Want a premiere RPG experience on your PC or console, but don’t feel like shelling out the cash for Final Fantasy XV? Worry not, adventurer, because now it’s easier than ever to dive into a collection of expansive game worlds without dropping a dime. Each of these worlds is flush with all the rich character development and features you’ve come to expect from a premium, AAA title from developers such as Bethesda and CD Projekt RED. It’s time to strap on that wizard staff and fire up your spaceship — here are the best (free) RPGs for both PC and consoles.
Initially released in 2013 as a full-priced game and part of a SyFy TV-game cross media project, Defiance draws comparisons to Bungie’s Destiny, thanks to the game’s rich science-fiction setting, cooperative player-versus-environment encounters, and real-time shooter gameplay. Defiance‘s sprawling, massive game world occasionally sees major “Arkfalls” spawn, requiring a team of coordinated strangers working together to take down an army of monsters in order to reap the valuable loot left in their wake. Even “solo” encounters routinely feature multiple characters teaming up on the fly, with seamlessly synchronizing mission objectives.
If you’re in the mood for a more competitive battle, Defiance’s “Shadow War” player-versus-player (PvP) mode, much like the battlegrounds in World of Warcraft, pits two teams against one another in a battle to the death. Special credits go to the victor, who can then spend them on special weapons and armor.
The game also has the added benefit of an expanded universe, derived from the Defiance TV show, which ran for three seasons. The two impacted each other in numerous ways, and though the show has since been canceled, it offers a great chance to see how the universe has developed over the last few years. You might even run into series protagonists Joshua Nolan and Irisa when you go back to the game.
Defiance is available on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. Anyone who purchased the game prior to its conversion to a free-to-play format will receive an additional character, inventory, and the “ark keycode” carrying capacity.
“Dark Souls, but free.” That’s the basic structural premise of Grasshopper Manufacture’s Let it Die. Describing it as such, however, would do a great disservice to the game and director Goichi Suda (A.K.A. Suda 51). Like the rest of the Suda’s work, Let it Die is both dark and profoundly goofy, mixing classic horror influences with weird, zany weapons like the fireworks launcher and the “bloody pitching machine.”
It’s largely a single-player experience, but just like with Dark Souls and Bloodborne, Let it Die features an online twist that shakes up how you approach each “run” in the game’s deadly Tower of Barbs. Dead players’ “death data” is uploaded to a server and shared with other players, who have a chance to take them out in their game for extra rewards. Be warned, however: Like the most punishing Soulslikes, Let it Die’s punishment for death is losing all the equipment you’ve acquired thus far.
RuneScape may have paved the way for free-to-play fantasy titles, but even after receiving a facelift, the game hasn’t aged particularly well. This isn’t the case with MapleStory, a 2D side-scroller that features cartoon-y hero designs, colorful environments, and enough character classes to keep players engaged for weeks or months on end. These vary from the more “traditional” fantasy classes, such as warriors, battle mages, “wind archers,” and “thunder breakers,” pirates with the power to control lighting and throw sharks at their enemies.
Don’t let the MapleStory‘s cutesy color palette and characters fool you, however. The game features difficult boss fights, and watching a clip from one of them will likely remind you more of a bullet-hell game than an MMORPG.
Although it has been more than a decade since the game’s initial launch, MapleStory still receives regular and substantial updates by Wizet and publisher Nexon, even after the Korean release of the game’s 3D successor, MapleStory 2. The newer title maintains the same tone as its predecessor, but the the sequel, which switched to 3D character models in place of 2D sprites, lacks the charm of the original.
Eve Online isn’t just a game to its most dedicated players: It’s a way of life. The massive, spaceship-centric RPG originally launched in 2003 with a subscription-based revenue model, but it finally went free-to-play in 2016, ushering in a new wave of players ready to get lost in a science-fiction world with such a dedicated fan base that active players were each given an inscription on a 16-foot monument built in Iceland.
What makes Eve Online so special — aside from the spin-offs it has received like Eve: Valkyrie and Dust 514 — is that some of its biggest “wow” moments are entirely player-driven. In 2013, a spy working inside the “Pandemic Legion” purposely led his soon-to-be-former allies into an ambush that led to the destruction of a ship worth 309 billion interstellar credits, or $11,000 dollars. We don’t advise getting that invested in the game, especially if you decide to stick with the free “Alpha” version, but we still expect there to be dedicated Eve players well into the next decade.
There have been plenty of technical improvements to Eve Online since the game’s original launch, too. The explosions have recently received an overhaul to not just their visuals, which now better represent vehicle damage, but also their audio. An updated “new player experience” was also added in late-2016, with a fully-voiced tutorial that should bring newcomers up to speed in no time — or at least significantly less time.
After a year of split strategies, uncertain pay models, and desperate grabs for cash, Star Wars: The Old Republic publisher Electronic Arts announced it would convert the game from a subscription-based MMORPG to a free-to-play experience. While the core story and all its missions would be available from the get-go, things such as mounts, additional bank space, character slots, and specialized missions can be purchased as you need them using a special form of in-game currency.
The amount of available content in The Old Republic is staggering, and should be enticing enough for you to pick up a lightsaber and start your Jedi training on Tatooine (Or your Sith apprenticeship, if you swing the way of the the Dark Side. You won’t find any judgements here.). The narrative is also up to BioWare’s typical level of quality — Mass Effect: Andromeda, excluded — rendering it a worthwhile playthrough.
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