica Online. The pick-your-skill and pick-a-target gameplay of Final Fantasy gets its turn in the massively-multiplayer world. But it’s not just you who’s tasked with hacking a way through the world. Part of the MMO’s huge customizability factor involves selecting which mercenaries--and which skills--you want to incorporate within your team of fighters.
Earth and Beyond
We won’t question the legality of this one, but Earth and Beyond--the old space-faring MMO from Electronic Arts--lives on past its extinction in the form of one large, emulated server that’s completely free to play. Whether you want to warp around the universe, trade goods, shoot people up, or explore the galaxy, you'll be able to improve your character by doing what you like to do--a feature that was ahead of its time.
If you haven’t heard of this superhero-themed MMO, you are living under a gaming rock. Champions Online is one of the larger superhero MMOs to grace the gaming world, and more important, one that’s just now converting into a free-to-play system. Perhaps one of the more enjoyable aspects of the game is its very beginning--the time you’ll spend creating the perfectly customized look of your superperson can rival just how much time you spend helping its digital citizens. And did we mention that you can design your supernemesis as well?
Start your World Cup obsession early: Football Superstars is a free, soccer-themed MMO where you play the dual roles of coach and kicker--just not at the same time. While you’re free to manage your team as you see fit, including designing your gear and recruiting new players, you can choose to embody only a single soccer star come match time. That means that you, goalie, should probably stay in the box. And if you’re a defender trying to rush your opponent’s goal on every play, your team is in for a world of hurt--and we don’t mean vuvuzelas.
League of Legends
Hello, addiction. League of Legends is a terrific online strategy game that is a nice break from the normal MMO mold. You pick a single hero per game from a wide-ranging list of units, each with its own unique set of abilities. You then pair up into a small team and attempt to capture territory on a map--with a growing (or shrinking) army of NPCs fighting alongside your supercharged player character, depending on how you’re doing. The team that pushes the other team back to its base wins the match, and you can then upgrade your skills with the experience points you earn from winning.
Lord of the Rings Online
And last, but not least, is good ol’ Lord of the Rings Online. It’s almost baffling why this MMO went free-to-play in the first place, as it was once rumored to have at least a hobbit’s chance of challenging Blizzard’s mighty World of Warcraft. The game is everything you’d expect from a top-level fantasy MMO: Pick one of numerous Tolkien-themed races and classes, and then traipse about Middle-Earth to master a profession, slay a monster, or level up in a grand attempt to fight off a Balrog or two. The game’s greatest shame is that one of its cooler features--“Monster Play,” or the ability to actually play as an NPC baddie against everyone else--is locked behind a “pay us to unlock features” gateway.