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Ever since I was just a boy in grade school, I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of the MMORPG – Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game for those of you who aren’t familiar with the genre. With thousands of players existing simultaneously in the same world, it’s as close a replication to real world dynamics as you can get. It’s a fun genre and nowadays you can play high-quality MMORPGs without ever paying a cent.

Free-to-play (F2P) MMORPGs have a stigma that separates them from subscription-based MMORPGs. Some think that F2P MMORPGs can never match the quality and polish of a subscription MMORPG. Others think that F2P MMORPGs use psychological trickery to force players to spend money to progress. Whether or not these criticisms are true, the F2P MMORPGs in this list exist as exceptions that deserve your attention.

Neverwinter

Neverwinter is the latest offering from Cryptic Studios, a development group known for other MMORPGs including City of Heroes, Champions Online, and Star Trek Online. Neverwinter is based on the Forgotten Realm setting, which itself is based on Dungeons & Dragons. The game has stylistic graphics, deep lore, and an engrossing story that will keep you riveted through and through.

As is the trend these days, Neverwinter’s combat system eschews the turn-based button-mashing of yore in favor of an action-based battle system focused on the proper usage of a small skillset. There is no auto-attacking and no targeting. If you want to hit something, you’ll need to center it on your aiming reticule. Neverwinter also has an arena-based PvP system called Domination which involves capture points. It’s not the best MMORPG PvP out there, but it’s certainly not the worst.

But the most intriguing aspect of Neverwinter has to be its user-generated content Build Your Own MMO Dungeon In Neverwinter Build Your Own MMO Dungeon In Neverwinter Ten years ago Bioware released a game called Neverwinter Nights. Though disappointing as a single-player RPG, the campaign wasn't really the point. Instead, the game focused on user-generated multiplayer content built with the amazingly powerful... Read More . Using the Foundry, you can create and publish instanced quests that other players can play through and complete for rewards. The Foundry includes editors for quest, story, map, dialogue trees, items, and more.

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Before you hop into Neverwinter, be sure to check out these great resources to help you get started Check Out These 5 Links Before You Start Playing Neverwinter [MUO Gaming] Check Out These 5 Links Before You Start Playing Neverwinter [MUO Gaming] Read More .

TERA Rising

TERA, which stands for The Exiled Realm of Arborea, is a game that generated a lot of hype thanks to its attempts to innovate on the MMO genre. The most obvious advancement is the combat system, which is entirely real-time, uses a crosshair, and requires the player to actively dodge enemy attacks. It sounds similar to Neverwinter above, but TERA came first and broke away from the norm in F2P MMORPG combat.

TERA follows in the footsteps of many MMORPGs once premium but now free-to-play 5 Initially Premium MMO Games That Are Now Free To Play [MUO Gaming] 5 Initially Premium MMO Games That Are Now Free To Play [MUO Gaming] It's hard to say where the gaming industry is heading, but freemium games are likely playing a big part in it. Where traditional games ask for your sixty dollars up front, freemium games take their... Read More . In February 2013, TERA rebranded itself as TERA Rising and switched from subscriptions to microtransactions. The developers have promised that free players can expect to never be limited in content or level. All of the F2P perks provide for convenience, not necessity.

Age of Wushu

Age of Wushu takes much of the martial arts history of China and puts them head-to-head in a war between schools. It’s not an original setting for an MMORPG, but what really sets Age of Wushu apart from other F2P MMORPGs is its surprisingly simple-yet-complex combat system. At its core, it can be abstracted into “rock-paper-scissors,” but once you add in special attacks, feints, parries, and combos, it elevates to an entirely new level altogether.

There are no classes in Age of Wushu, but there are schools. Players are able to learn every skill in the game if they can gain access to the appropriate training, whether by joining different schools, buying them from other players, or completing tough challenges. The battles are fun to play and tough to master, but equally dazzling and fun to watch as a spectator.

As a F2P game, Age of Wushu does have an item mall, but it does not sell any stats, abilities, or items that would result in player advantage. Instead, you’ll find vanity costumes and common skills that can be bought simply out of convenience, not power.

