Free To Play

War Thunder plans for ground forces closed beta, taking off next month

Phil Savage at

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.

Neptune's Pride 2: 64-player game mode being tested in preparation for public release

Phil Savage at

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.

Path of Exile gets a post-launch patch, seven more before March expansion

Patrick Carlson at

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.

EverQuest Next Landmark Founder's Pack available now, includes early access

Cory Banks at

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.

Microtransactions: the good, the bad and the ugly

PC Gamer at

"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 releases Predator mech into the wild, adds co-op mode in new beta patch

Patrick Carlson at

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 review

Evan Lahti at

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.

Star Wars: The Old Republic set to wipe long-abandoned character names

Ian Birnbaum at

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.

Path of Exile leaves beta today, adds new class and challenge leagues

Phil Savage at

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.

Mojang isn't ruling out a free-to-play-structure for Scrolls

Ian Birnbaum at

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.

Warface now live in Europe and North America, launch trailer mostly about Chess

Phil Savage at

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.

Extraction's - formerly Dirty Bomb's - closed beta now open for business

Tom Sykes at

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.

Magicka: Wizard Wars enters early access; founders rewards include Crusader Kings II

T.J. Hafer at

Magicka Wizard Wars, the free-to-play game I once described as a game of Dota 2 in which everyone on both teams is playing Invoker, is now available on Steam Early Access. You can claim your spot as a founder in this arcane altercation with three different tiers, starting at $13. Jumping in at the $20 tier gets you a free copy of Crusader Kings II, which is half of that game's current Steam price.

Warface goes liveface next Monday

Tom Sykes at

Crytek's free-to-play shooty shooting game Warface is already open for business in Russia and China, and after a long Western beta period, it will very soon open shop over here too. Monday 21st October is the launch date to write on your face in military crayon, though you can sign up in advance if you already know what online handle you're going to use. (Something with the word 'face' in it, presumably.) To mark the occasion, Crytek have released a 'going live' trailer, below, though they've neglected to include Philip Schofield and Gordon the Gopher.

Hawken to add leaderboards, part of plan to boost competitive play

Patrick Carlson at

Hawken devs are looking to roll out official leaderboards for the free-to-play game in November, according to Adhesive Games' latest community updates. The move is part of a plan by developers to make the mech shooter a home for competitive as well as casual pilots, says game designer Chris Vance.

Path of Exile gets October 23 release date, new Scion prestige class

Tom Sykes at

Path of Exile has been in beta for roughly 8,000 years, but its journey is finally about to come to an end. As revealed to Shacknews, the free-to-play action RPG will escape open beta and emerge blinking into the real world on October 23rd, accompanied by a new prestige class.

Survarium trailer offers a bird's-eye view of PvP

Tom Sykes at

This latest Survarium trailer is a pretty good showcase for the game's lovingly rendered ruined world, but it's also one of the more exciting 'let's show off one of our game maps' videos I've watched. It has a narrative and everything, telling the story of a sniper perched on top of an abandoned church, and some dude who tries to take him down. What is Survarium again? It's the free-to-play multiplayer shooter from former Stalker 2 devs, and you can still sign up for the alpha over here.

Warface's "Sneak Peek" phase adds new game modes and female soldiers

Perry Vandell at

Crytek’s free-to-play military FPS, Warface, has just received a free update called the “Sneak Phase” that adds in new maps, female soldiers, and a few other goodies for those who’ve managed to find a way into the closed beta.

MechWarrior Online's upcoming Community Warfare expansion detailed

Patrick Carlson at

New information on MechWarrior Online's Community Warfare came to light at the game's launch event in San Francisco last week, describing for the first time how the upcoming expansion might function. MWO creative director Bryan Ekman said faction warfare will add a leveling system and affect multiple areas of the game's economy as well as territory on its Inner Sphere star map.

Canceled Legacy of Kain sequel returns as multiplayer-focused Nosgoth

Ian Birnbaum at

First, the bad news: a full sequel to 2003’s Legacy of Kain: Defiance was in development ... until it was cancelled. The good news is that the multiplayer mode from that cancelled project has been saved and built up into online multiplayer game called Nosgoth, set in the Legacy of Kain universe.