8 Great Free-To-Play Games to Start Your F2P Journey
The world of free-to-play games is expanding very, very rapidly. There’s also a lot of shovelware floating out there. Games so bad that even a brief play session can completely ruin your taste for anything free. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of my personal favorites for those wanting to have a little fun without searching. The games on this list may be flawed in a few areas, and are sometimes a bit grind-heavy, but each one offers an excellent core experience. If you are looking for a game that you can play for free and genuinely enjoy without having to toss down some cash, this list will help you out. These are games that are of such quality that it’s surprising they aren’t retail titles.
I’ve already sung the praises (and muttered the flaws) of Planetside 2, but here’s a friendly reminder: it’s really quite good. Planetside 2 pits three different factions against each other on the war-blasted continents of Auraxis in a perpetual fight for territory. While it has a number of minor flaws that keep it from really excelling, it’s also the only real MMOFPS on the market. Large battles, lovely vistas, and intense teamwork all combine to make an enjoyable shooter experience. The main issues with the game are items that are far stronger than the defaults that you can purchase for real money (AKA pay to win) and a lack of coordination in factions. If you can deal with the frustration, and you are a fan of games like Battlefield 3, then Planetside 2 is the best free shooter around.
While a proper Age of Empires retail game hasn’t been seen since Age of Empires 3, Age of Empires Online serves to sate some of that resource-gathering hunger. While the real-money items are a bit of a nuisance, the core experience is just as enjoyable as ever. Build up a base of an ancient civilization and advance it through the ages, fighting off wildlife and enemies at every turn. Age of Empires Online introduces a new art style to the franchise which I am quite fond of, and it retains the addicting RPG-esque build-up of your home city as you progress. It also quite astutely observed that most casual RTS players tend to play skirmishes against AI with their friends, so the majority of missions and content in the game is not against players, but against the AI. If you can deal with it being a little less balanced and competitive than Starcraft 2, Age of Empires Online is a stellar RTS title.
League of Legends is big. Really big. When I originally covered League, I never thought that it would reach the proportions that it has now. League is a DOTA-like – or MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena), if you prefer – where players pick five heroes that then slug it out with the help of their respective sides. It drastically simplified the DOTA formula, removing things like denies and gold loss on death while adding new features such as shrubs to hide in and a level-based metagame. Every two to four weeks a new hero is released, and the roster is now so large I can barely keep track of it. However, it has the largest community of any DOTA-like on the market (sorry Heroes of Newerth!) and getting into a game is a snap. When Dota 2 finally launches we’ll probably see a little bit of bleed-off, but for now League of Legends reigns supreme. Just beware of the incredibly caustic community. People take competitive games very seriously!
Blacklight: Retribution (otherwise known as Blacklight, since nobody played Tango Down) is the closest that a free-to-play game has come to approaching Call of Duty. Set in a futuristic cyberpunk setting full of dubstep bass and holographic technology, Blacklight is a competitive shooter along the lines of Activision’s media beast. It definitely sets out to make itself unique, though, and in the process turned into a great game. A number of features – like the built-in wallhack – make sure that games progress quickly and players don’t simple sit in a corner and camp. More importantly, gun creation and ownership is involved and interesting, with guns being comprised of many parts (receiver, stock, magazine, barrel, etc) that are interchangeable. Each weapon is as unique as the person who made it, and getting the parts to customize your weapon to your liking is fairly quick. It’s the least grind-y of all the games on this list, at least if you aren’t aiming for the most expensive items like revive packs, and the cool aesthetic mixed with the fun of creating your own weapons is undeniably addicting.