Well we survived another National Amateur Hour, a.k.a April Fools Day, the day that everyone gets to wax sophomoric and escape the ridicule that would follow such buffoonery on any other day. While I generally enjoy the planned out pranks and ÂannouncementsÂ done by major sites and companies, especially in the MMOG world, I tend to sigh with disdain at the litany of false pregnancy claims on social media sites and the typical gquits by random members of my guild. Maybe itÂs just a side effect to getting on in years, a neo-geriatric response mechanism akin to ÂGET OFF MY LAWN!Â, but with less shouting and waving of my walker, that has me so bothered by what used to be such a fun day for me. Or maybe itÂs just the fact that I really donÂt like to be deceived in general.
Over the past few weeks here in Microcosms the tone has been one of a mostly positive nature; we are here to spotlight the best of free-to-play gaming, after all. In last weekÂs feature we looked at some of the misconceptions surrounding microtransaction games, busted some myths, and dispelled some of the stereotypes associated with free-to-plays. Sadly, however, most stereotypes are rooted in some form of fact and those pertaining to free-to-plays are no different. There are bad games out there folks. Even with the new trend toward making top notch games with a subscriptionless model, there are games that fall on the low side of the quality equation for one reason or another. This week we will take a look at several of those games in an effort to help steer you clear of games that may be a waste of your time in Microcosms Â NobodyÂs Fool.
Few people like to be tricked. Even so, most of us will likely get fooled at least one more time when it comes to choosing a game. While you, gentle reader, could feign ignorance for your potentially poor selections, we here at Ten Ton Hammer have been charged with trying these various games and falling on the virtual sword so that you donÂt have to. With that in mind itÂs time to look at some of the games that reinforce the negative stereotypes and contribute, at least in some small way, to the bad name that has dogged free-to-play games since their inception.
I feel I must give a preemptive statement about the games that we will be discussing this week, however, as not all of them are completely bad (although, if weÂre honest with ourselves, few games are 100% awful.) So while none of these games are complete garbage, each has at least one glaring flaw that makes it less worthy of your valuable playtime.
Gates of Andaron
Gates of Andaron; itÂs a fairly stable game with clean graphics and a solid feel, so why would it end up on what is essentially a worst of list? The answer is a short and simple one; two words in factÂWoW clone.
I know that there must have been a class I missed at the fine University of California school that I attended with the title of ÂHow to design a successful MMOGÂ and with the course description of Âlearn how to copy WoW.Â There must have been such courses at many institutions because it seems damn near every devco is doing it. I have a news flash for these folks, there is already a game out there just like WoW--itÂs called World of Warcraft, and its eleventy billion players are pretty happy with it. If you want to try and capture that player base, best of luck, but youÂd be better off throwing half your development money out the window of a moving car and putting the other half in the bank; at least then it wouldnÂt be a total loss. I suppose I could state that Gates of Andaron is a copy of any popular faction-based MMOG just as easily as I can compare it with the 800 lb gorilla of massively multiplayer gaming, but you get the idea.
Gates does have a couple interesting classes and a ton of pre-level-cap content, but overall it falls short due to being a bland imitator with PvP ganking and cash shop issues thrown in to boot, (most noticeably the 15 dollar a month charge if you want a mount!) Overall this game is definitely on my Do Not Like list and I believe you can find much better alternatives to fit any playstyle and interests.
Shaiya Online is something of a paradox, an intriguing game with some very big upsides but one glaring issue that is ultimately its death knell. Shaiya is a PvP-oriented game with some surprisingly deep PvE content. It features the standard fair as classes go but has some more advanced features, such as flying mounts and epic quests. Even though the game has the typical trappings of a South Korean MMOG, with its anime styled avatars and customary level grinds, it still manages to hold up fairly well through the leveling process with numerous dungeons and events.
I was introduced to the game by a co-worker who swore to me that it would be the best free-to-play I had ever tried. I am by and large immune to such hyperboles and I approached Shaiya as I would any other game--with my plus 10 jaded armor strapped on and polished to a shine. I was at first pleasantly surprised and then the other boot dropped; I reached level cap and found out why Shaiya would forever be near the top of the games I like the least-- If you want to succeed at end game, which is heavily PvP-centric, you needed to spend money in the item shop. Lots and lots of money. Nothing will kill a good game faster than forcing cash shop dependency and I was forced to reequip my too often used jaded armor and hasten my retreat.
If you can somehow manage to keep yourself from the PvP scene, which is nearly impossible if youÂre any kind of MMO gamer, then Shaiya may just be one of the best free-to-plays on the market. Having to wall yourself off from such an integral part of the game or be forced to take out a second mortgage should be a huge red flag, however, and for that reason I have to advise you to pass on this one.
While these two are far from the only bad games out there in the segment (see our review of Magic World Online from last year for another great example) they highlight two of the very worst qualities found in free-to-playsÂlack of originality and item shop dependence. With so many new gamers coming to check out this segment of MMOGs it is important that we continue to expose the poorly designed games as well as focusing on the best of the bunch.