2013 was a huge year for online gaming. It was probably the year that I spent the most of my available time with games by sitting in front of my PC. I’ve always been a fan of the PC platform, and it’s really beginning to shine over consoles, in my opinion at least.
There were many games that reached the surface last year, but I feel like there are three that really shined over the rest. These games are free, very popular, and extremely addicting. 2013 was a breakout year for these games, and I really think they’ll hold strong as we continue through 2014. Let’s look at them.
Path of Exile
I’ve said many times before that Path of Exile filled a void that Blizzard left in the hearts of many ARPG fans with their third installment in the Diablo series. Diablo III just didn’t hit the spot for many of us, and the developers at Grinding Gear Games did a fantastic job of taking advantage of these shortcomings.
Path of Exile introduced so many new things to this addicting genre and 2013 was a stunning year for this game. It even won GameSpot’s PC Game of the Year award, which is a huge accomplishment for a game by independent developers.
Path of Exile went huge because of the possibilities. The passive skill tree is immense and you will spend hours tweaking and perfecting it. The number of combinations of skills that you can link together makes for some of the most interesting hack-and-slash gameplay that I’ve ever experienced. If you love drops, this game is for you. The modifiers, prefixes, and suffixes in Path of Exile’s item system is absolutely insane. I dare you to try to find two identical rares, because it won’t be easy.
PoE made their gameplay spoil-proof towards the end of last year by introducing a system of leagues. In many RPGs, you enter a server where the economy and things around you are permanent. In time, this guarantees that the economy will make a disgusting turn. New players will feel hopeless and old players will have very little left to achieve. While there are permanent Standard and Hardcore leagues in Path of Exile, new leagues are introduced every other month that introduce new and exciting gameplay elements and offer prizes for the highest-ranked players on the ladder.
Hands down, Path of Exile is the best free ARPG on the internet right now.
Neverwinter (not to be confused with Neverwinter Nights) is an MMORPG that makes a serious attempt at reviving a genre that seems to be struggling as of late. Early expansions of World of Warcraft seem to be the last time gamers were really going haywire over an MMORPG, but Neverwinter is probably the best free-to-play game in this genre in the last three years.
While I think it’s best to classify this game as an MMORPG similar to WoW, it also introduces action elements that have caused many fans of the game to relate it more closely to an ARPG. MMOARPG? It’s a little bit of the Diablo series and a little bit of World of Warcraft, though arguably not as good as either major title.
Combat is very fast. There are character companions, which take a deeper role in this game compared to any other I’ve played. The crafting system in Neverwinter is one unlike any other, where it practically allows you to turn the act of crafting into a browser-based game through a web portal. The game really has some innovative and intelligent new perks and features that aren’t quite as prevalent or maybe don’t even appear at all in other MMOs.
One of the most interesting features in Neverwinter lies within the Foundry. Daily Foundry Quests leave you with something to do right when you log on, and I’ve never seen another MMORPG that gives players an integrated way to create their own PvP arenas or dungeons. Through the Foundry, you’re able to experience content created by players and actually be rewarded for completion. It’s something that I think we’ll see more of in future MMOs.
The important thing to remember is that this game is free. It’s very difficult to find a free MMORPG that is actually worth playing anymore. I don’t feel as if Neverwinter is the type of game that will shock and awe new players, but it’s one that will leave you content and satisfied. If you’re looking for a game to replace World of Warcraft because you can no longer afford a monthly subscription, this game is an excellent alternative. It’s different and fun.
It hasn’t been since Minecraft that I felt as if a game that is in a beta state has really captured the gaming community. Hearthstone just recently moved from closed to open beta, but even before this change it was one of the most followed games on Twitch and people have been going crazy over it. Closed beta keys were reselling (illegally, that is) for more than $200 at one point. That is some serious interest.
I never would have predicted that a CCG (collectible card game) would get this huge. It’s addicting, easy to learn, and playable in both casual and competitive environments. It’s the game I go to when I’m finishing tedious tasks and need a quick break. One 20-minute game of Hearthstone every now and then keeps my brain stimulated.
Hearthstone is a card game that allows you to pick between nine different classes, all with their own style of play, class-specific abilities, and sets of cards. As you play and progress through the game, you level up, unlock cards, and achieve a rank. The Arena is really what makes this game such a treat. In this game mode, you are required to pay an entrance fee of 150 gold (which can be earned through daily quests or simply playing as often as possible). Then, you’re given the option to select one of three random classes. From here on, you go through randomly selected cards until you’ve chosen a full deck of 30. You then play through up to 12 wins (or three losses) until you’ve finished your run. At the end, you are rewarded for card packs and forms of in-game currency.
I never saw myself getting addicted to a card game, but Hearthstone really took me over at the end of 2013.
These three games offer a lot of variety: a MMORPG, an ARPG, and a CCG. I truly recommend that any PC gamer give all three of them a try because they are all truly quality games that I feel like anyone should be able to enjoy. Do you think there’s another game that really blew up in 2013 and deserves some attention? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.