A Free2Play Weekend

A friend and I had one of our monthly LAN party-of-sort (is it honestly a LAN party if it’s just 2 people? Sure) and as such this found me playing a multitude of random games I would normally not play on my own. The plan all week had been to pick up Darkfall or reactivate my World of Warcraft account, but little did I know, what happened at the LAN would change all of this.

We started things out slow with some RTS action in the form of Demigod and the Heroes of Newerth beta (DOTA clone). Demigod can be fun when you can actually find a non-lag match in the short list of online games that actually exist. Heroes of Newerth, well, I am pretty sure it’s under NDA still ( luckily for them), so I’ll bite my tongue.

After a food run and a short stint in Warhammer Online (trial accounts) I had the idea that we should test some of the many new “free2play browser games” that seem to be sprouting up more and more now (and of more and more quality). My eyes were set on Battlefield Heroes, Fallen Empire: Legions (Tribes), Quake Live, and the one that turned out to be my favorite, Free Realms. I had dabbled in most of these games in some sort of beta form but had never given them an authentic chance since. Before I get into the others, I might as well just say that Fallen Empire: Legions doesn’t work on Windows 7, so that’s a bummer.

I’ll start with Battlefield Heroes. It turned me off a bit in the beta because I felt like it was just a dumbed-down BF game in third-person, where twitch and aiming skills didn’t really matter. Turns out, I just wasn’t giving it enough of a chance. The charm in BF Heroes is the art style (reminiscent of Team Fortress 2), the classes and leveling/ranking-up system, and well, just the overall “charm” of the game (seeing people running around with tophats on or in their underwear, while wielding a sniper rifle sitting on the wing of an airplane – craziness). My friend wasn’t getting as into BF Heroes as I was and wanted to keep going back to the HoN beta or Counter Strike: Source but I was having a blast. My favorite class was either the Gunner, who is the “tank” type heavy-gunner, or the Commando, your usual “scout” or sniper-rifle wielding class. The stealth mechanic really adds a fun layer to playing the Commando, as it lets you get to and set up your sniping spot without getting mowed down every time you spawn and try to make your way to a safe sniping spot, so your class can actually be useful.

I was never one to play Quake 3: Arena back in the day (I was an Unreal Tournament kid), but Quake Live has had a special place in my heart ever since I first tried it at a similar LAN last year. I feel like you either love or hate the quick-frag-action of Quake Live and it just turns out that I love it. It reminds me of playing the original UT and that hits a special nerve in my gaming-heart. A shot of nostalgia, in a modern-day syringe, if you will. I don’t really know what else to say – it’s Quake 3 multiplayer action in your browser for free. Go play it if you dig that kind of thing!

I capped the LAN night off with some Free Realms (by myself, as my friend glanced over in confusion) and found myself playing it for a good 6-8 hours on Saturday as well. It’s hard to nail down what hooks me into FR so much, but all I know is after a few hours I was a subscribing-member and had 1,000 Station Cash in my character’s wallet. There are so many innovative, refreshingly fun, and charming things about FR I don’t know where to start. The fact that this is a browser-loaded game blows my mind. This could easily be a store-shelf product and it would totally be worth the money, more so than many games that are going for $50 on store shelves right this moment in fact. One of the simplest things that I instantly loved about FR was the name-creator they give you to help make your character’s name. It’s really just there to help encourage cutesy fantasy names and weed out the bad names, but any game that let’s me go as “James Peachmetal,” and actually encourages it, is awesome in my book.

The game is an evil perpetrator of the infamous “just one more quest” gaming hook. I found myself thinking this every time I would start another mini-game or head to a quest objective, yet I would still be playing an hour later. There are so many unique jobs (classes) that I wanted to explore and unlock them all, but then I wanted to try them too!

I really wish it let you take screenshots because I found myself hitting the “Prt Scr” button on many occasions, even after realizing it wasn’t working. I’m pretty sure the FR engine was built from the ground up by SOE, in which case, I really hope they are planning to use it in future games, if they aren’t already. The game is beautiful and runs flawlessly. I’ll have to get FRAPS installed again and get some footage for sure. Speaking of footage, below is some that I captured in game with FR‘s built in video capture. The quality is low because I was pushing out videos that were about 700mb-1gb when I had it on the “high quality” setting. It’s definitely not optimal, but it’s pretty awesome they have it in there and a way to upload it to YouTube with a click of a button.

So as I move forward into this week, I’ll probably be playing a ton of Free Realms and hope to throw some BF Heroes in there somewhere too. I feel like the litmus-test of free2play games is whether or not you feel like buying something in the in-game cash-shop would be worth it and if that appeals to you. If a RMT/micro-transaction game even tempts me to use “real money” to buy something in the game, let alone gets me to do it, I feel like it has succeeded at being a successful free2play game. I’m not sure if BF Heroes has hit that point with me yet, but congratulations Free Realms.

If you want to find me these games, here are my names for each respective game:

Battlefield Heroes: Remove_Nozzle

Quake Live: Remove_Nozzle

Free Realms: James Peachmetal (on Server 4 usually)

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~ by James Taylor on July 20, 2009.

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