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Free-to-Play Games

of July 11- July 17, 2010

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1. Dungeons
and Dragons
Online: Eberron Unlimited

2. style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="">Runes
of Magic target="_blank">

href=""> style="text-decoration: underline;"> style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;">3.  href="" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;">FreeRealms

4.  target="_blank">Atlantica Online

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Chronicles of Spellborn

Perfect World International

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target="_blank">Sword 2

8. target="_blank">Aika href=""

9. target="_blank">Allods Online

10.  target="_top">Requiem: Bloodmayne href=""
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In the 29 weeks I have been writing this column there have been very
few games that have felt completely different from anything I have
played before, but Heroes in the Sky is definitely covering some new
ground. I normally shy away from games that are radical departures, and
not for fear of the unknown or reluctance to change, but rather because
in the MMOG genre some mechanics are best not tinkered with. So what is
it about a high flying, retro military, and third person shooter-styled
MMOG that has me so intrigued? Read the column to find

The gaming news here on The Hammer this week was a bit of a paradox,
while one company who specializes in premium subscription based games
shed staff another that focuses on quality free-to-play titles
announced a contest that features $50,000 worth of prizes. How’s that
for supply side economics? It is always a sad thing to see folks who
work damned hard and do a good job at their craft get shorted in a
tough economy and I wish the folks over at SOE nothing but the best,
maybe they can find something at gPotato.

In a bit of sneak peek at some of the items that are hot on my presses
(which means my editor is flogging me to get them done quickly), the
next couple weeks should be packed full of free-to-play goodness as we
take a look at CrimeCraft,
check out the newest updates to some of our favorite games and put on
our thinking caps and try to figure out what makes a community.

Never has the phrase “flying under the radar” been more appropriate
than it is with the genre bending new MMOG – style="font-style: italic;">Heroes in the Sky. style="font-style: italic;">Heroes is a
massively multiplayer third person shooter that combines elements of
RTS, FPS and MMORPG style questing. H.i.S comes to us from GamesCampus,
who imports and publishes several free-to-play titles,  and is
known for bringing some of the more unconventional games to market --
such as Shot Online,
Cue Online and style="font-style: italic;"> MLB Dugout Heroes,
a golf game, a pool game and a baseball game respectively.

Dude, Your Avatar is a Plane

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The Tarmac replaces the Guild Hall

Yeah, but it’s a freaking cool plane(s). Players in H.i.S. are
represented graphically in game by either the current plane they are
flying or the skin of another plane in their stable that they enjoy
(think of it in a similar vein as display armor in EQ2 or LotRO.) The
planes that make up the games repertoire are a mix of actual WWII
planes as well as some of the more interesting experimental planes of
that era. The game provides a fairly robust customization system that
gives players the ability to express their creativity and fashion some
wicked, and garish, machines. Planes are also fully customizable in non
aesthetic areas as well. Everything from guns, to rockets, to engines,
to armor and enhancements such as cooling systems are upgradable. One
of my personal favorites in customization is the ability to add decals
and shapes, that’s right – shapes on a plane.

Your Mission, Should You Chose to Accept It.

Perhaps the most impressive facet of style="font-style: italic;">Heroes in the Sky is
the vast amount of gameplay modes it has to offer. New players will
start in a tutorial mode that goes through several elements of
gameplay, which is reasonably fun, and offers a nice reward at the end,
so I would recommend not skipping it. Once you complete the tutorial
you are ready to hit the mostly open skies in pursuit of life, liberty
and loot. I say mostly open skies because at early levels you are
limited in the types of modes you can participate in. H.i.S. is a
faction-based game so the PvP element is well represented with the Axis
vs Allies theme as the driving force.

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Multiple campaign modes

PvE is handled through a series of campaigns that can be repeated to
unlock greater difficulty modes, which allows for better loot and
experience. Within these campaigns players can complete various
missions that can be picked up at in game locations. One nice thing
about the mission system is that many of them can be completed in
various campaigns so you aren’t locked into rerunning the same scenario
over and over again. You can either pick team based instances or go it
alone, with combat being scaled to the number of players. The only
downside to group based combat is that it can take a while to get the
party underway as all participants have to select “ready” and the
leader has to then start the instance – this has proved to be a lesson
in patience so far in my experience.

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Occupational War.

PvP is where things really heat up, with multiple choices of battle to
keep you entertained. The most basic of modes is a standard skirmish
mode for deathmatch style killing. You can also engage in an
attack-and-defend mode or hit the game’s featured mode: Occupational
War – a series of multiplayer battles once per day with multiple fronts
and many of the war’s most historic battles being relived as players
attempt to claim dominance for their faction. While all of the modes
have their own upside, the Occupational War is definitely the most
compelling as the winning faction gains a significant advantage in the
leveling process for the remainder of the day.

Ground Control to Major Tom

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Controls are customizable.  

One of the biggest drawbacks to flight-based games has always been the
issue of responsive and accessible controls. While there is a bit of a
learning curve with the flight style here, the controls are well done
with multiple modes and remappable keys.  The three available
control types are keyboard, mouse and joystick -- if you have a flight
stick setup it is definitely the way to go, but keyboard jockeys will
also fare well. I strongly advise you to map your acceleration key to
something easily within reach as this function is highly critical to
successful dogfighting, but don’t overdo it or you will quickly
overheat your engine.

Goodbye Blue Skies

Sorry, I had to have a Pink Floyd reference in here somewhere. I have
been listening to their epic album ‘The Final Cut: A Postwar Requiem.’
It’s topical because it deals with World War II.

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Graphics are optimized for minmal lag.

Graphically, Hereoes in
the Sky
is separated into two distinct segments, in game
combat and everything else. The looks of the combat engine aren’t awful
by any means, but they aren’t bleeding edge either – my old adage of
“graphics are immaterial if gameplay is compelling enough” fits well
here. Another factor in considering the graphic element is that any
desire to pump up the look of the game can create lower framerates for
older machines, resulting in an imbalance in game play. The out of
combat graphics are dated looking and a bit on the clunky side, however
they are well laid out and make for easy navigation once you get the
hang of the interface. My only desire for the game is for the option to
change display mode size, the game would look much better at a higher
resolution on my widescreen monitor.

Freedom Isn’t Always Free

My only real complaint with Heroes
in the Sky
is in the value department. While the game has
an amazingly well stocked cash shop, and the time vs. money quotient is
perfect – meaning that anything game changing in the cash shop can be
earned in game--some of the items seem a bit steep in price. Most of
the cosmetic items are semi-reasonable (in the 5-10 dollar range) but
most of the desirable items hover at around 20 dollars or more.
Hopefully this is just a mechanism to discourage players from ramping
up quickly with cash and gaining an unfair advantage. They do level
lock many of the most powerful items so my overall gripe here is fairly

Overall the game is still fairly young by MMOG standards and, despite
the slight learning curve and minor cash shop quibbles, it is a solid
game with a high fun factor and a good hook. If you have been searching
around for something that allows you drop the sword and board and takes
you in a new direction Heroes in the Sky is worthy of your

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 Victory is in our grasp.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Heroes In The Sky Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016