The time for begging, hoping and forum-scouring for invites is over, and the time for unrestricted access to Hearthstone is here... for many of us, at least. Blizzard just launched its Warcraft-themed free-to-play card game into open beta in North America, with other regions rolling out "later this week," which means you'll see a big purple "Play Free Now" button on the Hearthstone website if you live in the US or Canada. If you've been waiting for your shot at card battling greatness, love Magic the Gathering, or just want to see what all the fuss is about, wait no longer.
Free To Play
Clearly in a reflective mood, Grinding Gear Games have revealed some new statistics on the popularity of free-to-play ARPG Path of Exile. Officially released this October, after an open beta that began at the start of 2013, their numbers state that over 3.7 million have signed up to play the game. Given the click-heavy nature of the genre, it looks as if 2014 is going to be an extremely good year for the makers of heat packs.
The free-to-play MechWarrior Online announced that players are now able to pre-purchase mechs from its upcoming Clan Collection, which will be released June 17. Prices start at $30 for the standard mech collections—going up to $240—and may include different variants, badges and custom titles, premium time, concept art, and other unique content.
A dogfighting multiplayer game focused on the aircraft of World War 2 and Korea never seemed like a natural fit for mouse and keyboard. World of Warplanes faced an almost insurmountable dilemma: if it was easy to control, it wouldn't feel like actual flying and dogfighting, and if it did feel authentic, then it would probably exclude most of its intended audience.
It's a celebrity packed trailer for War Thunder's Ground Forces expansion. They've got all the stars: the infamous Light-Grey Tank, the controversial Dark-Grey Tank, and the much idolised Dirty Greenish Tank. Okay, fine, I'm as unsuited to distinguishing between tanks as I am to actual celebrities. Whatever their names are, though, they're probably here, in a big ol' tank montage introducing the once aerial-only free-to-play battler's more grounded update.
New Zealand-based developer Grinding Gear Games has reason to celebrate. Only a month after launch, its free-to-play, clicky-click action RPG Path of Exile enjoys more than 250,000 daily users, and over 4 million registered users. 1.5 million unique players logged in following the end of its open beta.
Sometimes even the perfect siege gets a false start. Lord of the Rings Online: Helm's Deep, a new expansion to the Tolkienesque MMORPG, was supposed to go live today. But thanks to a power outage at the game's data center, the release has been delayed until Wednesday, according to an update to developer Turbine's Facebook page.
World of Warplanes, the free-to-play air combat game from the creators of World of Tanks, is now officially online. The game currently features the planes of five nations and over 100 different planes, but the real key to watch will be Wargaming’s ongoing updates and support. As was the case with World of Tanks, World of Warplanes can expect frequent updates and balances and a steady stream of new content.
How thunderous are planes? They're in the sky, which is where thunder lives, but do they really have that unstoppably primal element that should accompany the adjective? If not, that's a problem for a game like War Thunder, which until now has focused on the aerial side of World War 2. The solution, it seems, is to introduce playable ground forces to the free-to-play dogfighter - specifically tanks. Tanks are definitely thunderous. And warlike.
I'm not sure how I feel about getting emails from Neptune's Pride. Dirty, I guess? It was a game responsible for some pretty reprehensible behaviour, as part of a month-long campaign of stress, plotting and backstabbing. After it was over, I swore never to play it again. Then Neptune's Pride 2: Triton appeared, so naturally I played it again. Now it's emailing me, seemingly for no reason other reason than to taunt me with a reminder of its existence, and to reveal that its developers are testing out 64-player games of mammoth machination and mental manoeuvring.
Action RPG Path of Exile sees its first post-launch patch go live this Wednesday, the first update of seven planned before Grinding Gears releases an expansion in March 2014. While the 1.0.1 update includes its share of mysterious new items to try out, it's also set to kick off the free-to-play game's fifth season of competitive events, according to lead designer Chris Wilson.
Sony Online Entertainment today announced a Founder's Pack for EverQuest Next Landmark, its upcoming MMO-meets-sandbox building game and spin-off of the in-development EverQuest Next. Starting today, you can purchase one of three packs for the game, two of which include early alpha access when the game launches early next year, plus a whole bunch of in-game items and tools.
"Free-to-play" and "microtransactions" are dirty terms to some. That's understandable. Famous Facebook Skinner boxes like Farmville have clouded attitudes toward today's free-to-play games, and there's an assumption all microtransaction-driven game design is handicapped by the need to create ways to charge players. For some games, this is certainly true, but there are excellent free-to-play games out there that represent good value for money. Below we've assessed some of the most common methods used by free-to-play games to make money from players, and highlighted some of the fairest examples of free-to-play that are worth your time.
Hawken's latest beta patch is live, dropping a new mech and a new co-op game mode onto the mech shooter's dystopian landscape. Code-named Predator, the new mech has some decidedly asymmetrical tactics and weapons at its disposal, according to information on the "Invasion" update released by developer Adhesive Games.
MechWarrior Online doesn’t have melee combat, but it does have plenty in common with boxing. Both divide fighters into weight classes. Both test your pain tolerance against your damage output. In both, fighters target their opponents’ injuries while twisting to protect their own wounds.
And “brawler,” appropriately, is the nickname given to mechs built to fight within 100 or 200 meters. Here, at close range, MechWarrior’s resemblance to hand-to-hand combat is clearest: clumps of missiles hook into steel ribs, cockpits rattle like concussed skulls, assault mechs swing with every weapon until their arms fall off.
According to an email sent to Star Wars: The Old Republic players, BioWare will soon begin a “Character Name Renewal” program, targeting inactive players. Free-to-play characters who have not logged in to the game for long periods of time will have their names released into the general pool for anyone to use.
Free-to-play action RPG Path of Exile will emerge blinking from the beta dungeon later today, its bugs slain and features looted. With the game levelling up to v1.0, developers Grinding Gear will be dramatically expanding the game, adding a new class, areas and enemies, and new challenge leagues for those players looking for some advanced mouse-driven biffing.
Though it hasn’t actually released yet, Mojang’s new game Scrolls has already far exceeded the indie developer’s goals. After selling 40,000 units to become profitable in its first week of paid beta access, Scrolls sold another 60,000 copies and finally slowed down. Now that sales have plateaued, lead designer Jakob Porsér says that a free-to-play structure could be in the game’s future.
As this cinematic Warface trailer makes clear, online multiplayer shooters are a lot like Chess. You remember Chess, the game about the panicked movement of pieces around a board that's being assaulted by grenade spam and AK47 fire. Every time you take a piece, it respawns after a few seconds, leading to advanced tactics like surrounding the resurrection spots until the arbitrary round timer has elapsed. No wonder it became the game of choice for some of history's greatest minds. Esteemed tacticians like Custer, Napoleon and, er, Michael Bay. Probably. In non-Chess related news, Warface is now out in Europe and North America.
It might be a little tough to recall the exact nature of Extraction, seeing how it's one of the blandest game titles around, but I'll help you out a bit. The game used to be called Dirty Bomb, and it still is Splash Damage's London-set free-to-play FPS. Whatever it's called, it's now entered closed beta - you can sign up for shooty funtimes right here.