Dungeons & Dragons Online

Dungeons & Dragons Online, also known as DDO, is the oldest game on this list, having been released way back in early 2006. Like Neverwinter, DDO is a game based on Dungeons & Dragons 4 Fantastic Video Games Based On Dungeons And Dragons 4 Fantastic Video Games Based On Dungeons And Dragons If I mentioned tabletop RPGs to you, what is the first one that pops into your head? If I had to guess, I would assume you are thinking of Dungeons and Dragons. Sure, some people... Read More , though in the Eberron setting instead of the Forgotten Realm setting. Developed by Turbine, better known for developing Lord of the Rings Online, DDO is a F2P game for the ages.

The majority of DDO’s gameplay is quest-based: you speak to NPCs who send you into certain instances, you complete the quest, then continue the chain. Instances can be used for multiple quests and the content of the instance changes based on the quest. Quests can be performed on a range of difficulties with the harder ones rewarding more XP and Favor. Favor is a measurement of your character’s progress and can be used to earn advancements and unlock features.

My favorite part of DDO’s F2P structure is that instances are released in packs. If you want to play in a specific set of quests and instances, you can purchase that pack, all the while ignoring those that you’ll never play. If you grind enough, you can actually purchase every pack and play through all of DDO’s content without paying a cent.

Conclusion

So who says F2P MMORPGs have to be bad? Sure, there are low quality games out on the market, but if you ask me, there are low quality subscription games as well. The MMORPGs on this list prove that an F2P game can be fun, exciting, and playable without needing to sink tons of money to get past artificial roadblocks. These F2P games are worth your attention and time.

What do you think of these F2P games? Do you know of any others that deserve a mention? I’m always open to hearing more about new F2P MMORPGs that hit the market. Please share your thoughts with us in the comments!

  1. GamerIncognito
    January 25, 2014 at 11:57 pm

    SWToR: Very nice game. While it is true that the f2p end is limited, once you start making credits (the currency) you can buy some of the many unlocks from the GTN (for those new to it, that is basically like the Auction houses in other games) that can open the game up a lot more for you; also, completing some of the legacy achievements will award you CC (Cartel Coins), the currency used to make Cartel market (item mall basically) purchases. As an example, I bought the last 6 character slot unlocks from the GTN around Christmas time which when I pay a subscription gives me 22 character slots in total. The crafting system in SWToR is pretty nice, with Cybertech, Artificer and Armstech the most useful imo (well, Biotech if you are not rolling as a healer, for the medpacks). It is definitely worth a look over, just to see if you might actually enjoy the game.

    Aion: Yes, its a very "pretty" game, but unless you are into the open world gankfest, you might not enjoy it after a while. Nothing pushes me away from a game faster then repeated gankings from bored level 60 players. The crafting system is pretty well done, which is one of the things that kept me around for as long as I was.

    Rift: Great game, wasn't aware it was going downhill though, its been a while since I played it. The PvP in the game leaves a lot to be desired.... At times it seems as if you are stuck in a hired punching bag position (unpaid of course) as you enter a round assigned to the other faction's team; that was usually an indicator that you were about to receive a royal stompdown. I liked the class system however, different then anything I had done before. The crafting if I recall was fairly good as well; the cooking might have been a bit tedious, but the rest was great.

    STO: I love Star Trek; but the game was so slow in the beginning for me, that I stopped playing it after a few days. I might venture back and give it another try eventually though.

    Tera: I think I managed a level 50 or so character before it became apparent that I was never going into another dungeon unless I spent hours in chat trying to get a group. The game itself is nice, the combat system took me some getting used to; the healing took about the same amount of time to get down. It wasn't bad, just...different. I would not recommend the crafting to anyone honestly, as everything (no, i am serious) before end game is utterly useless. I didn't believe what people were saying, because I am just stubborn that way, and went and worked on it anyway. I found out that they were not lying; you litterally can ignore the crafting until you are at endgame, when you have the funds available to you to actually buy the materials (you have no choice, most of the stuff you will need comes from vendors that few new players will be able to afford when starting out) that you will use to level up. The upside however, you can get to end game level in crafting in roughly an hour, maybe less.

    AoW & DDO: Having never played AoW, I will not comment; I am just not too into MA games tbh. DDO I tried to play, but couldn't get into it during beta. I may try this again sometime.

    Neverwinter: ....I try a lot of beta's when I see them out there. Neverwinter was looking good, but the bugs..... you know how first impressions are right? I tried to keep an open mind, it was a beta after all, but there were so many bugs, I think it ruined the experience for me. But it really did look like it was going to be a great game.

