Welcome to the top 10 free-to-play news of the year so far, or at least our small and difficult selection of what we’ve seen until sometime in May 2016. A couple of them are nothing more than teasers that may end up not being worthy of further attention, but we’re pretty sure that you’ll find something of your liking as the top gets closer to the first positions. The end of the year should bring some interesting games.
If you just love The Hunger Games, then you’re probably looking for battle royale kind of games. And out of nowhere, an Ark spin-off appeared. Ark: Survival of the Fittest is a free-to-play spin-off from the hit game Ark: Survival Evolved and it’s pretty much The Hunger Games with plenty of dinosaurs. It’s currently in early access and with a release planned for late 2017, so it should improve quite a bit until then, both in content and performance. Don’t be discouraged by the mixed reviews on Steam, as this is a really fun game that is still in need of some optimization, but if you have a good machine then you should be all set!
9 – RF ONLINE 2
Are you from the time of RF Online, or Rising Force Online, the classic sci-fi MMORPG that launched in 2006? Then you probably know that this game had some nice following back then, and that you’re getting old. Developer CCR has recently trademarked the RF 2 name, so it’s clear that a sequel is in development. We don’t know anything other than that it’s classified as downloadable software for various platforms, virtual reality included. PC or mobile, free-to-play or not – it’s just too soon to be sure about any of that, but we’ll keep you guys updated.
8 – F.R.A.G.
Even if you don’t like Skyforge, you’ve got to admit that its devs are very talented fellows. That’s why we’re curious about the studio’s next project, an anti-shooter called FRAG. That’s right, they’re calling it an anti-shooter, whatever that means. The slow reveal isn’t exactly clear on what makes this game different and the first images aren’t exactly helping, as they look pretty common for the first-person shooter genre. Maybe some weeks later we already know what FRAG is all about, but for now we’re kind of curious about what Allods Team can do with the shooter genre.
7 – TWIN SAGA
Twin Saga is one more game from X-Legend, the prolific studio from Taiwan that created Aura Kingdom and Dragomon Hunter. Once again, it’s Aeria Games that picked up this game, originally known as Astral Realm. Following closely on the studio’s signature, Twin Saga keeps its colorful anime visuals and familiar combat as well as the classless system, but this time adds a mobile house system, which means that your house travels around the world with you. How, you ask? Well, on the back of a giant turtle, for example. Just like the previous games from X-Legend, don’t expect something groundbreaking, just a nice little anime MMO in a market that is far from being saturated from anime visuals.
6 – RIDERS OF ICARUS
There’s no denying that South Korea has plenty of games that would be massively appreciated in North America and Europe. Luckily, Icarus Online is one of the few that is making the jump. Nexon grabbed the rights for this game and renamed it Riders of Icarus. We like to call it an evolution of the gotta catch’em all formula, only instead of Pokémon we have mounts. You’ll have to battle, tame and ride hundreds of different beasts and even participate in some cool aerial combat with dragons and other flying mounts. This isn’t a revolution in MMOs, but it’s a damn fine game that should keep you busy for quite some time.
5 – MASTER X MASTER
I know, I know, you’re sick and tired of MOBAs. But wait, Master X Master is actually a bit different from your traditional battle arena, so hear me out. First of all, Master X Master includes a cast that comes from NCsoft’s best games, so you should expect to see characters from Blade & Soul, Guild Wars 2, WildStar, Aion or Lineage; there’s this tag system that allows you to pick two masters and switch between them anytime, so gameplay becomes a little bit more tactical; but most importantly, Master X Master doesn’t just focus on PvP, offering a content-rich PvE campaign where up to four players can have some co-op fun. With so many MOBAs coming and going, Master X Master just looks like some good, addicting fun to us.
If you find the lack of Blade & Soul competitors disturbing, then you’re certainly pleased to see that Revelation Online is coming to North America and Europe all the way from China. China isn’t exactly the place where the best games are born, but giant publishers Tencent and NetEase are quickly making a name for themselves. Revelation Online is one of the latest releases and entered Chinese open beta in April 2016. The confirmation of a western release was also made during the same month, but NetEase didn’t immediately reveal the publisher – they just said it’s Russian. As for the game, it’s your typical martial arts affair, with plenty of crazy moves, gliding, big bad guys and sprawling, colorful fields just waiting for your punching and kicking.
3 – MU LEGEND
The follow-up to the classic MU Online spent some time in development hell, but 2016 was the year that it resurfaced, and it’s coming to western territories. Instead of going ‘no comment’ just like nearly every other MMO publisher, Webzen went ahead and unveiled MU Legend’s Korean closed beta date with a confirmation that a western release is already planned, and it’s only a matter of finding the right schedule. Well done, guys, this is how you respect your fans. As for MU Legend, this is clearly one from the hack and slash school of Diablo and while it won’t set the world on fire, what we’ve seen and played makes us confident that this is at the very least one fun, not too grindy action MMORPG that definitely deserves your time, even if you’re not a fan of the previous games.
2 – BLESS ONLINE
Ever since Bless was revealed, it looked stunning, but we were starting to lose hope on getting an English version. But then, Aeria Games came to the rescue of western players. This is not to say that there weren’t any rumors. For example, it seems suspicious when a trailer for a Korean game is released with English voiceover. And the game is partly set in cities inspired by medieval Europe architecture, which would make it perfect for… well, Europe. But don’t worry, USA friends, as there’s also a place heavily based on the Grand Canyon. All this to say that despite its Korean roots, Bless is a game suited for a global audience, far from groundbreaking but with pleasingly familiar mechanics that make it appealing. And the Unreal Engine 3 visuals are just some of the best that you’ll get to see in an MMORPG.
1 – SOULWORKER
Definitely the best news we could get this year was the announcement of a western release for the awesome, ass-kicking anime MMORPG Soul Worker. We had this big crush on SoulWorker since it was revealed in 2011 and in 2016, the Japanese release proved that it is all that we we’re expecting – it looks like a true anime show, has some cool, stylish characters and flashy, fast-paced combat, along with all the idiotic distractions that we could wish for, such as having your own home to decorate. However, due to the bizarre lack of publishers interested in bringing anime MMOs to North America and Europe, we feared that Soul Worker would never leave the Asian market. And then, someone had the guts to actually sign a deal to bring this game – Gameforge, a German publisher mostly known for TERA, Aion and Orcs Must Die: Unchained. No matter what you have to say about them – or any other publisher, for that matter, haters gonna hate –, we have to congratulate them on this bold move. We can’t wait to get our hands on the official English version of SoulWorker.
This was our pick so far, but we’re sure that more great news is coming soon. If we could choose, we would like to see an announcement of Closers Online for the west. And what would YOU like to see?