Six games to keep you busy ’til Guild Wars 2 (for free)

After the information flood from this year’s Gamescom in Cologne, I was planning on posting a “little” write-up on the status-quo of Guild Wars 2, maybe highlighting all the good reasons why we can all look forward to this upcoming MMO. The new information out there is numerous and scattered, a little over-whelming and off-putting to a skeptical mind.

A little write-up….yeah, HA-HA! How naive can you be?

That was before I chanced upon this erm “little summary” here which the folks at GW2 Guru put together since the convention. And we have yet to hear what else ArenaNet will reveal at this week’s PAX East. Exciting times.

This convinced me that I should not waste my time with an incomplete list of bullets and rather advise you to go and have a look for yourself. If you require any more reading after that (which I find somehow hard to believe but anyway), Kill Ten Rats have a few more links to interesting reads up. Now, I might revisit my original intention of breaking things down in a short, comprehensive summary, but for the moment timing is not on my side.

That’s not to say of course that I will not write about Guild Wars 2 anyway, because I am really excited (you may have noticed) and after the most recent clips and interviews I’ve watched, I am longing to finally get an ETA. It’s been mentioned that the game is apparently around 65% finished – whatever that means – and I guess even with the most optimistic mind we cannot expect GW2 to be released before coming spring 2012. However, there are reasons which speak against this too, making Q2 or Q3 the more plausible time frame for potential release.

OH NOES! What am I gonna do until then? How will I make it through the dark, cold nights of winter?? I’m fine with not playing anything much during summer time, but after September latest I usually like to know what game I will be playing in the upcoming months. After all, there are preparations to make: reading up and deciding on what to play and which server to roll on. Friends to poke and bombard with links and information, until they finally surrender and get a copy themselves (works every time!). Relatives to contact about that extended journey to Alaska you’ll be taking, where there’s unfortunately no phone line and internet in case they try reaching you during the next few months.

I’ve no idea how to entertain myself game-wise until 2012. Yeah, there’s that list of more oldschool adventures I intend to play through – but online games are where it’s at! And before you mention SWTOR; does not appeal. Not in the slightest. So, what can we do here? I’m sure I’m not the only one currently un-subscribed to WoW or Rift and somewhat hopeless over the lack of prospects. Which is where I like to turn around and ask: what’s worth re-visiting in the world of MMOs, if not paying for straight away? Well, I might just have a few suggestions!

Six games to keep you busy ’til Guild Wars 2 (for free)

  • Sign up for Age of Conan Unchained; with AoC entering the FTP market, this is a great opportunity to have a look at one of the most accomplished MMOs currently out there, besides WoW and Rift. While AoC is by no means a perfect game and dated in many ways, there is a lot to be said for the maps and feel of Hyboria, the solo destiny quest chain, the combat system and refreshing approach to both melee and healing classes. If you know what you are dealing with and can overlook clunky UI functionality, you should find enough to entertain you for a while and maybe even justify a temporary subscription which will allow you to unlock more race-class combinations and more. For the PvPers among you, Funcom recently released their Blood&Glory servers where almost everything goes.
  • Give Allods a chance; yeah, I know Allods’ graphics look a lot like WoW while the game gets grindy fast. Yet, this recommendation is for the shiny-lovers among you: those who love creating characters and race combos at the character screen, test out different starting areas, dig shiny armor and walking around, exploring the world. Allods is free to play and offers eye candy in areas that WoW cannot compete because it’s simply older. And I still hold to the Arisen being the most badass race ever to appear in an MMO. There’s nothing to lose by giving this game a try!
    • Have a first or second look at Final Fantasy 14;  FF14 has been off to a very rocky start, to say the least and has since suffered the full impact of screwing up many things so early into release. You can consider SE’s mistakes unforgivable, or have another look at their popular franchise which has by now undergone a lot of patching for the better, on top of becoming free to play. The game has been streamlined in many aspects of gameplay, from combat to questing and crafting, and supposedly plays a lot smoother and easier overall. No doubt, FF14 is not everyone’s cookie – but it’s still your best shot if you enjoy polished asian/anime-flair MMOs or love Mogs and Chocobos. 

    …Moving on to even more FTPs, they are everywhere now, aren’t they? Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons&Dragons Online have been entertaining their own, enthusiastic audience for a while now:

    • I was very skeptical about LotRO from the beginning (hairy feet!), until I read about Weatherstock and other community events that define this MMO which claims to call the most agreeable crowd of gamers its own. If you’re one for community, lore and traveling the world, LotRO sounds like a fair deal to pass some time in Middle Earth. 
    • DDO is probably one of those MMOs you either love or hate for their oldschool flair. If you can deal with outdated graphics and overall not-so-polished gameplay though, Turbine are ever so busy to release new content for their players to explore. I have a feeling this MMO is very much an acquired taste, but comes with its very own atmosphere and charm.
      • Last but not least: Sign up for Blizzard’s WoW starter edition. Miss Azeroth or Alterac Valley & Co. but don’t care to pay the sub? The new, limitless trial offer let’s you return to the lowbie levels of the game without your account expiring. Up to Draenei and Bloodelves are available for re-discovering WoW’s early content and many of the revamped starting areas and quests. Or you might just want to kill some horde. There are still some heavy restrictions involved, but for some casual free play on the side this might be what you’re looking for.

