Free to Play MMORPGs at E3 2010
At this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo there were more MMOs and MMORPGs on display than ever before. 2010 marked the first time that many major free to play MMO developers like Nexon even bothered to show up to the event. Despite the popularity and name recognition of World of Warcraft, MMOs still make up a very small part of the overall video gaming industry which is mostly dominated by console titles. I predict that’s all about to change, and the strong showing of the genre at this year’s E3 is part of the reason why. Now without further ado let’s take a look at some of the major free to play MMOs and MMORPGs that were on display on the show floor!
Perfect World Entertainment had a strong showing at E3 with both its upcoming and existing MMORPGs. The 2.5D action-RPG styled MMORPG was released earlier this year, and was well received. BOI stands out from previous PWE games like Ether Saga Online and Jade Dynasty since it uses an entirely different engine. Players can expect quest driven progression, a fast experience rate, and plenty of group based raid content.
The polar opposite of PWE’s flagship title Perfect World, Forsaken World is scheduled for release later this year. Set in the fantasy world of Eyrda, Forsaken World will draw more heavily from Western mythology than its predecessors. Among the five announced playable races are the vampire-like Kindred, and the rock hard Stonemen. The game promises interesting PvP dynamics which gamers can read about on our preview page.
It’s pretty obvious that our friends in Asia are running out of ways to arrange the words for their Three Kingdoms related MMORPGs. With Kingdom Heroes, Three Kingdoms: The Battle Begins, and Warriors of the Three Kingdoms already taken Perfect World Entertainment went with Heroes of Three Kingdoms for their China centric MMORPG. The game is already accepting applicants for its closed beta, and is scheduled for release later this year. While players may already be familiar with the warring Wu, Shu, and Wei nations, Heroes of Three Kingdoms does offer many original gameplay features. Large scale PvP features such as a naval component promise some pretty epic battles.
First announced in 2006, Black Prophecy is now making its way closer to release. The German free to play portal Gamigo announced that it would publish the game globally as a free to play title. This is a huge deal since Black Prophecy looks like a high quality product. Best of all, it promises action packed gameplay in a huge sci-fi space theme. While Sci-Fi MMORPGs have been making a comeback lately, most have been browser based. It’s great to have a full feature space themed MMORPG on the horizon. No release date set, but a playable demo was available on the E3 show floor and beta applications are currently being accepted.
Star Wars: The Old Republic wasn’t the only Star Wars MMORPG vying for attention at E3. While Bioware’s game holds promise, it will require a monthly subscription. Gamers looking for a less serious and cheaper Star Wars game can look forward to Sony Online Entertainment’s Clone Wars Adventures. Built on the same engine as Free Realms, CWA will offer varied gameplay options ranging from light saber duels to speeder bike races. The animated graphics are a great fit for the spin-off Clone Wars franchise that the game is based on. Knowing Sony, access to many premium features will require a subscription, but that doesn’t mean free players can’t have fun.
Already widely popular in Korea and Japan, Uncharted Water Online is finally making its voyage to North America. Set between the 15th and 17th centuries, players in UWO chose one of the European naval powers of the era and chase their fortune as sailors, merchants, soldiers, pirates, or as a mixture of all of these. A cinematic trailer was released recently, but little else. Netmarble will be publishing the game here, but no release date has been set. We expect something similar to Voyage Century, so let’s see how the two games compare.
Originally titled Mabinogi Heroes, Nexon decided to add some Latin flare to the game now known in the US & Europe as Vindictus. Loosely based on Celtic (that’s Irish) mythology, Vindictus has little to do with its cutesy MMORPG forebearer. Instead, Vindictus will deliver an action packed MMO built on the Source Engine. Players will be able to hack and slash at various monsters using all manner of weaponry, and even be able to interact with the terrain itself. Official trailers and gameplay footage from the Korean servers show players picking up pillars, using orcs as body shield against archers, and much else. Beta testing for Vindictus should start soon, with a full release expected later this year.
Dragon Nest has been on many of our radars for years. The original closed beta was supposed to begin way back in 2008, but the game was wracked by a series of delays. It made a strong showing at E3 this year with a playable demo though it is still not expected to see release until 2011. From what we know so far, Dragon Nest has action packed gameplay, high quality anime style graphics, and randomly generated instanced dungeons for players to romp through.
While Nexon’s arcade style brawler has been playable for months, its official transition from open beta to commercial release coincided with E3. DFO is reminiscent of old school button mashers we all wasted quarters on in the arcades. While the graphics and gameplay mechanics may be nothing new, taking the genre online has made in much more accessible and social. Form groups to go through the instanced dungeons on higher difficulties and fight stronger bosses. If competition is your style, fight solo or team PvP matches.
Little is known about Swordsman Online, Perfect World Entertainment will be publishing it in North America but there’s no official site up yet. Based on trailers of the Chinese version, the game looks like a kung fu style MMORPG set in medieval China. Think of it as an updated version of 9Dragons or World of Kung Fu. Combat looks fast paced and gives players plenty of flexibility. You won’t just be trading blows in Swordsman Online, strategy and timing will be essential. No beta date or release date has been set.
Zentia marks ChangYou’s third MMORPG to making its way to American shores. The popular Chinese developer is best known Dragon Oath and the upcoming Blade Wars. Zentia has more animated, anime style visuals and promises humorous dialogue and storytelling. Among some of its strongest features are the ability to tame many of the monsters players encounter, mounts that can carry multiple users, and the varied character and class options available. Zentia was announced at E3 and closed beta testing is scheduled for July 7th, 2010. Expect full release later in the year.
The unquestionable success of Dungeons and Dragons Online’s switch to free to play has left an impression on Turbine. While The Lord of the Rings Online is in much better shape than DDO was prior to the switch, Turbine hopes to repeat the magic. LOTRO has high production value and is sure to see a large increase in players when it goes free to play later this year. In the mean time, prospective players can sign up for the closed beta of the new f2p service. Like DDO, an optional VIP subscription will give players access to additional features. The rest of us will have to purchase extras like additional character and inventory slots incrementally.
Well there you have it. A dozen free to play MMORPGs that were on display at this year’s E3. There were undoubtedly more that were announced or playable at the convention, but this article was getting a bit long. If you can think of any games that I overlooked, please post them below. More importantly, if any of you were at the expo this year be sure to share your experience with us!
By, Erhan Altay