Its the onslaught of free-to-play games!

Some might call it “free-to-play”, some even like to call it “freemium”, but either way they’re just games that don’t cost you a thing to enjoy.  Recently a bunch of free-to-play offerings cropped up in their final, “released” state and are ready to offer you hours of enjoyment at no up-front cost (man I sound like a loan shark when I say that).  Here’s a quick look at 3 free-to-play offerings recently released.

Blacklight: Retribution

Sort of came out of nowhere, this futuristic-but-serious first-person shooter is a bit of a Call of Duty type of FPS.  Small maps, tight corridors, lots of weapons to choose from and modify, and quick Team Deathmatch gameplay.  I didn’t delve into other modes, but I did see that King of the Hill was present among a few others.  This game is insanely freemium.  You’ll basically be limited to the game’s automatic rifle class for awhile.  Bizarrely, the option to buy in-game content with real money is locked until you get level 10.  Shouldn’t be too hard, as the game showers you with experience once you figure out what you’re doing.

Pros:

  • Controls are (surprisingly) tight for a free-to-play, as if they actually spent some time on how the game feels when you shoot a gun or sprint.
  • Gameplay is (more surprisingly) also tight.  Kills have a CoD sense of satisfaction with headshots offering instant kills and body hits striking just the right balance between too much and too little (take some notes Battlefield!).
  • Easy to drop into and start playing right away.  I had a quick sense of many of the maps after a few rounds and was flanking people before I knew it.
  • Mech armor is extremely fun to get and mow people down in.
  • A visor that lets you briefly see where everybody on the map is, doesn’t need a perk to activate or anything, just click it when you spawn and head toward the battle!

Cons:

  • Too much freemium content, right down to the hour you can play with it for.  I hate this model because it feels like they are nickel and diming you.  If I buy something I want it for good.  The game does offer the choice to buy permanently, but at very premium prices compared to the rental, making it difficult to grab something other than the assault rifle for awhile.
  • Can’t use real money at first.  This just seems like a no-brainer, if I want to plunk down 10 bucks for a better gun, you should let me, not force me to get to level 10.  I’ll admit from a community standpoint this is probably a win.

Super Monday Night Combat

The sequel to the critically-acclaimed third-person-DotA-shooter mashup is a ton of fun with new characters to play and a way more DotA vibe to boot.  Turrets are no longer built, but can still be buffed.  There is more emphasis on the leveling and minion-killing aspect of the game, meaning you want to kill bots for a good part of the beginning of the game, real players in the later game.  The game also keeps its signature zaniness with an announcer who’s maybe a little too obsessed with poultry mascot Chickey Cantor.

Pros:

  • Way more cohesive than its predecessor.  I felt like games had much more weight to them and took a respectable, but not ridiculous, amount of time to complete.  Beating the enemy team in the opening stages of the game seems impossible.
  • At first glance seems like a bit of a TF2 rip, but on closer inspection has a style all its own.  The announcer in particular gives this game a lot of its character (oh and all the bouncing pit girls).
  • Purchasing characters buys them for you permanently, which has a real League of Legends vibe.  Since this is a sorta-kinda-like DotA game, that seems very appropriate.
  • Looks to be setup for more new characters in the future, which are very welcome.
  • Takedowns are just as satisfying as they were in the first game, just not as much when they don’t kill.
  • Real price tags on items, like real money, not all that 2 in-game currency BS that I’m really getting tired of.

Cons:

  • Officially the game is now released, but it was kind of by accident. Technically the game should still be in beta, and yes it does still feel like that to a certain extent.
  • “Neutral zones” are guarded by extremely tough bots that I think are a little overkill, this needs to be turned down a bit.
  • Menu is still a bit clunky in presentation, but is vastly improved from its earlier beta version.

Tribes: Ascend

I think this may be the cream of the crop on this list.  Tribes used to be kind of a big deal back in the day, especially when Tribes II was released way back in the grand ole year of 2001.  Over the years its had various remakes and new iterations, all of them ultimately awful.  But Tribes: Ascend somehow grabs the spirit of Tribes II and gives it a huge facelift, keeps much of the original gameplay and, to its huge credit, somehow makes it feel relevant to today’s games.  Its going to be a tough (non) sell to much of today’s youth, who didn’t grow up on what I’ll call the “sliding shooters” of the late 90’s like Tribes, Quake and Unreal Tournament, where kills were difficult because of how fast everyone moved.  Tribes puts major emphasis on “skiing”, which is an ability that lets you slide around the map like you’re a human ice block.  Coupled with jetpacks, this means you’ll be getting some seriously fast speeds while trying to capture the enemy team’s flag or chasing down your next target.  Timing and anticipating your rockets is key to getting killshots.  After letting go of my CoD and Battlefield training and learning to accept the rules of this game, I quickly fell in love with the speed and intensity and the sheer satisfaction from skillful kills.

Pros:

  • Addictive gameplay almost from the start.  Even if you’re not getting lots of kills you’ll have a lot of fun learning how to ski effectively.
  • Perfectly timed kills are as satisfying as shooting a jet down with a tank in Battlefield, except it happens way more often.
  • Huge maps for CTF allow for actual “sneak behind your base” gameplay, where most other FPS games have elected to shrink their maps.
  • Game just assumes you’re smart and doesn’t do a lot of work at hand-holding.  So rare these days and I really appreciate discovering elements of the gameplay naturally rather than being force-fed everything.

Cons:

  • May be a steep learning curve for some, especially if they only started playing FPS games post-Halo.
  • Experience is hard to come by.  If you manage to win you’ll get a decent amount, but losing, even with a good score, is a pretty low amount.

The best thing about all of these free-to-play games is that they’re easy for you and your friends to pick up.  If everyone isn’t feeling it, then no money is lost and you can move on to something else (or more likely whatever you were playing before).  Its typically not as much effort to get people to check it out for the price factor alone which makes it easy if you and your friends are looking for the next game to socialize in or compete in.

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About Ryan Saul

Hailing from Portland, OR I work by day and blog by night. I like to consider myself a video game connoisseur, playing as many new things as I can get my hands on. Its hard to hold me down to one game for very long before I move on to the next big thing. Luckily, that works pretty well in terms of video game blogging.

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