The roots of of massively multiplayer online games, or MMOs, are deep in the realm of subscription based gameplay. While today the idea of charging a subscription fee for a game seems cliche, it was revolutionary when MMOs began to gain popularity roughly a decade ago.
Everquest, while not the first MMO, was the genre’s most amazing success story. Suddenly everyone wanted a piece of the pie, and numerous subscription-based games were created, although most of them were crushed by World of Warcraft.
Today, however, a huge number of game developers and publishers across the globe have teamed up to create whole set of free MMO games which allow players to enjoy content without cost. There are literally hundreds of free-to-play games available, but to be honest, most of them are terrible. Anyone who has enjoyed World of Warcraft or any other quality MMO will find that most free mmo games feel like they’re free simply because no one would buy them.
But there are some exceptions, and the exceptions are very, very good. If you’re looking to play a MMO, but you’re too thin on funds to afford a subscription MMO, check out these three free MMO games. You’ll find that they’re surprisingly fun.
Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited
Dungeons and Dragons Online has lived an odd life. The game was released in 2006 as a traditional subscription based MMO under the name Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach. It promptly tanked due to a combination of bugs and lack of content. The game was put on life support, and as the years dragged on it failed to gain an audience. Then, in mid 2009, the game was converted to a free-to-play MMO under its current name . Since then it has earned a much larger and more dedicated player base.
D&D Online’s roots as a subscription base game purchased at retail gives it a large advantage over other free-to-play MMOs. While free MMOs have come a long way, most still have basic gameplay and poor graphics. None of this is true of Dungeons and Dragons Online. Dungeons and Dragons Online is a beautiful game, and it still feels like a title you’d expect to pay forty dollars for at Best Buy or Walmart.
Graphics aside, D&D Online’s gameplay sets it apart from other MMOs. The focus of the game is the same as the pen-and-paper version of D&D. There isn’t a heavy focus on crafting, or equipment, or player against player combat. The focus of the game is on groups of players fighting through intense dungeons full of monsters and traps.
No other MMO can touch D&D Online’s combat mechanics, which are simply superb. However, players who enjoy crafting items or finding incredible loot may not find D&D Online to be what they’re looking for.
A relatively new free MMO game, Allods Online focuses on the remains of the world Sarnaut, a planet which was destroyed during an apocalypse in which millions of the planet’s inhabitants died. The remains of the planet, called allods, are small islands of land stabilized in space by mages.
You might expect, given the back-story, that Allods would be a rather grim and dark game. In fact, the opposite is the case. Allods Online takes the bright, colorful style pioneered by World of Warcraft and turns it up to eleven, resulting in a vibrant, well polished game.
The game’s lore also opens the opportunity for original and interesting gameplay mechanics, one of which is the construction of Astral Ships, gigantic ships which are a cross between space cruisers and 17th century sailing vessels. Every player in the game can construct their own Astral Ship once they’ve reached the appropriate levels and gathered the required materials. Once the ship is built it can be used to explore the game world and travel to new allods. This isn’t a party for one, either – players can invite up to six other players to their ship, and each player can attend to a different part of the ship’s functions.
Astral Ships aside, you’ll still spend a lot of time on the ground in Allods Online. Anyone who has played World of Warcraft will be pretty familiar with what the basic combat feels like. The combat mechanics aren’t revolutionary, but they are well implemented and entertaining. If you’re looking for a game like World of Warcraft, but you don’t want to have to pay monthly subscription fees, Allods Online is your best bet.
You know the MMO formula, right? Third person perspective, skill-based attacks, forced group combat – etc. This all works well, but it of course can become a bit boring after months of play, and most MMOs don’t do much to change the status quo. Allods Online, for example, is great – but if you’re bored to death of combat in World of Warcraft, fleeing to Allods Online isn’t likely to make you feel any more excited.
Enter. Like most other MMO games, there are substantial role-playing elements to Atlantica Online. You pick a character, you level up, and you occasionally take place in crafting and other activities. When you step into combat, however, you’ll be thrown for a bit of a loop. Atlantica Online’s combat is turn based, and it doesn’t just focus on your character. Instead, your character is a commander, and you have a number of units at your disposal which you’ll need to use strategically in order to achieve victory. Anyone who has played the old Heroes of Might and Magic games will instantly feel at home here.
The unique combat makes Atlantica Online an perfect haven for MMO burnouts. If you’ve played tons of free and subscription based MMOs and you feel that you’ve seen it all, give Atlantica Online a try. Its turn based combat will appear difficult to some, and it certainly won’t cause an adrenaline surge. It is fun, however – even relaxing – to command units instead of running up to an opponent and hitting auto-attack.
Which To Play?
There is a lot of fun to be found in all of the games found here, and none of them are clearly better than the others. However, each free MMO does target a specific audience.
Those who enjoy group play and dungeon-crawling will adore Dungeons and Dragons Online. Those who prefer traditional MMO mechanics but want a new world to explore should flock to Allods Online. And those looking for something completely different from the status quo will love Atlantica Online.
If you’re looking for the best free MMO games for children, check out our article “Top 3 Online Multiplayer Games for Youngsters .”
So, what are you waiting for? There are levels to be gained!