      Makes you wonder how long it will take for WoW to completely switch over to FTP too? At the rate that things are going, with more and more content being about fast rewards and solo- or pickup-mode, this seems like an inevitable step. Subscriptions revolve around the idea of long-term time investment and heavy cooperation.

      My PVP priest in AoC

      Anyway, these are my personal recommendations for the currently MMO-less among you, in hierarchical order. Obviously, there are many other FTP options out there, but I’m not sure I want to try any of them unless someone convinces me otherwise (consider yourself invited to). Even for more casual testing, quality is a concern (and there are limits!). I have recently resubbed to Age of Conan after a look at the new PvP server – this is the good thing about free to play: play first, make your choice later.

      There’s absolutely no reason not to give older MMOs a go. You know what you are getting here: these games might not be polished diamonds, but they have character; they’ve had a chance to mature, gather a community and offer plenty of gameplay options. At best, you’ll upgrade your account and even use the item store. At worst, you’ve gained some insights on contemporary MMOs – consider it “educational”!

      I know about the anticipated titles for early 2012 and frankly, I am not sure I will subscribe to Diablo III. The Secret World does not look like it’s going to happen for me, either (who wants to do google research quests?). As for Teraboobs, yeah right! It’s going to be a long wait for Guild Wars 2 folks…and winter is coming!


      1. I played RIFT and then quit and then started playing it again a couple of weeks ago, and this time around I am having a blast. I’m not sure why — maybe because I’m not playing WoW anymore, and I’m very casual in RIFT.

        However, I still plan on leaving Telara like a flash the minute Guild Wars 2 is available. 🙂

      2. I’d add Puzzle Pirates to the list, as well as Wizard 101. They aren’t WoW-alikes, but they are solid MMOs. You can play a lot of Puzzle Pirates for free (on microtransaction servers) and Wizard 101 has time-unlimited free trial.

        I’ll second Allods, too. It has pacing issues after about level 20 or so, and a focus on PvP that I didn’t care for, but it’s pretty and good to explore, if only to broaden your horizons.

      3. @Liore

        I like Rift, I really think it’s better than many (wow-fanboys) claim. however, I am not sure what happened, my sub ran out while I was away a few days and when I came back I didn’t feel like resubbing anymore. maybe it was indeed timing more than anything else (I also suspect my class choice), I haven’t entirely dismissed it. it’s a beautiful game.


        I’ve played so many games in the past for this reason – just to gather knowledge really. helps you developing your opinions and backing up your own thoughts (or smashing them!). it becomes a lot more fun too that way, depending on what you’re playing. once you don’t expect it to be a perfect, long-term hooker, you’re a lot more open-minded.

        Never played either of those 2 MMOs; now with potentially a long time ahead until GW2, I can see myself giving a different ‘mmo genre’ a go though!

      4. *chuckle*

        Well, I have an informal standing invitation to PP over at my place; the referral link in the top right box at my blog. I’m almost always happy to show someone the proverbial ropes. 🙂

      5. Warhammer Online has a free endless Trial as well, and if you like PvP that game is pretty good. Mythic also has a FTP game called Wrath of Heroes which is a 6v6v6 LoL type game.

      6. @Tesh

        Ohhh, a very tempting offer, thanks! 🙂 let me get over my current AC-revival and I’ll get back to you if I may – winter is a long time where I am, so I need to spread my opportunities, hehe!

        Good suggestions, so thank you both. I had to make a cut somewhere (I also did not include EQ2 but then that’s because I truly dislike it) – so I took classic fantasy MMOs as main focus and as for Warhammer, it’s odd how little exposure the game has in general. It’s one of my least considered options, despite the fact that I like PvP. I should probably update myself here a little.

      7. I’ve loved Allods from the beginning…the music and the character designs and the unique Russian locale. And the amazingness that is Z-looting! Only recently did I start leveling with any seriousness, picking up at level 20 which is right when people say it gets tough. In an effort to reassure that the 20s don’t have to be painful, here are a couple tips that made a big difference in my game experience:

        • Take heavy advantage of any XP bonus events to get a level cushion slightly above the content you’re doing. Your level vs. mob’s level does matter in this game.
        • It’s important to understand your stats and try to keep them balanced, even while leveling. Crit chance (Luck) and hit chance (Perception/Expertise) are significantly more impactful than damage-increasing stats.
        • If you really enjoy the game, consider spending a bit of real-life cash on Crystal Chips to upgrade your runes. There are usually several Item Shop sales in a month and chips will be discounted sometimes.

        Surviving and Maybe Even Enjoying the Holy Lands: (aka Asee-teph, where you will get flagged during questing)
        • Quest with a friend, preferably on voice chat!
        • You can get an addon that will alert you to any opposite-faction toons in your vicinity. This was a monumental stress-reducer for me — I knew when it was and wasn’t necessary to keep my health topped off and a nuke spell pre-cast. (The download sites are in Russian, but there are posts on the forums that walk you through installation.)
        • Always carry an emblem for obliterating flagged high levels. Have it easily accessible so that you can insta-kill them before they insta-kill you.
        • And finally: Death will always de-flag you! You literally can’t be graveyard camped.

        I was sad that the early Item Shop mis-steps drove so many people away from the game, glad to see someone still pimping it today. 8D

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