Still Paying for WoW? Top 5 Free MMORPG Alternatives
MMORPG: Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. I’m sure they would of thought of a catchier acronym if they had known how popular the genre would one day become.
We saw the first batch of MMORPG releases back in the late 90s with games like Ultima Online, EverQuest and other complicated high fantasy titles tailored specifically to the gaming hardcore elite. In late 2004 Blizzard changed the face of online gaming with World of Warcraft, the latest entry to the now 15 year old Warcraft series. While WoW boasted the same fantasy theme popularized by older MMORPGs, it managed to attract a broader audience. This success is due in part to the company’s already large fan base gathered by the critically acclaimed Starcraft and Diablo series. But this is only a part of the expelnation. What made World of Warcraft so popular was mainly its ease of access. Almost anyone, including young console gamers, house wives, or even retired postmen could enjoy the game at their own pace. The game has been so successful that over 12 million people across the world pay Blizzard a monthly or, in parts of Asia, an hourly fee for the privilege of spending time in lands of Azeroth.
Whether you’re a MMORPG veteran whose experience predate WoW, a current WoW gamer burned out on the content, or even a newcomer to the MMORPG genre, you should know that you have options. Today there are dozens of high quality free to play (f2p) MMORPGs available that neither charge an upfront retail price nor a monthly service fee. These games come in all shapes and sizes. Some take hours to download and are as epic in scope as World of Warcraf it self while others are only a few hundred megabytes large and are closer to the side-scrollers we played a decade ago. What ever your preferred genre, there’s a free alternative out there. Of course these games are not run for charity. They are supported by optional micro-transactions for clothes, special dyes, temporary power-ups and so on. The best of these f2p titles never compromise game balance or offer services unattainable by free players and it is from this pool that I have selected 5 of the top free MMORPG alternatives to WoW.
Let’s start things off slow with a game that looks and plays much like World of Warcraft. Gates of Andaron is published by the German company GameForge which is also behind a number of other free MMORPGs. In GoA, two factions: the Derion and Valorian fight for control of the entirety of Iberia. The interface, graphic style and even class progression system mirror those found in WoW but with the whole package available for the whopping sum of $0 USD, who can refuse.
Outspark’s Fiesta Online is an anime themed fantasy MMORPG that’s best used to lure your younger siblings or girlfriend into the genre. With cute graphics and little in the way of graphic violence, Fiesta won’t cause any parent aggro but still packs plenty of content. The game world is massive and contains many dungeons, including raid bosses which require large scale cooperation.
Console gamers more accustomed to thinking of turn-based battles when they hear the term ‘RPG’ should break into the MMORPG field with Atlantica Online. This huge game packs in so much content that the world map is literally the world map. Players can explore every major continent from the lush forests of Southern Korea to the rocky mountains of North America. Of course the world is coated with a thick paint of fantasy and players can hire up to 4 mercenaries to accompany them on their journeys. Both the main character and mercenaries are under the player’s control which means strategy plays a much bigger role in Atlantica that simple button mashing.
Step into a Perfect World! With this simple catch-phrase, this Chinese MMORPG has managed to capture audiences across Asian and the West. Best known for its top-notch character creation process, Perfect World puts to same the handful of hair and face styles offered by games like WoW. Unlike most Asian developed games, Perfect World is light on grind. Instead, it places a strong emphasis on questing and grouping. Other oddities include the game’s low-gravity like jumps and double jumps which allow players to scale high walls and explore the game in three dimensions with flying mounts which are available from an early level.
The top spot for best free WoW alternative goes to Runes of Magic by a landslide. Built with World of Warcraft in mind, Frogster Entertainment has fashioned a world that takes the best WoW has to offer and mixed with its own unique features. While the two games share artistic style, interface design, and other features, RoM has added a unique multi-classing system which allows all players to create hybrids between their favorite WoW builds. Ever wanted to be a Mage-Rogue capable of lobbing fireballs fro afar but equally deadly at close range with poisoned daggers, well now’s your chance! Runes of Magic also places a strong emphasis on exploration and instanced dungeons, so old school WoW fans should feel right at home.
By, Erhan Altay