Of Trials and Demos

Since I quit World of Warcraft, I’ve been on the lookout for a new game. I could always go back to WoW, but after having finally found the willpower to get past its destructive effects on my life, I do not really consider that to be an option.

Free TrialSo I’ve been trying out MMOs with trials and demos of other games in hopes that I will find a game that can occupy the little free time that I have.

Gordon of We Fly Spitfires convinced me to give EVE Online a shot. I had heard great things about the game, despite its ridiculous learning curve. Giving it a shot and investing a few hours, I could see why so many people were enamored with the game. It was absolutely frakking beautiful. The new tutorial was nice, and the interface, while complex, was intuitive in its own way.

Unfortunately, the game felt too disconnected for me. I am all about gaining skills while AFK, and the open-ended PvP (and world, for that matter) intrigue me to this day. However, I am probably so entrenched in traditional gaming styles that I like to actually interact with my character. Simply being a ship in space has never been my thing, and in an MMO, even though I know it’s a vast world, I can’t help but feel alone and disconnected.

Not to mention that from everything I’ve heard, EVE takes a great deal of time invested to be successful—even with AFK skillups—and I just cannot play more than a handful of hours a week. Maybe eventually I’ll come back to EVE, but right now, I think it’s just not the game for me.

On to Runes of Magic. And right back out again.

It’s a good game; it’s fun. But it’s a free World of Warcraft. There is a lot of promise, and the game is actually fun. But it’s the same thing I’ve played for years that I want away from. Sorry, RoM, your selling point is what keeps me away. Again, maybe later. And because it’s free, I can keep it installed and play as much or as little as I want without feeling the urge to “win.” I can just have fun, but I doubt I will often due to its blatant similarity to WoW.

DDO Speaking of free, I can’t help but be excited about Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited. With what might be the worst name of any MMO I’ve ever heard of, comes one of the best subscription models ever used. You see, Turbine was losing money with DDO. So they went about changing that by making their basic game free and charging small amounts of money (microtransactions) for additional content, also known as Free2Play or F2P. Players can now play the game for as much—or as little—as they want. The game will still have a VIP subscription with access to everything at all times, but for those of us who don’t want to drop 15 bucks a month on DDO, we’ll be able to pick and choose what we want to do.

This subscription model is great because it keeps people playing longer. While players admittedly miss the drive to “get their money’s worth,” it allows for a more “tourist” playstyle that allows for dabblers and casuals to experience more than one game and community at at a time. I see no reason that once the F2P DDO goes live next month it won’t have a place on my hard drive until Turbine cuts the servers off. Fun and free and a game that plays differently from any traditional MMO? I’m there!

I tried Free Realms, and it’s really fun. Honestly. It’s pretty, it’s well made, and if I were new to the MMO genre, it’d suck hours from my life. Unfortunately, I have over a decade of experience, and I got the intro to the genre that Free Realms gives by playing the original Diablo. I have a hard time classifying Free Realms as an MMO, anyway. The game is broken into minigames—which is neat, I’ll admit—but it gives the world a very disconnected feel, and there doesn’t seem to be any in-game reason to socialize. I’ll dabble occasionally, but I doubt I’ll spend any real amount of time there.

And then there’s Lord of the Rings Online. I heard it has gone through quite a bit of revision since release, so I downloaded their free trial. I’m giving it a shot, and it’s okay. It is much more of a PvE/RP game than I probably want right now, but it’s an interesting diversion. With 8 more days on my trial and some old WoW guildies to try it with, I’ll probably be spending a little time in Middle-Earth. I highly doubt, just based on my first impressions that I will be giving them any money.

I have plans to jump into EverQuest II at some point in the near future. The controversy in the blogosphere lately between Tipa and Wolfshead regarding the game is too much for me to pass up. I think it’s going to be pretty similar to my feelings on LOTRO, but I’m going to give it a shot. Any game that can stir up such emotion from its playerbase is worth a look. And who knows? SOE might have surprised me since I last tried EQ2 in 2004 and made it a lot more stable and polished. I loved the first EverQuest, so I’m heading in with an open mind because, thanks to Tipa and Wolfshead, I have compelling arguments for both sides that cancel each other out as far as influencing my decision, but I go in informed, nonetheless.