    I know, who cares what I think anyway. My first MMO experience was Last Chaos; yeah, thats a winner! We all had to get our start somewhere though. I think what I am trying to convey with this, is that my experiences, might not be the same experiences that you have. you may love something I do not; I may love something you do not. Really, anything that someone has posted here as a good game to try, is worth a look into. you never know, you might actually enjoy the game, even if someone you know or game with does not. I would say that I was going to check out some of what the others here have mentioned, except that I have already, lol. So if you haven't actually tried these games, it won't hurt you to try them. You might see them differently then I did, or as someone else you did.

  2. Melbourne Marsden
    October 30, 2013 at 4:39 am

    Well written article. Some of the people commenting don't seem to understand that it is "4 Free To Play MMORPGs That Are Worth Getting Hooked On" not "The Only Free To Play MMORPGs That Are Worth Getting Hooked On".

    • Joel L
      October 31, 2013 at 9:12 pm

      Thanks! I appreciate it. :)

  3. Mark
    October 30, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Another vote for Star Trek Online!

  4. Victor
    October 29, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    You should actually try games rather than taking your friends word for it. Star wars the old republic is a solid game and Marvel Heroes is also good. Actually they are all worth playing to someone, you should title it games me and my friends like.

    • Joel L
      October 29, 2013 at 9:37 pm

      By that logic, no one could have any opinions on anything until they've tried literally every alternative available. The article promises 4 free MMORPGs that are worth playing, not that these are the ONLY games worth playing.

  5. Christian C
    October 29, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    TERA is really good - I worked on a Killer Guides manual for it - and I would recommend it to anyone. While it doesn't offer anything groundbreaking it is a good MMO experience.

    • Joel L
      October 29, 2013 at 9:35 pm

      TERA would've been the fifth MMORPG on this list if I could've squeezed it in!

    • Joel L
      November 1, 2013 at 6:51 am

      Oops, I was thinking AION when you said TERA. My bad!

  6. randall
    October 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    I believe Rift and Aion are also completely F2P now, and not bad games overall. Rift offers some nice character build customization and Aion is, well, pretty.

    • Joel L
      October 29, 2013 at 9:36 pm

      Both are worth a mention, yeah. RIFT is on a downward spiral, though, and I feel like AION, while good, isn't as noteworthy as the four on the list. Thanks for mentioning them, though!

  7. Brian F
    October 29, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Star Wars: The Old Republic & Star Trek Online.

    Neither needs to be bought in order to play. You will get things faster if you purchase it like a lifetime subscription or other extras, but in no way is it required.

  8. Doc
    October 29, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    "... based on the Forgotten Realm setting," Forgotten REALMS.

  9. wrathart
    October 29, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    rift?

    • Joel L
      October 29, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      If you haven't heard the news, RIFT has been downsizing their servers due to a rapidly falling population. I do not feel comfortable recommending an MMORPG that may not even exist in one year's time.

  10. Jon Utley
    October 29, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    Path of Exile ;)
    http://www.pathofexile.com/

  11. Michael Jan M
    October 29, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    you should include dragon nest ^^

  12. joe
    October 29, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Last I check GW2 is not free to play, though no subscription which is pretty cool.

    Where Is The Old Republic? F2P is fairly limited but the class story lines are pretty awesome... more like a co-op for F2P players than an MMO.

    • Joel L
      October 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm

      I haven't personally played SWTOR so I can't make any judgments for myself, but one reason I haven't played it is because many of my friends and acquaintances did not like the game. :(

  13. Douglas (@doug200463)
    October 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Im guessing you dont play many MMOs....

    • Joel L
      October 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      If you think there are other F2P MMORPGs more deserving to be on this list, please share your thoughts. Enlighten us! :)

  14. Goofy
    October 29, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    where are guild wars 2 ?

    • Michael Jan M
      October 29, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      nope can do. you need to buy guild war 2 before you can play it. actually I'm not against to P2P as there are many noobs on a F2P game but guild wars does it right by buying the game and as long as you bought it you can play it now as long as you want. this eliminate some nasty pay to win system and a very good amount of income for the developers

    • Joel L
      October 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      As Michael mentioned, GW2 does not have a subscription but it does have a hefty retail cost, so I do not consider it a F2P game.

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