5 online games
With the number of quality free-to-play online games growing almost daily, dropping $10-$15 per month in subscription fees is getting harder and harder to justify.
Walking away from a free online game, after all, is a pretty easy thing to do. There's no nagging voice in the back of your head doing the
math and informing you of how much money you've invested in a game you're no
longer obsessed with. When it's free, the stakes are low, though often so is
While the number is shrinking, there are still a few pay-to-play online games that are worth your time -- not to mention a few soon, like Star Wars: The Old Republic, that have loads of potential. Determining which is best for you, however, really comes down to your personality.
World of Warcraft (ideal for: Epically social RPG
World of Warcraft Blizzard's massively-multiplayer blockbuster is the 500 lb.
gorilla of the persistent world universe - and for good reason. Want high quality gameplay? It's in there. Want to play the game that countless other titles are imitating (often poorly)? Look no further. Want to mingle with an incredibly diverse group of players? There are 11.4 million fellow questers here, larger than the entire population of Greece.
As if that weren't incentive enough, Blizzard, which has historically been a bit slow in producing expansion packs, has vowed to speed up the pace of those in the future. If you've yet to take the online game dip, Warcraft's waters are warm, cozy, and pretty inviting.
Rift (ideal for: People who love to be on the cutting edge, those sick of Warcraft)
Rift Plenty of persistent worlds come and go without much of an
impact, but the newly released Rift has all the earmarks of a legit contender.
The game isn't dramatically different than other MMOs on the market, but it's certainly one of the best looking -- and fans have been impressed with its diverse class system, deep customization and level of polish. (Fewer bugs = happier players.)
If you've had your fill of Azeroth, this might be a suitable alternative.
EverQuest (ideal for: Older gamers)
Everquest It's the old dog of the MMO pack, and one that many players
have relegated to shed out back. But make no mistake -- aging warhorse EverQuest still boasts a healthy subscriber base these days.
Since it's not en vogue, the game tends to attract a more
mature set of players, meaning you won't have to deal with as much harassment (aka "griefing") as you may in other titles. Further still, Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley says EQ is still a big part of the
company's revenue stream, meaning plenty of new content is on the way.
"We've got actual plans on what we're going to work on for the next three years," he told Yahoo! Games. "And I think three years from now, we're going to plan for three years after that. ... It certainly is not a shiny new MMO, but it has a deeper community than any game out there. And you don't get that where you have games with a younger audience. ... Instead of focusing on new players, we focus on retention."
DC Universe Online (ideal for: Proud comic book nerds)
DC Online To be frank, DCUO isn't a perfect game. Between the recent
cyberattacks on Sony (that resulted in a massive theft of user personal information) and the dwindling number of players, it's only ideal for a limited audience. But if you can't get enough of Batman, Superman and the entire Justice League (minus Gleek
the monkey, sadly), this is the game for you.
Servers were recently merged to get rid of the ghost town feel, and days before the data intrusion (which also shut the game down for over three weeks), the developers released a free update that added a substantial amount of content. Another, which will add Ra's Al Ghul, Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman foe Chang Tzu, is already in the works.
Added bonus: No one in the game will mock you for your encyclopedic knowledge of Aquaman.
EVE Online (ideal for: Those who never left the sandbox)
EVE Online Massively-multiplayer online games and sci-fi have been a
poor mix historically. Star Wars Galaxies was a mess. The Matrix Online was a disaster. Earth and Beyond? Like you even remember it. But EVE Online focuses more on role-playing than whiz bang stories -- and it's a better game because of it.
It's incredibly open, letting players do whatever they want:
mining, tacking missions, battling each other or even running a manufacturing
business. The unstructured environment isn't for everyone, but when the game
gets its hooks in you, they tend to dig deep.
And, as an added incentive, EVE will interact with Dust, an
upcoming console shooter from the game's publisher. Battles in Dust (which is
set on planets in the EVE universe) will directly affect the empires in EVE.
And EVE players will be able to hire Dust mercenaries to conquer territory on the ground and help them build their fortunes. That's forward-thinking -- and a decent reason to
give it a shot.