Five Great Free Games (For Free!)
You like free stuff, don't you? Well, of course you do. Who doesn't?
Freeware games are an interesting phenomenon. Whether they are developed by hobbyist game designers just for the simple enjoyment, and sense of personal achievement, it provides or by aspiring professionals hoping to show what they can do, there are plenty out there. All readily available by anyone that may have an interest - and, the best part is, some of them are a lot of fun. They may lack the polish of a major release game (and, graphically speaking, many of them would have struggled to impress even ten to twenty years ago). But, many of these games also hold a certain charm that some older gamers may also be tempted to say has been missing from the industry for the last ten to twenty years.
Listed below are five of the best I have come across (along with links to take you where you need to go to get them for yourself, if you're interested. And, you are interested, aren't you? Of course you are. They're free!).
Battle for Wesnoth
A turn-based strategy game (think Heroes of Might and Magic, though perhaps the older ones in the series, rather than the newer ones) with a distinctly high fantasy tone. Battle for Wesnoth presents the player with a series of campaigns of varying difficulty, each taking place at various points in the history of the (obviously) fictional kingdom of Wesnoth. Each campaign presents a series of scenarios making up a complete story - you may be cast as a displaced heir struggling to reclaim your crown, or a young commander fighting to defend the frontier against an invading army (among other things). In each, though, the overall goal is the same - raise an army, and destroy your enemies.
Turn-based strategy games, like this one, were popular once, though seem to have largely fallen out of style. Battle for Wesnoth should be a welcome surprise for anyone that actually kind of missed them.
The game also includes features I wish had always been a part of these sorts of turn-based games (back when they were more common), such as individually names units that can be carried with you from one scenario to the next, and who increase in strength as they move through the campaign. Of course, graphically, Battle for Wesnoth looks very much like the older games it is trying to emulate - you wont be impressed by the look of the game, though hopefully you will be by the amount of love, and attention to detail, that has gone into making it.
You can download Battle for Wesnoth here.
A 2D action-platformer in the style of the original Metroid or Castlevania games (this particular style of non-linear platform game is even referred to as Metroidvania by some, in honour of the two franchises). Iji casts you on the role of a young woman caught up in the aftermath of an alien invasion. While on a tour of the military research facility where her father works, Iji is seriously injured in the initial attack - waking six months later to find that desperate scientists have rebuilt her with experimental nanotechnology, and that she is now the only one with any real chance of fighting back agaisnt the invaders.
What makes Iji particularly interesting is the choice presented to the player between pacifism and aggression. From the very start, the player is giving the option of fighting the invaders head-on, or of trying to avoid direct conflict while attempting to learn why the attack happened in the first place. Character development and story will begin to diverge based on this choice, ultimately leading to alternate endings.
You can download Iji here.
I Wanna Be The Guy
Perhaps best described as 'trolling in game form', I Wanna Be The Guy is a game deliberately and unmercifully designed to be as difficult to beat as possible. Players take the role of The Kid on his quest to become The Guy - which, of course, can only be done by challenging the current Guy. I Wanna Be The Guy shamelessly borrows elements from old NES games, and uses them to to create something truly absurd, and really kind of awesome. Though, it's only fair to warn anyone that hasn't heard of it that the game has been known to reduce players to sputtering, incoherent rage. It's not for the impatient, or people with a short temper, or probably people with high blood pressure.
Stubborn masochists love it, though.
You can download I Wanna Be The Guy here.
Last Scenario is a game that strives to capture the look and feel of older examples of Japanese RPGs (Final Fantasy is particular). Though, more than that, it strives to match the best examples of this particular genre by telling a story just as complex, with a cast of characters just as interesting. You begin with a young man named Hilbert - almost obnoxiously idealistic, and not too bright, Hilbert is the self-proclaimed protector of his home village. Upon being told that he happens to be distantly related to a long-dead hero, Hilbert comes to the conclusion that he is destined to follow in his ancestors footsteps.
From there, pretty much very RPG cliché you can imagine will make its presence felt, as young Hilbert finds himself taken under the wing of more experienced soldiers, and is given the chance to prove himself in a war between two great kingdoms. However, as things progress, the game takes a great deal of delight in dropping, or subverting, these cliches in order to build into a much more interesting story.
You can download Last Scenario here.
Another Metroidvania game originating in Japan, though English translation have been readily available for a while, now. In Cave Story you take on the role of a boy who wakes up in a cave - with no idea how he got there, why he's there, or even who he is. From there, you set out to find out who you are, and what led you to that particular cave off in the middle of nowhere - eventually finding yourself drawn into conflict with a mysterious doctor seemingly set on taking over the world.
It all starts out bright and cheerful, though things will start to change as you work your way through the game. Hidden behind the seemingly simple starting-point, and the cute and cartoonish artwork, is a surprisingly deep story which isn't afraid to take some occasionally dark and tragic turns.
© 2012 Dallas Matier
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