This week's best free PC games
As PC gaming's apparent shift towards free-to-play continues, PC Gamer let me write about actually famous games like World of Warcraft. Of course, the indie studios still dominate the free games scene - and so they should, if they're continuing to churn out material of this quality. In addition to Blizzard's MMO masterpiece, this week we have a trio of splendid games from tiny studios. Read on for the best free PC games of the week...
World of Warcraft Starter Edition
Blizzard. Sign up on the official website.
Some unknown online game called World of Warcraft is now free-to-play. Well, sort of. What you get for your lack of money is time-unlimited game content up to level 20, although there are fairly tight restrictions set in place to limit the fun you can have.
What you don't get are the auction house, voice chat, mailbox, player-to-player trading and, quite fundamentally, access to guilds. Gold is capped at 10, and trade skills stop at 100.
But what you do get are the first 20 levels of a truly majestic MMO. There's a reason it's so popular: it can be phenomenally deep and intricate, but it's also accessible, friendly, and ultimately forgiving to new players, even those who've never picked up an MMO before. Its version of Azeroth is lighthearted, cartoon-like and welcoming, despite the dark things that go on within it. It's constantly rewarding, too. If you're not one of the hundreds of billions of people already playing, the Starter Edition is your chance to see why we think World of Warcraft is still the best MMO ever made.
Joost van Dongen. Grab it from the official website.
In Proun, named after a series of paintings by Russian artist El Lissitzky, you play as a ball travelling very quickly around the outside of a tubular circuit. But there are obstacles. Obstacles which smash your spherical little face in if you don't have the reaction times of a star-nosed mole. (It's the creature with the fastest known reaction times on Earth. I looked it up. Yeah, I'm cool.)
It's a game in which the slowest speed setting is 'Fast'. It is fast enough. To unlock the higher settings, you'll have to win championships on the lower ones, which can be quite a challenge. As there are only three tracks (a fourth unlocked if you choose to pay for the game), it can also be a little tedious - but it's worth pressing onwards just to experience the extraordinary speeds of the more advanced modes.
It looks great, it features some awesome music, and you can get it for absolutely nothing - although there's a pay-what-you-like option, and the dev does, of course, encourage you to throw in a donation if find yourself having fun. You will.
Mosquito and Cow
Petum. Play it on Kongregate.
This barmy puzzle game sees you taking on the role of a mosquito. Your mission is to suck the blood out of cows. And that's it.
Of course, cows are smart. Smart enough not to let a pesky mosquito bother them, anyway. They'll bat you away with their very strange tails if you get too close, ridding you of any opportunity for attack.
Sometimes it's as easy as stumbling upon a cow who's asleep. But most of the time you'll have to hatch dastardly plans, rigging often quite complex traps for the cows to fall into. A pleasant little earthworm guides you through the game with pictorial hints, while the game's entire aesthetic sits brilliantly between the twee and the obscure. It's a surreal, silly game, but that's why I like it.
Not Vlambeer. Play it on the Vlambeer website.
Increasingly prolific Dutch indie developer Vlambeer and its side-projects are churning out some really top material at the moment. This time, it's an air combat game that uses its extreme simplicity to its advantage.
You can fly around, and you can shoot. You'll be attacked by other planes, which you've to destroy, but you can also destroy ships and the like. It's all played on a screen with just a handful of colours on it, and the same tiny passage of music loops throughout.
It works, however, because every single element of the game is so precise. The controls are flawless, that little musical motif gets your head nodding, and the simplicity of its visual style affords clarity to every inch of the game. It's small but perfectly formed, basically. I think you'll enjoy it a lot.