Those of us in the United States have a three-day weekend coming up, and this isn't one of those "family" holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. This is boring ol' Labor Day, which, for gamers, means that we're looking at a solid 72 hours of prime gaming time. But what about the gamer whose gaming collection has run low? How will they possibly fill the long weekend without new games to play? Don't worry, as always, PC Gamer's got your back. Here's our roundup of games with free-to-play weekends, open betas, or recently launched free-to-play games to keep you interested. And if that's not enough, we're giving away five retail games to keep you gaming all weekend long and beyond!
Giveaway: Can't find a game you like on the list below? No worries, you should be able to find one in this list of games we're giving away: Mafia II, ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead, Aion, City of Heroes, and of course, everyone's favorite--Hello Kitty Online. To enter, post a comment telling us what which of the game worlds featured in this article you'd most like to live in and why. Winners will be selected on Friday and notified via private message on this site.
Free Game #1 - LOVE
How free? Free to play this weekend only
The one-man MMO that we've been big fans of since we first played it and met its creator, Eskil Esteenberg is finally letting players taste the game for free this weekend. At its most basic level, this is a game about players working together to create a settlement on a dangerous, yet resource-rish world. But it's really about so much more--this is a charming, abstract world of procedurally-generated terrain (that can be edited by players on the fly) that's as much about exploring the world around you as it is discovering the different, complex ways your character can interact with it. There's no hand-holding here, but for players looking for a sandbox world to explore and forge their own path in, this is a great chance to try out the game for free!
Free Game #2 - Champions Online
How free? Free to play for one week
Cryptic's superhero MMO is turning one year old this week and they're celebrating by letting everyone play their game for free for an entire week. From today until September 7th, whether you've purchased the game and stopped playing or never touched it before, you can jump in and create an alter ego to bash some baddies with. Even if you hate MMOs, I highly reccommend signing up for the free week, downloading the client and playing around with the character creator tool. Nobody does robust character creation better than Cryptic, and the tool is pretty much a game unto itself. Come up with some witty puns and model some superheroes off of it!
Free Game #3 - Final Fantasy XIV
How free? Open Beta
The launch of the open beta was delayed earlier this week due to the last-minute finding of critical bugs, but it looks poised to finally launch tonight at 6 PM PST. The game's a true descedent of the last FF MMO, XI, focusing on multiple professions (classes) on each character, slow combat and an emphasis on group play. If you're looking for a change from WoW, this might be just what you're looking for, but it's worth trying before you buy. Get in the open beta to give the game a test drive over the next few weeks to see if it's right from you.
Free Game #4 - Clone Wars Adventures
How free? Open beta; free to play
If minigames are your forte, Clone Wars Adventures is the best choice for you on this list. 3D social lobbies let you chat with friends and show off your droid companions or outfits, but the real meat of the game is hopping into the minigames--ranging from tower defense, shooting galleries, flash game knock-offs, and a space combat game that plays remarkably similar to how TOR's has been described so far. The rest of the mini-games are of surprisingly high quality as well. It's target audience is likely younger than your age, so the first few stages of each minigame will be a bit simple for you, but challenge modes and achievements raise the challenge bar as high as you want to take it later on.
Free Game #5 - Might & Magic: Heroes Kingdom
How free? Live; Free to play
Ubisoft's Might & Magic browser strategy MMO launched in North America last week without a lot of fanfare. With hero management, city building, political alliances, and addictive upgrading, this is my personal favorite browser game at the moment. It strikes a good balance between giving you things to do each day without rewarding you for logging in every hour, so it doesn't consume too much of your time. There is an optional subscription, but I've been playing for months without running into any limitations on my free account (subscription allows you to control more cities and more heroes later in the game, among other things), so get in there and have some fun for free!
Link: http://mm-hk.com/referral/ffeedd69440634cbf642e2ce4c22041d5951565e (this will place your kingdom near my own. Message "Nereus" to get an invite into the official PCG alliance on the realm!)
Of course, if you need more free games, be sure to click our "Free Games" tab along the top of our site to read all of our free games coverage.