Some Free MMORPGs that I play and like
In the world of Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs), there is one that has reigned supreme and become a household word: World of Warcraft! I am not here to discuss that one, but some others that are more recent additions to the MMO sphere, and ones that, unlike that giant of a game, are free to play!
There are some games that I have played that were pay to play as well - yes, I even played WoW for a while - such as EVE Online (a space based MMO that plays very differently from most others). I have played some other free ones as well, like Vindictus, Perfect World, and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but the ones that I have stuck with and am playing now are these that I have put into the graphic at the side. There is nothing wrong with those other games, and, while I am a Star Wars fan, I do not currently have a computer with the chops to take on SW: TOR.
With that in mind, of the 4 games I will be reviewing, I have found that one of them is still quite taxing on my system, but because of the gameplay, I have dropped the settings to "Lower than Dirt" in order to play even moderately well. Here are the specs of my system, for your perusal:
Dell Dimension 9200 (circa summer 2006)
Core2 Duo E6300
NVidia GForce 8600GT
1TB internal HDD, and 500GB external drive
As you can see, not really a power gaming rig in the 2013s, but it is what I have at this time. Hopefully in due time, I will have something better with which to run these fine games!
Lord of the Rings Online
Set in Middle Earth as envisioned by J.R.R. Tolkien, this game centers on the story around the quest of the Fellowship of the Ring. You create a character from Middle Earth, which you can customize to some extent, and then set yourself into the world to conquer evil!
As a fan of the Middle Earth saga (books and movies), this one was hard to pass up! You get to play in the world you know from the fiction, and quest to gain greater powers, riches, and glory. It is a basic MMO in the respect that you target an enemy, get within the required distance, and then start beating away at it with the array of powers or skills that you have acquired. Each level gives you new things to learn, new quests to complete, and new items to try out. As you learn more about the items and the skills available to your class, you start to know what types of things to look for.
Races are the standard Middle Earth fare: Human, Dwarf, Hobbit and Elf. Each has specific traits and skills, and there are some race restrictions on the types of class you can choose for your characters. A breakdown of the Races and available class types is below:
Guardian: The protectors on the battlefield, they use a sword and shield with heavy armor to take the focus of enemy attacks and help defend their party members. Solo, they dish out in equal parts, but in a group, must focus on defense while others dish out the pain! They are rated as Basic difficulty to play.
Captain: Armored melee fighters who are seen as a support class, giving buffs to the party, or calling in combat companions to fight alongside them. They enhance parties with healing and buffs and deal moderate damage. Moderately difficult to play.
Lore-Master: Using animal companions, this class must moderate between directing the companions and using their own skills. As a member of a party, their job is to root enemies in place. Because of the balance between pet and attack skills, this class is defined as Advanced.
Minstrel: This singer uses their music to either heal or deal damage. When in battle alone, they sing songs to damage before turning to melee weapons, but in groups are primarily relied upon for healing and the occasional death-tune! Rated Moderate to play.
Burglar: A thief who uses debuffs to reduce the effects of incoming damage. Whether alone or in a party, this is their role. They often avoid combat when possible, and can deal a stun effect in parties which can allow for a combined attack from the rest of the party. Requires Advanced play ability.
Rune-Keeper: These are the magic users of greatest note, dealing great damage or healing great injuries. They cannot do both at the same time, to depending upon the circumstance, they may switch roles as needed. Difficult to master, but can be considered Moderately difficult.
Warden: These are the patrollers of the ways, keeping all safe. They use a combination of spear and shield, as well as spears. Using combinations of attacks, they use specialized attacks called Gambits. Solo, they must combine offense, defense and Gambits, and in party play are there to absorb damage. This is an Advanced play class.
Champion: These heavy fighters can attack and defend against many targets at once, dealing damage across the board. If they are overwhelmed by a number of enemies of equal level, they may run into trouble, solo. In groups, they attack and defend, dodging in and out to cause damage to many. This is a Basic play class.
Hunter: The ranged class of the group, most often seen wielding a bow and hitting from afar. They also lay traps for those who advance on their position to trap and damage. They can switch to dual-wield weapons when enemies get close. This is considered a Basic class.
While I liked the game at first, I found that the mechanic of choose your target, choose a skill, and watch it deal damage was too simplistic and didn't make me feel like I was really a part of the action. Much like WoW, you can face the outside edge of an enemy and still hit them, and that just seems too unrealistic. For my taste in games, it takes away some of the Role-Playing element in which you feel like you are the character.
