F2P: Ones 2 Watch (Part Three)

It’s free to play week here at TheSixthAxis, and aside from our in-depth previews of games such as Wrath of Heroes and Ghost Recon Online, we’re also casting a brief gander over some of 2012’s other F2P hopefuls. For the first two parts of our feature, check here and here, but not before today’s instalment, which we kick off with one of gaming’s most iconic franchises.

Celebrating its 13th anniversary, the original Everquest has finally jumped on the free-to-play bandwagon. Still considered by many as one of the MMO powerhouses, when it launched way back in 1999, SOE’s marquee title ushered a new wave of players into the genre, following the success of Origin’s Ultima Online. It would later be succeeded by Everquest II and Blizzard’s World of Warcraft.

The recent transition presents players (both new and old) with three membership tiers. Without coughing up a dime, gamers can access Everquest and the first 17 consequent expansions with silver ($5/one time) and gold ($15/month) members unlocking bonus features, including additional character slots, playable races/classes and access to services. As with most free-to-play MMOs, there’s always an incentive to reach for your wallet, but with over 500 zones and a myriad of race/class combinations (not to mention the level cap of 85) there’s enough free content to last for months, if not years.

It may look a little rough around the edges, especially when compared to likes of RIFT and Star Wars: The Old Republic, yet Everquest has managed to retain its aesthetic charm. If you’ve yet to get stuck into the MMORPG genre or simply want a slice of its well-seasoned heritage, this is your place to start.

Petroglyph is looking to bring something completely unique to the F2P front later this year with End of Nations. With a team comprised of former Command & Conquer developers, the studio will combine the tactical finesse of the RTS genre with interactive social and progression elements that are conventional to MMOs.

Instead of presenting players with a vast open world, End of Nations is portioned into instances which can be tackled with up to three allies against an AI/human team, that number is set to increase to 12-on-12, and much later, 28-on-28. Aside from straight-up PvP/PvE encounters, Petroglyph also has a comprehensive campaign in the works as well as a number of live updates that will continue to roll out after the game has launched.

Instead of feeling as if you’ve been enlisted in a pre-determined faction, End of Nations promotes individuality, allowing players to fully customise their units, mods, abilities, and appearances before stepping into the heat of battle. Currently in testing, the game is due to expand into a PvP-centric open beta this summer with an official launch scheduled a short while after.

Looking to go head-to-head with a plethora of upcoming F2P online shooters, War of Mercenaries from City Interactive will be spinning a gritty twist on the genre, powered by the Unreal Engine 3.

Details are still thin on the ground though the Sniper: Ghost Warrior studio is promising a tight focus on class-based play and team tactics. Expect to hear more as we draw nearer to the closed beta period.