Fractured Space is a stellar space combat game that is as tactically deep as it is exciting. The explosive action when you reach the climactic close quarters gamma stage is one of the best in the free-to-play business as you take the helm of vast spaceships in epic battles.
Edge Case Games have not just produced a solid action game, here: Fractured Space has the tactical complexity of the likes of League of Legends or Dota 2, making the game fun to learn, but tough to master.
A variety of game modes - brought to stunning life in Unreal Engine 4 - scratch every interstellar gaming itch you could have. If you want to play alone or just learn the ropes, give the solo PvE mode a go. Up for something meatier and more complex? Conquest mode, the beating heart of Fractured Space - is where you should go. In Fractured Space, tactical complexity meets thrilling combat in one of the best free games out there.
Rifts, as you might expect, are what makes Rift one of the most lively and exciting free MMOs on PC. These titular portals open up unpredictably across the world, spawning in hordes of enemies or gigantic bosses and forcing every player in the area to band together in order to repel the demonic attacks.
Of course Rift is not just a multiplayer adaptation of whack-a-mole. It boasts one of the most flexible class systems in the genre, allowing players to create a variety of builds. From the very specific to the Jack-of-all-trades: every style of play is catered for.
Anybody with taste will know that there is nothing better in life than piloting a massive spaceship. Dreadnought, a 5v5 space combat sim from Yager Development, kindly lets you do this - without hours upon hours of training.
In Dreadnought, it will not just be you looking cool in the pilot’s seat: your ship will too. You can customise every last element of your ship so your airborne enemies can gawp at how ‘fly’ you’re looking before they get blown to smithereens. The game has several tactical team-based modes to explore as you look to expand your fleet.
If dragons and magic are not your cup of tea, maybe golf is. Winning Putt is an MMO for people who love putting more than potions, and as unusual as that concept is, Bandai Namco have managed to make a solid F2P game out of it.
Essentially Winning Putt simulates a real-life golf course: you are there to play a game of golf, and so are loads of other people. The benefits? No extortionate club fees and snooty folk. Fortunately, Winning Putt is underpinned by a more than serviceable golf mechanic that is much more complex than simply aiming a trajectory arc so the golf ball goes in the golf hole over and over again.
League of Legends
A player base of almost 67 million means you’ll never struggle to find a game in Riot’s sensationally popular MOBA. Following a similar formula to that of the original Dota, League of Legends is significantly more accessible than its competition, and a constantly expanding and updating meta ensures that even the pros are still learning the game.
Part of that meta is the roster of 134 champions, who get buffed and nerfed on a regular basis. LoL also boasts some of the biggest eSports prize pools out there, if you fancy yourself as a future pro.
Path of Exile
An action-RPG cut from the same cloth as the Diablo games, Path of Exile combines grim fantasy, compelling combat, and an extensive selection of gear, abilities and upgrades to keep players grinding away for hours on end. Better still, you won’t just be retreading the same old ground every time you log in either, because every area is randomly generated across all servers – so the dungeon you and your friends are battling through will be different every time you tackle it.
Path of Exile also manages to shed some positive light on that most loathed of all monetisation strategies: microtransactions. The games developers are so staunchly against pay-to-win business models that they’ve included only “ethical microtransactions” in their game, by which they mean they add no gameplay advantages to the customer whatsoever.
A space MMO that has been running for years now, the sheer scale of Eve Online is its greatest strength. Eve’s 7,800 star systems combine to make a bountiful sandbox, letting you get on with anything from piracy to mining, or even taking part in space battles so destructive that they consume the lives of 20 million virtual soldiers and last for nearly an entire day.
Better still, developer CCP have also made Eve Online free-to-play, meaning you can check the game out for yourself without having to commit money to it. Earn your way to the top of a player-run corporation by collecting resources and trading frugally, or command your own fleet of ships after proving yourself a loyal and skilled soldier – it is up to you.
Lord of the Rings Online
Wouldn’t it be nice to enter an MMO without having to plunge multiple hours wrapping your head around its lore? Chances are you will already know the basics of Tolkien’s Middle-earth before heading into Lord of the Rings Online – so that is half the battle.
The other half is avoiding all the quests, NPCs and PvP encounters so you can get on with what you’re really there to do: explore all the most famous locations from the franchise – locations like Rohan, Moria, and the Shire. In fact, pretty much every setting in the lore has made it into the game in some form, although in typical MMO fashion you will have to do a whole lot of farming in order to meet the level requirements of some areas.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
When you are starting out The Old Republic it will not strike you as a unique MMO. You get some story, pick a faction and a class, and do some typically grindy missions for a while. Surprisingly though, that story soon gets better – a lot better – and you quickly find yourself pouring hours into the game just to get to the next cutscene.
While it began life as a subscription-based MMO, SWTOR is now also completely playable for free, although you should expect levelling up to take a little bit longer. If you fancy playing as a slave-turned Sith or an Imperial Agent, though, it is a worthwhile grind.
At 17 years of age, Runescape isn’t far off being able to buy itself a pint at the pub. By gaming standards it should be abandoned and decrepit, but with a still thriving community, one of the best free-to-play models around, and updates so regular it is nearly impossible to keep track of, Runescape still feels as young and fresh as it did in the early 2000s. Quests, new characters, festive events, and entirely new features have come and gone in their hundreds.
Runescape is also one of the friendliest MMOs around, with a community of veterans who are always willing to lend a hand to a noob in need. Even after some graphical upgrades, it is not the easiest MMO on the eyes, but that does at least mean you can run it on a potato.
Highly customisable player housing, a telegraphed combat mechanic, and environmental storytelling are among the many best traits of Wildstar, a free-to-play MMO made by a team of ex-Blizzard devs. It has got all the usual MMO trappings you would expect from the genre, like PvP, dungeons, and a variety of class and race types, but there is plenty that makes Wildstar feels unique among its peers.
Sky Plots, for example, are Wildstar’s solution to restrictive player housing. These plots are open to anyone the player allows entry to, and while the exterior of each house can only be tweaked slightly, the interior offers total creative freedom.
Combat in Wildstar is less about cycling through your abilities and mashing keys than it is in other MMOs, though there are still traces of that, but the inclusion of telegraphed attacks means both you and your opponent have a chance to counter or dodge attacks.
World of Warcraft
One of the most famous and adored MMOs around, and one that most associate with a hefty subscription fee, World of Warcraft is actually free-to-play now, although you won’t be able to take your character above level 20. While the Starter Edition of WoW limits a few features, there is enough to do before hitting the level cap to make this a worthwhile entry.
World of Warcraft earned the record for having the most concurrent subscriptions (12 million) for a reason. Azeroth is enormous and ever-growing thanks to new expansions like Battle for Azeroth, and it will be years before you feel like you’ve seen everything that is hidden away in its various dungeons, cities and regions.
And there you go – more free MMOs than you can shake your empty wallet at. Any we’ve missed? Let us know below.