The elements of Middle Earth are fun, and knowing the world makes it a little more immersive, but I couldn't bring myself to continue my adventure as I discovered that I felt so apart from my character.
This is a fairly new game, just having entered into the Open Beta stage in the last few weeks. It is based on the Forgotten Realms fiction of Dungeons and Dragons lore as written by R.A. Salvatore. If you have heard of the Drow Elf Drizzt Do'Urden, then you may know a bit about the back story.
Set 100 years after the Spellplague, Neverwinter is mostly rebuilt and requires your services as the Lich Queen Valindra is back to cause some havoc. (I have a more detailed write-up on it here: My Open Beta Early Impressions). You choose your race and class, and set about to defend the realm and gain powers and money with various quests.
What sets Neverwinter apart for me is the fact that you do not simply choose an enemy to attack and then press a skill button to do it. You need to be in range, facing the enemy and have your targeting reticle pointed their way! In this mechanic, you can actually switch the focus of your attacks mid-fight, so if that archer over yonder is dealing a significant amount of pain to you, go over there and hit him back before you deal with the melee nasties around you!
Sometimes, however, this can lead to some confusion in your fight. I have a Trickster Rogue who can deal damage at range, and up close. If you are aiming for someone and another enemy gets in the way, you hit the up close enemy instead. If you are trying to aim at someone and someone else gets in the way, you can end up targeting your intended skill at them and need to change tactics.
While attacking, you build up an ability "reservoir" which allows you to unleash powerful "Daily" attacks. It doesn't mean you can only use it once per day, but instead is an ability that you need to power up with your other attacks. There are also special class-based skills and abilities that you can use, and as you gain levels, you of course gain access to new and powerful spells.
Most MMO games will give you access to absolutely every ability you know, if you set up enough key bindings to use every one, or are just adept at clicking the ability button on screen. With Neverwinter, you are limited to 3 "encounter" powers, 2 main attacks (one for each mouse button), and 2 dailies (once you level up). You can also apply two passive skills to your character, which are also interchangeable as you see fit.
While it seems to limit you somewhat, with the necessity of aiming at your target, you need constant "look" access with the mouse. This scheme simply doesn't leave you the ability to use the mouse on screen when in combat! Personally, I like this, and like having the ability to aim my attacks where I want them to go, as well as choosing my set of skills from a variety of possibilities. This makes me feel like I am designing my character based on my personal playstyle, and others will draft theirs around their own style of play. This can create many variants of the same class, and that, in my humblest opinion, makes the game even more interesting.
It is still in beta, and my computer can barely handle it (there are times, in areas thick with other players, that the game will actually stall out on me), but I find it tremendous amounts of fun, despite the need to crank all settings to the lowest possible options. Add to this the infinite expandability presented by the Foundry - an in-game content creation tool - and I see this one as a winner with many fine and fun years ahead of it! I have just gained access to the Foundry and will likely create an article on it in the near future.
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I haven't played this one for very long as yet, but what I have seen so far seems to be pretty interesting! You set up a character, as usual, with choices of a number of somewhat unique races!
There are Human, and High Elf races, which are rather standard fare for MMOs, but from here, the similarities seem to diverge! Races such as Aman (they look like stone-skinned devils), Baraka (Giants that are very round with etched or rune-covered looking skin), and Popori (ummm.. anthropomorphic teddy bears, anyone?) tell you right away that this ain't your average Tolkien-esque fantasy world! The Elin, as well (anime inspired little girls, by the look of them), while they look innocent, are capable of some fairly heavy damage dealing.
In this game, you are presented with the basics of the world. There are three major continents where everything is all hunky-dory, and nothing is out of place after the attempt by the Argons to terra-form the world into something new. A war that brought all of these nations together has created a new Valkyon Federation
Peace exists, and that is all very well! Then, out of nowhere, a new island arises out of the ocean. On investigating, the great warriors sent to find out what the Island of Dawn was all about, disappear while fighting some unusual beast. It is now time for new recruits of the Federation to come to the island and figure things out.
This is where you come in! You create your character from the 7 available races and 8 available classes, and get to work on some baddy stompage!
Aman: Formerly slaves of the giants, these tough and imposing looking creatures have been bred to be brutal on their enemies. They defend those who cannot defend themselves.
Baraka: Hulking creatures, the Baraka were a clan of giants that admired peace and knowledge over power and war. They are also fierce defenders of the weak.
