It has been a fairly quiet week in the world of free-to-play gaming,
but there is always something going on out there. Our away team beamed off to PAX East
on the entire goings on of the first East Coast iteration of the
popular conference hosted by Penny Arcade’s Gabe and Tyco. It doesn’t
look like PAX East will be the treasure trove of free-to-play goodness
that GDC 2010 was, but rest assured if there is something newsworthy
our team will sniff it out.
An email from a long time Ten Ton Hammer reader prompted this week’s
feature, as it seems that my soap boxing about the new breed of
subscriptionless gaming may have spawned some unintended misconceptions
about the current state of the genre.
Blizzard also announced their annual foray
into conventions this week
--perhaps the big reveal this year
will be that the gaming juggernaut is throwing its hat into the
free-to-play ring as well? Stranger things have happened.
In Top Ten news, Algalon
took a tumble from a pretty high rank in last weeks poll and fell
completely off the list. Black
also suffered similar fates while Requiem: Bloodmayne
The Chronicles of
benefited from the aforementioned departures.
Maybe version 2.0 of Spellborn will pack some punch, we will have to
wait and see.
Join us this week as we look at some of the best titles currently
available in free-to-play gaming in Microcosms – The Future is
I received an interesting PM this week from one of our loyal readers
who was interested in taking the proverbial leap into the free-to-play
realm. While I was thrilled initially to receive such a message, the
more I read the worse I felt. You see, this reader had come to the
conclusion, based on reading this column, that you had to cast your
eyes forward to games still on the horizon to find quality in the
subscriptionless segment. After re-reading every week of Microcosms I
couldn’t find fault with this point of view; I certainly have been
rather consistent in my stance that the new breed of free-to-plays are
ushering in an era of high quality and originality.
With that in mind I need to dispel a couple of misconceptions that I
may have unwittingly perpetuated here:
free-to-play MMOGs are low quality rip-offs. -
This is simply not true, while I may have been later to the party than
our previous “guru of the free,” Ralsu --indeed I didn’t start playing
them until about halfway through my six-year affair with EQ1--I still
found several games early on that were amazingly innovative and fun
- All new
free-to-play MMOGs are innovative and high quality.
- While I desperately wish this axiom were true, it simply
isn’t. Many developers and publishers will continue to rush out low
quality games to capitalize on the hot trends and try to make a quick
buck. Fortunately, we here at Ten Ton Hammer are committed to honestly
evaluating these games to help you make the best decision on which ones
may be the best fit for you.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at three current MMOGs that
meet the criteria of being both innovative and accessible. All three of
these titles have been live since at least 2008, and feature fairly
One of the first free-to-play games to give the AAA titles a run for
their money, Atlantica
is going on its third year. Featuring turned-based
combat, this fantasy-based game is flecked with a steampunk feel and
offers a huge world to explore.
has one of the more robust communities among free-to-plays and the
developer, NDOORS Interactive, is also the publisher of the game, which
makes for quick response to player concerns and rapid deployment of new
features. Earlier this week the game added integrated voice chat
support to its already considerable list of features
Players will never have to solo in Atlantica Online
the game uses a mercenary system that allows you to hire powerful
companions to assist you in your journey across the alternate Earth
game realm. While there may not be a plethora of races-- there is only
one playable race in fact--and the classes may not follow the
traditional pattern of fantasy MMOGs (they are mostly defined by the
main weapon they use such as the Axe class or the Sword class) Atlantica Online
has created a deep and enjoyable world that will keep you coming back
Some MMOGs are all about killing, questing and competing, and while
that’s all well and good, that formula sometimes forgets the basic
purpose of gaming–having fun. One game that remembers this prime
directive, and sticks to it in all aspects, is Mabiongi Online
This Korean import from Nexon is heavily anime influenced in its
graphical styling and was originally aimed at the teen market, however
it has been accepted by players of all ages due in no small part to its
wide range of in-game activities.
There are no classes in Mabinogi
(which is a word of Welsh origins, and refers to the prose
tales of the Mabinogion, which is where the game’s lore is derived) so
players are free to learn any skills available to their race through
the use of ability points, which are both earned through traditional
MMOG means such as quest completion or leveling up or received when the
player advances in age in the game. Aging is integrated into the game
as a means of character advancement and ties into the games complex
system of time and seasons, which are all derivatives of Celtic lore.
Skill-based combat, player composed music and a ton of in-game
activities keep Mabiongi
fun and engrossing for fans of all ages.
Sword of the New World
North America, circa 1400 a.d., isn’t your typical fantasy game
setting, but then again Sword
of the New World
isn’t your typical MMOG. Another in a
long list of South Korean imports, this one, brought to the North
American Market by publisher GamersFirst, is known for its multiple
character controls, beautiful graphics and massive weekly PvP battles
for control of the game’s colonies. While Sword
grindy elements to it, the wide variety of gameplay modes and the
multiple character controls are enough of a diversion to keep you
Another huge plus for Sword
is the staggering amount of GM interaction, it is not at all uncommon
to find multiple GM’s in game at the same time leading events in
different areas that are seemingly unrelated but that ultimately lead
players into frenzied PvP combat.
Hopefully my free-to-play neophyte friend, and many of you, will find
this information useful as you wade the murky waters of
microtransaction games. There are plenty of quality games in the
segment and helping you find them will always be a priority of this
column and part of the core mission here at Ten Ton Hammer.
Atlantica Online features a lush and beautiful world to