Pete Davison: Freebie-Jeebies

Posted on June 14, 2011 by

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Free to play games are here to stay, it seems, with Steam launching a dedicated category for the little buggers today — complete with Achievement support and Steam-powered microtransactions.

With that in mind, I’ve decided I’m going to delve into some of them and try to determine if any of them are actually any good. A lot of people hear the words “free to play” and assume it’s going to be some lame-ass Facebook game with no gameplay whatsoever (seriously, I played one earlier that literally gave you experience points for doing nothing at all) but in actual fact, there’s a surprisingly rich range of titles on offer out there.

I’ve just spent about half an hour with Spiral Knights from SEGA. This one appealed because of a recommendation from a friend, the most excellent CampfireBurning, who described it as a cross between Zelda and Phantasy Star Online. This sounded like an excellent combination of awesomeness, so I set Steam to downloading while I did some work.

It’s a small download — less than a gig (when did that become “small”?) — and works on both PC and Mac. It has endearingly simplistic graphics that will likely run smoothly on absolutely anything and, unlike many other F2P titles, understands widescreen resolutions. It also has a pleasantly chiptuney sort of soundtrack, a straightforward control system and a no-nonsense approach to getting you into a party for some dungeon-delving.

Gameplay is similarly straightforward. You have a sword, with which you can slash, and a gun, with which you can pew. The sword does more damage than the gun, but the gun can pew at things that can’t reach you. There are also blocks and bushes that hide coins and hearts, as well as “treasure blocks”, which are self-explanatory.

I’ve only played the tutorial so far so I can’t speak for the variety of the dungeons, but the simple, cartoonish nature of the graphics means that little more than a palette-swap is all that’s really needed to give a level a distinct look — hopefully it offers a little more than that, though, as time goes on.

Hopefully the ease with which these games are apparently going to integrate with Steam will convince a lot more people to check them out. And the fact Steam has introduced a full free to play section should mean we get a lot more of these games on Steam, too, bringing them to a potentially huge audience. The future’s bright for people who don’t like paying for things but also don’t want to pirate them!

I’m going to spend a bit of time with Spiral Knights and then post some more detailed thoughts in the very near future. After that, I’m going to investigate APB Reloaded and World of Tanks. Any other suggestions for free to play excellence?

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Posted in: Pete Davison