Castanic: Fiery tempered beings, they remind me (only slightly) of the Minbari of Babylon 5 with their boney protrusions that resemble crowns or horns.
Elin: They look like little girls, but are much older and wiser than their appearance may suggest. They are staunch defenders of nature and are perceived as hostile and unkind.
High Elf: The tall, graceful, beautiful people with long life and a connection to nature. They are untrusted by other races due to their long history of war with everyone!
Human: You know who we are! In this world, we were cursed to live without a homeland, and are ever resourceful, finding new ways to live with others and war with others.
Popori: The first one I saw looked like a raccoon. They resemble mini bears that have come to life to wear armor and fight evil. But they still make me laugh! I can't help it!
The gameplay is similar to Neverwinter in that you choose your target by aiming, and can evade incoming attacks by getting out of the way, or blocking them with a shield. Attacks can be set to a large set of hotkeys, and there are a lot of skills to choose from.
The unique element of Tera Rising is that you can also map controls to an XBox- or Playstation-like controller, using one analog stick for movement (instead of WASD on the keyboard) and the other for camera movement (instead of the mouse). The disadvantage is that the mapping of skills is limited to the number of buttons on the controller, but if you are used to this type of control scheme, you can set the skills you like and play in a different way!
While I don't use the handheld controller (I no longer have one for my computer), I can see how this control scheme would have it's advantages, plus it doesn't leave out the console gaming crowd who may not be familiar or comfortable with the keyboard/mouse combination. This makes Tera Rising a bit of a standout from the crowd, and after viewing the graphics and playing through even the small part I have managed so far, it is hard to believe that this is a free-to-play offering.
Star Trek Online
You may have noticed a particular theme until now: most of these games are placed in a fantasy setting! This final game transcends the fantasy genre and enters the world of one of Science Fiction's most beloved universes: Star Trek!
As the commander of a ship in the Federation, to start with (later you can choose to be a Klingon, and most recently, part of the Romulan Empire), you are tasked with exploring strange new worlds... well, you know how the saying goes! As you progress through levels, you get accesas to bigger ships, heavier weaponry, and more interesting tactics.
The main part of the gameplay is, of course, the exploration of space. But while you travel from place to place in your ship, you can orbit other worlds and take an away team down to the surface for certain missions. You can also beam onto enemy ships, as quests may dictate from time to time, so the places that you will explore can be quite different for each mission.
Planetary combat is much the same as most MMOs, with skills to use, weapons to equip, etc. However, you can also create a customized away team filled with officers that serve various roles on your ship, and equip them with skills and weaponry as needed. Aiming isn't so much a concern as with some of the games that I have previously mentioned, but simply having a party at your command to assist you in ground warfare is both interesting and unique.
While you are on your ship, your officers also contribute to the skills that you can activate in combat. When combat begins, you will see 4 curved bars around your ship indicating the strength of your fore, aft, port and starboard shields - blue is high strength, yellow is medium, red is weak, and once the shield goes down, that side of your ship is more vulnerable to damage. While flying around and fighting, you can use the indications of shield strength to your advantage. When your shields are low, simply turn a strong side towards your enemy while the weakened side strengthens. When your enemies shields go down, attack that area of the ship to do more damage!
The gameplay uses a combination of keyboard and mouse controls to steer, activate skills and buffs, and look around you. With your shipboard weapons, you need to face the ship towards your enemy in particular directions for either the fore or aft weapons to be able to fire - some weapons have a 270 degree arc which is more forgiving, while others have as little as a 90 degree cone forwards or backwards. This affects how you need to play in order to get the weapons you want facing the enemy while also taking into account your shield strength in that part of your ship.
Similar to Neverwinter (the game was also developed by Cryptic Studios and is under the wing of Perfect World Entertainment) there is a Foundry which allows you to create detailed missions of your own to share with the Start Trek Online Community. Many of the ones you will find will be sub-par, but there are many that are not only fun to play, but rewarding and add to the overall storyline available in the Star Trek universe.
I won't go so far as to say any one of these is better than any others. That is completely subjective and depends on a great many factors for any person. I will say that I enjoy Star Trek Online more than any other space-based MMO (EVE Online included), and that right now, I really like Neverwinter, though I am looking forward to getting a better computer to really enjoy it's beauty.
Do you have a favourite that I haven't mentioned here? Let me know in the comments! I'd be glad to find any new gems out there in Free-To-Play Land!
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