With the recent release of Alien Swarm, I’ve had a bit of a craving for more free gaming. You’d be surprised how much fun you can have out there without spending a penny. You simply don’t get this in other industries, and not at this calibre – let’s face it, most free stuff out there in the real world is free for a reason: it’s unwanted, out-of-date, or just crap. As for free entertainment, imagine if your local cinema had free showings of some films? I can’t, frankly. Plus, if it’s anything like my local, going to the cinema is becoming an increasingly more expensive way to spend an evening. Why not save your cash and try some of these brilliant (and surprisingly sophisticated) free games.
So, where to start. There’s pretty much a free game in every genre these days – you’ve got free-to-play MMO’s, first person shooters, point and click adventure games, third-person action multiplayer games, and an absolute tonne of browser-based flash games. Lets have a quick look at some of the best ones, and since all of these are free, they’re well worth checking out if only briefly just to see how good we gamers have got it these days.
The Battlefield series has always had a focus on fun multiplayer carnage, in which 2 teams fight it over large maps for control of territory, and can use a variety of weapons and drivable vehicles. Battlefield Heroes was a risk for EA and Dice, since it moves away from the relatively serious nature of the regular series, and into a cartoony, Team Fortress 2 style online-only game, with customisable avatars and persistent stats. It has optional paid-for content if you’re into that sort of thing, but the big selling point is that it plays in your browser. This isn’t strictly true, since the game does have to download a big dump of game-files to your pc before you can play it, but it does launch from the browser and has relatively small system requirements to play.
Alternatively: Quake Live
Wolfenstein Enemy Territory
This was the first ‘real’ game that I ever heard of as being completely free from day one. It’s based on the classic Return to Castle Wolfenstein, in that its a class-based FPS set in WW2, but it focuses on multiplayer objective-based maps, in which teamwork is essential. Pick your class from the now rather standardised soldiers, medics, engineers and the like, and “DISARM ZE DYNAMITE!”, etc. It has aged a bit since it came out in 2003, but its still very fun and you can always find a server full of people. It paved the way for the more recent Quake Wars Enemy Territory, which follows a similar structure to its class-based multiplayer with objectives.
Alternatively: FEAR Combat
Lord of the Rings Online
This MMO is one of the best examples of an alternative to World of Warcraft, and will be, as of September, free to play. It’s based on the Lord of the Rings books (not the movies) and is chock full of refrences to Tolkien’s classic works, some of which you may not be familiar with if you’ve only seen Jackson’s epic trilogy (Tom Bombadil, hoorayness!). It’s a very polished, well-balanced, beautiful and downright fun MMO. There’s absolutely heaps of free-to-play MMO’s out there, but this for me will easily be one of the best. Amongst all the Asian grind-fests that have found their way over here, LoTRO will stand tall as a much more lovingly crafted MMO experience. Again, there’s optional micropayments, but there’ll be nothing to stop you from playing through the majority of the grand story without paying a bean.
Far too many to list here, but there are literally thousands of amazing indie-developed Flash games available for nothing on the ‘net. Two of my favourite ‘portal’ sites for these sort of games are Newgrounds, which is one of the first, biggest and best Flash portal sites around with loads of animations and games to keep you entertained for literally weeks. Then there’s Kongregate, which focuses primarily on games and has a huge collection of browser classics, and a login feature to collect achievements for almost anything you play. In the Flash gaming world, there’s some amazing titles ranging from simple 2D platformers, to addictive puzzlers, to epic RPG’s. Just take a look at those two website’s highest-rated lists and you’ll see such gems as Fancy Pants Adventure, Desktop Tower Defence, the SHIFT series, and millions more.
Well, there are countless others, but this gives you a small taster of what the gaming world has to offer on the ultra-cheap. I will try and keep an eye out for other free games, as it seems to be a bit of a trend in the industry right now, and post about them here. Everyone loves a bargain, and you can’t get a better deal than a free lunch…er, game.