The MMO trial I feel worst about, though, is Star Wars Galaxies. I loved this game back in the day (pre-CU and NGE). I had a Jedi based around holocrons that I sold when I quit. But SOE ruined the game I loved, and I left for greener (read: WoW) pastures. I got an email last month that invited me back, saying that my account had been reactivated until midnight yesterday. So I went and dug out my old install CDs from my attic, but then I dawdled and never got it installed. I feel bad about not jumping back into the game because I really would like to see if I like it any better now that my MMO mood has changed. With my The Old Republic jones lately, I’m amazed at myself for not jumping back in with my 63 Jedi. Oh well. There’s always the free trial if I get the urge.

Trine On the non-MMO front, Trine is fantastic. Of Teeth and Claws made a post about the demo being available on Steam a while back, and I jumped at the opportunity. A sidescrolling platformer with 3D Diablo III-style graphics? Yes, please. And it plays like The Lost Vikings and Oddworld because of puzzles that require actual thought as well as dexterity? Sign me up. Once this one goes down a little in price ($30 for any game right now seems a little steep), I’ll certainly be getting it.

One of my favorite things in the world is a good platformer, and it’s been years since I’ve had as much fun with one as I did with the Trine demo. Castlevania and Mario sequels and clones are great for what they are, but Trine gave me a taste of something that feels altogether new. I feel that this is definitely going to be a part of my collection soon.

My current non-MMO flavor, however, is still online. Quake Live is a web-based FPS based on an enhanced Quake III engine. While it does play directly from a browser (IE and Firefox only; sorry Chrome), it might be the smoothest running browser-game I’ve ever played. It runs better than Free Realms does on my computer. It’s fast, it’s frantic, and the game even lets you take a “skill determining tutorial” so it can match you against similarly skilled opponents. The community and persistent world I want from an MMO aren’t there, but this is a fantastic distraction because it’s fully supported by Id Software and 100% free. Since my Xbox Live subscription lapsed and I can’t get my Halo 3 deathmatch on, this is a fantastic FPS experience. If you’re on, find “professorbeej” and add me to your friends list.

I look forward to the end of the year, or at least fall, because new games with trials, betas, and demos are coming out. I look forward to the Bioshock 2 demo, Champions Online—which I’m trying to decide if I want to preorder for a beta spot, and Mortal Online beta. Each game offers me something I want in gaming right now, be it a fantastic story to go along with superb gameplay, a single persistent world not divided into servers, or a PvP-centric world where few rules govern.

This year looks like a good one for gaming to come, and for once, my particular and eclectic tastes might actually be directly sated.

Comments

  1. Longasc

    Thank you for pointing out Quake Live. I must admit, Quake III was always too fast for me. I could barely hold my own in Counter-Strike. I will try if it works in Google Chrome, I like the design and speed of this browser, neither IE nor Firefox come close.

    This said… you need to play Mount & Blade! 🙂

    It will soon have a multiplayer mode. Does not seem to be as massive as the singleplayer game, where hundred soldiers on each side can fight in one battle. The game is a mix of strategy, rpg and action. If Mortal Online could copy the combat and progression systems, it would be perfect.

    http://bit.ly/pWGAw

  2. Sharon

    I'm curious about trying EQ2 now also. Once my cross-country move is completed in a couple of weeks, I'm going to sign up for the trial. The debate between Tipa and Wolfshead was pretty intriguing, and while they both had different points of view, I now feel pretty informed going into the game.

  3. Andrew

    Quake Live is great fun – I played it for a little while a few months back, and it was like stepping back into my university dorm…. the good old days. =)

    If you want to try a slightly different MMO, Wizard101 or Ryzom are nice options. W101 gets fairly deep after level 10.

  4. Beej

    Wizard 101 is really neat. I need to get back in there and give it a shot. I got past the tutorial, logged off, and I haven't been back since. I know there's more to it than that; I just haven't bothered to find out what.

    And can you tell me why there are gates on some tunnels? I can't seem to get to where the quest tells me to go, so I logged out.

  5. Andrew

    Gates on tunnels? Hmmm – I know there were a few quests that went towards unlocking a few of the city areas very early on, so maybe that was one you hadn't unlocked? Not many things like that though.

  6. We Fly Spitfires

    Cool write-up, Beej.

    I understand your feelings towards EVE. It's a pretty difficult game to penetrate. I've got RL friends who feel the same way!

    Quake Live is very awesome too actually. Sometimes we crack it out at work and I get to show everyone who's boss, including my boss 🙂

  7. Tesh

    Yup, if you're following the questlines in W101, those gates will open up when you need to go to their areas. It's a wee bit annoying, but they open up quickly enough.