Best Free PC Games
Do you think Free to Play games will become more of a standard?
The State of Free to Play
Not everyone has a couple hundred dollars to budget every month for the latest AAA titles. Waiting a few months after a game is released is a good way to get it on the cheap, but you shouldn't overlook a new direction in pc game marketing.
Publishers and developers have realized there's a large market for free to play games where money is to be made off the back end via micro-transactions. Some of those perpetrators are pay to win (where you have a serious advantage after making a real money purchase over others that don't) and wont be listed here.
Games that offer cosmetic changes or time saving experience boosts for cash on the other hand are an appropriate method of generating funding for free titles.
1. Starcraft 2
Starcraft 2 is the most popular RTS (Real Time Strategy) of all time.
Its matches are televised around the world as it contends to be the most popular e-sport title. Starcraft 2 also has an arcade where the community makes free multiplayer games to play such as tower defense games, survival games, MOBA style games, mario party like games, and more.
Starcraft 2 has a free version of itself that has been beefed up enough that I will include it on this list. In the starter edition you can experience the beginning of the single player campaign as the terran race, play VS AI, and a rotating handful of the arcade games.
As of 7/4/13, Blizzard introduced spawning. If you know someone that has the full version of the game or the expansion pack "heart of the swarm" spawning allows you to join their party and, while a member, you are granted nearly full access to the game including co-op vs ai, unranked, and ranked matchmaking as terran, and the entire library of games in the arcade.
You can download Starcraft 2 here: https://us.battle.net/account/sc2/starter-edition/.
Or you can learn about Starcraft's pro-scene here: Top Ten Starcraft 2 Pros.
More Information about Spawning
2. League of Legends
League of legends is the most accessible MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) styled game in the world. It has the largest gaming audience with 12 million players playing every day. The community isn't overly friendly to new players so I suggest picking it up with a friend.
The goal is to battle your way to your opponents base and destroy it before they do the same to yours. There are three lanes to push toward that base with defensive towers along the way. With about 100 champions to choose from (and counting) each with their own abilities you get a diverse experience every time.
With every game you play you earn influence points which allows you to unlock more champions to play with (alongside a handful of free champions that are rotated weekly) and buy runes to customize the beginning stats of your champion in a game.
3. Team Fortress 2
Team Fortress 2 is a free to play cell-shaded FPS created by Valve that was praised for its light-hearted gameplay. There are several different classes to choose from each with its unique play style. You can play as a stealth spy, set up turrets as an engineer, snipe from a distance, run around with a flame thrower, and more! With plenty of game modes and levels levels to play on The diversity offered in this polished, free experience is pretty impressive.
Custom hats seem to be the money driver for this game. The trading economy is said to be over $50 million with one hat being sold as high as $4,400. That's micro-transactions at its most ludicrous but some people are happy to support what they are passionate about.
TF2 is the best traditional shooter in the free to play market.
You can download Team Fortress 2 for free at steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/440.
So many MMOs (Massive Multiplayer Online) games have seen their popularity fall off so drastically that they either have died off (Age of Conan) or switched to a free to play model to lure back their unhappy players (Star Wars: The Old Republic) and tap into a new wealth of players.
Neverwinter has been free to play from the start. No upfront cost. No monthly fee. Neverwinter provides a quality title with a solid foundation for a MMO. Neverwinter has all the tools to make it a success.
What sets Neverwinter apart from other MMOs?
One feature comes to mind immediately. The Foundry allows the players to design quests for the community. The best community created content is ranked, reviewed, and then enjoyed as players can craft their own imaginative story lines, environments, and fight scenes. That sure beats doing the same daily quest over and over again while waiting months for new content (I'm looking at you World of Warcraft).
You can download it here: http://nw.perfectworld.com/.
5. World of Warplanes
On July 2, 2013 World of Tanks developers at Wargaming.net pushed their next game, World of Warplanes, into open beta. It's free to play now and will be free to play at release.
World of Warplanes takes you to the skies, putting your metal to the test. Are you a dog fighter or would you rather be escorted by live players as you strike ground targets with bombing runs. In large scale multiplayer battles where everyone only has one life and one plane to fly it gets fairly intense.
Each era of flying can be experienced from pre world war 1 biplanes to the jet fighters of the korean war. So far there are over 60 different planes to fly.
Hawken is a multiplayer FPS where you design the layout of a mech and then go headlong into combat. Your weaponry is prone to overheating if you fire too often, leaving your vulnerable for an extended period of time. There are four different gameplay modes. Hawken specializes in close combat action with well designed maps to keep the action hot.
Mechwarrior Online is another free to play game that might be worth a try if you are into the genre, but I only give it a mention because Hawken's polish outshines it with better match-making, more game modes, and a tutorial for new players.
Download and play for free at: http://www.playhawken.com/
7. Path of Exile
Path of Exile is a loot based action RPG similar to the Diablo and Torchlight series.
Even though PoE is free, it is generally felt that the gameplay was superior to the AAA title of Diablo 3. You pick one of six classes to play. The skill tree is so deep it hosts 1,350 passive skills to spec in. You have to earn or locate the active skills your class has access to. The game has nice graphics, socket-able gear, and a solid economy.
Another interesting aspect of the game is you can join leagues that allow you to play the game with modified server rules. Some examples could be harder monsters, open world pvp (where you could be killed and looted), or given only one life to live before you are ejected from the league.
If you were a fan of Diablo and you haven't checked out Path of Exile, you have nothing to lose except your free time.