Free to Play has become a catchphrase for a toxic business model that has tended towards studios and publishers fleecing their customers for money at every possible avenue.
Whether it is through mandatory paid currencies, unbelievably powerful items stuck behind a paywall, or game design that frustrates players into paying money just to be able to play the game, it is apparent that Free to Play is looked on with suspicion by a very large portion of gamers.
However, while there certainly is a sea of crap out there in the F2P world today (EA’s Dungeon Keeper comes to mind as an immediate example), there are a notable number of games that serve as great examples of how a Free to Play game can be fun without constantly annoying people into pulling out their wallets.
With that in mind, here are three Free to Play games that have caught my personal fancy over the past year or so that I have found to be quite fun and enjoyable. They are not arranged in any particular order.
Loadout is a third person shooter game about guns.
The core premise of the game is to create your personal weapon of choice from numerous different templates. Each aspect of your gun can be changed from the scope to the kind of ammo that the gun shoots, allowing for a variety of gun combinations from Spreadshot Rocket Launchers that shoot bouncing Healing rounds to Fire Lasers that burn enemies as brightly as they glow.
This variance tends to lead to an interesting playing field during matches, as you then have to consider the loadout of your team and the enemy’s team as you play through numerous modes based on popular FPS game modes, ranging from Death Snatch, a mode where you are rewarded for killing enemies and collecting the Blutonium vials they drop
To Jackhammer, an amusing take on Capture The Flag where the Flag is replaced by a Jackhammer that has an area of effect smash attack.
My one major critique of the game is the fact that the game can be pretty repetitive, as all the game modes are competitive (Though a cooperative PVE mode is in the works as per the statements of the official website.)
Other than that, there really isn’t much else to complain about with the game, as its paid currency (Spacebux) is only used to buy cosmetic items, so you could technically enjoy the game for free.
Loadout can be found on Steam or PS4.
2) War Thunder
This is a game about Planes and Tanks.
For this segment, I will only speak about the Dogfighting, Warplanes mode, as I have personally not tried the Tank mode.
War Thunder presents a very thrilling and action packed game experience. Largely playing with vehicles from the World War II, War Thunder is a game with numerous competitive game modes, such as a Capture Mode where each team must gather points through capturing three bases by landing on them and a Team Deathmatch-esque mode where the teams must decrease the other team’s stock until it is zero.
Vehicles are separated into 5 tiers. As you unlock vehicles from higher tiers, available game modes increase and currently available ones change.
Overall, the game is a very good combat flight simulator with lots of realism, making dogfights more dynamic. Each individual part of your craft is destructible and any damage or destruction of certain parts affects the performance of your plane. Likewise, weapons can be prone to overheating if fired consistently without any rest. These things, coupled with the physics engine allow for quite a number of thrilling and rather entertaining scenarios.
Microtransactions do not seem to be necessary for basic enjoyment, however, I can not say much more than that, as I still need some more time with the other game modes.
War Thunder is currently available on Mac, PC, Linux (Through Steam and Directly from their main website) and PS4. The game also features cross-platform play, so you can be on completely separate platforms than the ones your friends own (For as long as they are the ones stated above. There is no XBox-One version at the time of this post) and still be able to enjoy this game with your friends.
Somehow, I’m starting to notice a pattern in the last two games on this list.
All kidding aside, Warframe is a very dynamic and fun game. Developed by Digital Extremes, Warframe is a game where you play as the Tenno.
For lack of a better term, they are alien space ninjas hailing from the distant past of the solar system who have been systematically awakened by the Lotus (A chick who pretty much serves as your main operator/guide in the game) in order to combat the current threats that inhabit the Solar System.
I’ll spare some of the lore details (An entire post can be dedicated to them), but the summary for the pre-game events were that the Tenno used to be the main operatives/weapons of the ancient Orokin empire during their war against the Sentients. At some point, the Tenno ensured for victory for the Orokin before the Orokin empire’s sudden collapse and disappearance. The Tenno put themselves in Cryostasis and then simply drifted into sleep. During their slumber, humanity would devolve into factions largely split between either the Grineer (An empire consisting of genetically enhanced human clones under the rule of a bunch of queens, who have taken over Earth and numerous colonies), the Corpus (A group of humans who have taken their technological and mercantile prowess to create a syndicate guarded by Crewmen with energy shields and Mechanical constructs of their own creation), and whatever few colonists currently exists outside of their grasp (Normal Humans).
There is also the Infested who, too keep it simple, are essentially equivalent to the Zurg. They are a technorganic virus that takes control of normal beings, usually Corpus or Grineer, and mold them into ravenous monstrosities.
That lore bit then segway’s to the way the game plays. Warframe is a mission-based action game where you improve yourself through completing missions in order to obtain materials used to create and obtain new weapons, warframes, companions, and mods which improve the performance of any of the former things. The more you play, the more resources you can obtain to create more and better Warframes and Weapons.
Mission types range from Survival missions (Where you must activate Life Support Capsules in order to survive) to Extermination Missions
to Defense missions (Defend a target in 5 wave intervals) and Spy missions (Capture sensitive data without being detected by the enemies).
Missions can be found each of the planets of the Solar System, where the farther you are from the Sun, the more difficult the mission will be. There are also missions in the Void and Orokin Derelicts, though these require special keys in order to access them.
Gameplay is a very entertaining and fast mix of gunplay, swordplay, and acrobatics.
Useable guns range from anything from sniper rifles, single shot rifles, assault rifles, ray guns, bows, crossbows, launchers, Saw weapons, and many more. Melee weapons also range in high variety, with maces, swords, knives, polearms, fist weapons, and quite a lot more alongside different stances for each weapon type that change the way they work. Weapons can either be bought with platinum (The paid currency of the game) or crafted using items collected in missions alongside credits (The standard currency)
Warframes also come in many varieties. Each Frame has 4 abilities which can alter the flow of combat, as well as varying stats that affect the way in which you handle certain stage types and the flow of stages in general.
Movement can be done in numerous ways as well. You can run, walk, wallrun, slide, and jump while leveraging the terrain to your advantage. Take all of these things together, and you will have numerous tools and techniques that you can use to complete your missions and destroy your enemies.
All of these things lead to a gameplay experience that can be fast-paced, challenging, and fun in both an individual and cooperative level (Apart from standard missions, there are also bossfights on each planet and raids will be introduced in higher frequency as future updates are released, leading to many interesting PVE scenarios. There is PVP in the game, though I personally have only tried 5 Dojo sparring matches.)
With regards to paid currency, Warframe is one of those games that, while not punishing you for not buying the paid currency (Disclaimer: The author has paid the equivalent of 80-100$ in-game) (The main draw is PVE, or Player Versus Environment. Competitive is not a huge draw), it is one of those games that can be either slow in terms of progression or grind heavy without using it. Certain required crafting materials will need to be consistently grinded for by playing certain missions (Usually Boss Fights) in a repetitious fashion that, while kept interesting due to the movement dynamics and Warframe/Weapon/Mod Variety, can be time-consuming and tedious. Furthermore, the early game will be very symptomatic of this grind, though variety opens up as you unlock more planets and mods and craft more weapons/warframes.
With all that said, Warframe can be a ton of fun, especially when played with a group of friends. The early game can be grindy without buying things with real money, but with a little savvy and with some persistence, the game can and will deliver an experience that can be very fun and entertaining.
Warframe is available on PC (Steam and Direct Download), PS4, and Xbox One.
These three games consist only of a small sample of enjoyable free to play games. More do exist, but finding them will require some digging, some video watching, and some research. When you do find these games, know that they can offer their own breed of enjoyment for those who play them.