Hello folks, Riknas here, and I’d like to introduce to all of you, the Free Play Blog. You see, in the opinion of many, MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) are what we could classify as, “Pretty cool” because they make nerds like us feel like more social creatures than we really are.
That said, some people actually go so far as to play alongside each other in MMOGs (It’s crazy, I know). As most MMOG players know, the most popular MMOGs have you paying past the box price, with a monthly fee of fifteen dollars. So, for every month you want to play, there’s another 15 dollars down the drain. Although we like being able to interact with other people, having such a constant drain in your wallet can be pain. In this blog, Andras and I will be digging and, finding all the F2P (Free to Play) MMOGs out there, and go through the pros and cons each of them have; you just might enjoy yourself, and if you’re lucky, save yourself some cash as well. For our first blog, we will try and stick to something relatively recent, NCsoft’s Exteel. This is their sophomore attempt at creating a F2P MMOG.
Obviously, most game developers these days don’t release something for free out of the kindness of their hearts, there’s almost always some sort of catch: some way for them to make some money, but more details on that later on.
I don’t think this game has a story at all. There is no information of story in the main site, or in the game itself. You are only told that you will be fighting battles in your mechanaut (Giant robot fighting machines, AKA “MKN”), and fight for glory as a mercenary pilot. There are no factions, only vague references of names like “Galaxy Federation” or “Palanamos forces” when reading the description of the weapons you may be using.
After logging in, you see a short but awesome cutscene of robots fighting, and then asks you to create your character name, or as they call it, “Call Sign” (this, and your mechanaut will define you, as you have no avatar, asides from your mechanaut, as mentioned before). As soon as that is done, they will send you through the tutorials. (Note: The tutorials are optional, but you can get bonuses for clearing the later ones, which you can only get by clearing the initial ones) The game takes a third person perspective like most current MMOs, with the camera right behind your mechanaut. The beginning starts off annoying slow, as they refuse to let you move, or do anything for that matter, while they give you instructions and then make you watch the computer move you around first. Only after that, will they let you briefly perform the specified actions. Things begin to pick up a bit during the Advanced Tutorial, because they’re finally letting you fight enemies that shoot back, but the actual waiting time is the same, and you end up sitting around for a bit. Fortunately, you start to get cash and/or weapons for the “advanced” tutorials where it has you finally practicing with the different types of weapons. After finishing it, you will finally be entering the Exteel “world”, and begin kicking some robo-arse.
So, the models themselves aren’t too shabby (though I’ve never played, nor seen, the game at bare-bones settings). After finishing the tutorial, you’re placed into a chatroom with a list of games to join. So, the only thing persistent is your pilot and his/her mechanaut. The rest of the game is instanced arenas. However, you might overlook this if you like PVP, and the gameplay.
You have four types of matches; Territory Control, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and last stand. The first three are pretty self-explanatory PVP matches, where you go up against other players.(Last Stand is where you team up with several other players, and protect your base, or “Aerogate” from an onslaught of enemy NPCs, AKA drones). This may prove to be more interesting than the PVP of games like the famous World of Warcraft. Like the newer MMOs Age of Conan and Tabula Rasa, Exteel features a more fast-paced style, though it is closer to the latter. While piloting your mechanaut, you have a crosshair with a reticule of varying sizes around it, (based on the weapon type your using) if you are within range of an enemy, a smaller reticule forms around the crosshair, and both reticules turn orange to indicate a lock on. By pressing the left and/or right mouse button, you will fire the weapon(s) in your left and/or right hand. Your mechanaut can hold two different sets of weapons, and typically dual wields in both sets, unless you are using a siege cannon, which requires two hands to hold, and is by default the left mouse button…And it’s that simple, once you fire, you fire, (or slash, if using a sword) and if you had that lock on, you should hit the enemy, and they take damage. No dice rolls, it just launches, and hits your enemy. Simple, right? That’s where it gets tricky, it works that way for everyone, naturally. So if you’re standing, you are a painfully easy target to your enemy, and the reverse if they are. So there is constant movement with players strafing while attacking, flying over buildings and running into cover, so it’s never a dull moment whether your chasing after them, or vice versa. However, how well your mechanaut can take damage, and how much damage you deal is dependent on your gear.
Items and Economy:
So, you want to kick some arse, but you’re afraid that everyone has all the uber l00tz, so you decide to go down to the “store” tab at the bottom of your screen in the main menu (there is no auction house, everyone just works with equipment from the store). From the store you can purchase all sorts of equipment for your mechanaut: Head pieces, legs, arms, torsos, (AKA “Core”) boosters, (for fast speed and flying) weapons, skills (some special powers), repair points, (used when your equipment starts to decay, measured in “Durability”.) and even entire mechanauts (they do not include boosters or weapons). Different pieces of equipment have different properties, some allowing you to go faster, others slowing you down and boosting your overall HP. Regardless of what you do though, you’ll need to pay for this new equipment somehow, because although your starter equipment (the Pinkent Mechanaut and a few weapons) have unlimited durability, you can’t stay very competitive in a free for all death match. Leveling has little bearing over things, as you win matches, you accumulate small bits of experience, and may result in some improved ability with certain weapons, however don’t count on being high level to make you better than anyone else. This is where the catch comes into play, and you finally think about breaking out your credit card…
So, now that you want to buy some shiny new gear, you’ll notice there are two types of currencies. Gear costs “Credits”, while others, “NCcoins” and some can be purchased with either. So, how does this work? Credits are the in-game currency you accumulate through playing matches, the better you do in a match, the more credits you will get. The first mechanaut will only cost you approximately 25000 credits, but eventually you’ll find even individual weapons costing 100,000 or more credits. When you accumulate only 1000 or 2000 credits per round, you might find yourself thinking, “Y’know, if I could make this a bit faster…” your wallet will start to open, since you realized that you have to use those credits just to repair the equipment you have. Since as of right now, nearly everything is available to people of all levels, it’s not too hard to find yourself tugging at your credit card, to buy that 450 NCcoin mechanaut, or 80 coin laser blade, when 100 coins is equivalent to only a dollar, to “lift” a bit of the grind. That said, it’s really up to you whether or not those coins are worth it. These coins will not change your gameplay much, if at all, the only thing that will change will be the looks and stats of your gear, most of which can be achieved just by dedicating more time to playing, as opposed to paying for the coins. But for some, those stats and cool looking equipment might be worth a couple bucks.
Exteel is a fresh game from the traditional MMOs, and may be just what your looking for if you want something new, however with the gameplay taking place entirely in instanced territory, it isn’t for everybody. If you have sufficient restraint, it can also prove to be cheaper than standard MMOs, but for some it could become more expensive, however it’s all your choice with this pay as you go payment plan. That’s it for now everyone, thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!
((This review was written in the year 2009, and the servers have since shut down.))