Fiesta has been around since 2007; it’s been a free to play MMO from the get-go, designed around microtransactions. The game suffers a bit from the pay to win issue, with purchasable items providing significant combat boosts, however, it is possible to get similar boosts without paying, but you’ll have to work for them, and they may not last as long. The good news is that it doesn’t appear that these boosts are necessary for the usual playing session, although very nice, you can usually handle any level-appropriate fight alone, and there aren’t significant exp boosts for trying to fight far above your level. The pay-to-win items would be very beneficial for attempting to take on boss monsters alone, though, it would seem they were designed around multiple players. The game starts up in a small window, but that’s fixable with a quick trip to the options menu. Aside from that there were very poor descriptions on the class choices in-game, I had to look them up on the wiki to decide which one I wanted to play. For instance, the description of the mage in-game is: “Mages can manipulate the forces of the world with the wisdom of magic.” As you can see, there are no examples of skills a mage can use, his role in a party, or anything else you might want to know when making a class choice. The game is Korean in origin, it sports an anime graphical theme similar to that of other MMOs from the region. Combat I’ve found can be spammy at times, classes with the SP to spare simply spam their damaging skills as fast as possible, although those that don’t have as much SP will tend to rely more on their auto-attack strikes. Soloing can be fairly slow paced, for some classes the only way to regain hp aside from the purchase of potions and such from other players is to rest in their very own mushroom hut. Although very cute, the hut is a fairly slow way to regenerate health and SP. Having a cleric around makes it far less necessary to have such a hut though. Every few levels you can choose where to place skill points, as well as attribute points. Attributes are what everyone is used to in MMOs, strength, endurance, etc. The skill points, however, are not. In Fiesta you can customize your individual skills, increasing their power, lowering their cost, cooldown, or increasing the effect duration where applicable. This makes every player’s abilities unique to that person. The crafting in the game is somewhat simplistic, every character may choose two production skills from a list of only a few. Clicking on a chosen crafting skill brings up a menu; in this menu is a list of things you can make, confusingly though, it lists even recipes that you don’t know how to make, you have to visit the skill merchant, and purchase the recipes for various items before you can craft them (with in-game money that is). Overall Fiesta is a fine choice for your limited gaming time! The game is a fun, fairly standard MMO that is well designed, and not too money-hungry. Create your account for free at http://fiesta.outspark.com/
Vindictus is an MMORPG built by Nexus, the same folks behind Mabinogi, and Maple Story – in fact, in Korea Vindictus is called Mabinogi: Heroes. Vindictus was built using the Source engine, the very same game engine used to create such games as Half-Life 2, and Dark Messiah: Of Might and Magic. That piqued my interest in this title, because I know just what the source engine is capable of.
The graphics in Vindictus are some of the best of any MMO on the market today, looking at screenshots and videos you probably wouldn’t even guess it was an MMO game, there are physics-based interactions, pillars crumble, walls break, and objects can be thrown at enemies for ranged damage as well. The fighting is fast and furious, more reminiscent of a top tier action game than any typical MMO. Attacks can be chained together, and then topped off with a final strong attack, the exact attack you get differs depending on when in the weak attack combo string you activate your strong attack, and other factors.
But now the bad news, the Source engine is a fine choice for any action game, but in an MMO it can be a bit restricting. The engine wasn’t designed for wide open areas, so the game can feel a bit cramped at times, although the engine does an excellent job of conveying the feeling of being in a wide open area, you can’t actually explore it as if it was one. There’s also quite a few loading screens, even in the middle of instances, which detracts from the play experience. There is a visible indicator of where you’ll find loading screens in the instances, so it isn’t TOO jarring, but still an annoyance.
The combat can be repetitive, although there are options to spice it up, so I don’t see that as a huge problem, while they are wholly unnecessary, and not always the most effective approaches, players can choose from many “secondary” weapons, such as spears, and bombs that deal significant damage to enemies (usually from a distance), in addition to the physics based play. That said, it’s still a whole lot better than clicking your enemy, then clicking attack and waiting till the fight is over.
The game has a strict theme park type design, the battle zones often feel like something you might be playing on Xbox 360, very linear. The new player experience consists of running the same dungeon (albeit slightly different tracts of it) several times in a row, this gets tiresome. Micro transactions seem limited to cosmetic changes such as hairstyles, or giving an item with a specific look the stats of another item (so you can go through the game looking as you want to, without sacrificing power), and convenience items, that, while nice (sometimes very nice) should never be REQUIRED in your adventures. This is the proper way to handle micro transactions.
Overall I give Vindictus a 3.5/5, it’s quite fun, a beautiful game, but ultimately flawed, while anyone should be able to find enjoyment here, this is a tad too linear to be called the BEST free MMO, however, it does deserve a closer look, and will make it to the next stage in the review process, where high level content will be reviewed.
Start your account free of charge at http://vindictus.nexon.net/
Today the search for the best free MMOs available begins. Every week a new article will be posted reviewing a free MMOG (massively multiplayer online game). It is understood that when you’re talking about MMOs you can’t really experience all that it has to offer in just a week, however, since these are free MMOs they will be judged on a different standard, not only do they need to be able to keep you interested, but they also need to be able to get you interested in the first place. With pay games it’s easy, there’s an investment made; nobody is going to shell out $40, and then $15 for a subscription fee just to play for an hour and decide they don’t like it. When the game is free to play, there is no investment, if the game can’t grab the player in that hour (more realistically within a few minutes), then that game won’t convert that player into a subscriber.
In other words, a review that reviews only the end game of an MMO, or allows the endgame to be a justification for a poor new player experience isn’t doing the person reading the review any favors, since they will then decide to play the game, and not have any fun at all because the new player experience is cruddy. Each MMO will be given a review of up to 12 hours of play time, the end game will be considered as well, but first impressions will be weighted heavily in the review scores.
Games already due for review include Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Mabinogi, Maple Story, R.O.S.E. Online, Everquest 2, Karos Online, Entropia Universe, Istaria, Loong, and Wizard 101.
Any other suggestions for free MMOs that need to be included on this list to be reviewed should be posted as comments. MMOs receiving a high score in this initial review will later be reviewed in a more in-depth fashion. The ultimate winner will be announced in the final article of this series, and will be a game that offers (with absolutely no monetary investment from the player) a good new player experience, and deep end game content. Scores will be dinged (heavily) if end game content needs to be purchased, or you can’t participate for some reason or another without spending money, but games will not take a hit merely for having the option of microtransactions. (they have to make their money somewhere, but it shouldn’t be by dangling better gameplay in front of you)