Welcome back, penny pinchers. Last time on Steam’s Freebies I covered the co-op themed top-down shooter Alien Swarm, the surprisingly addictive Lord of the Rings: Online, and the blatantly obvious Team Fortress 2. So you’re looking for more free and free-to-play games? Well you’ve come to the right place, my friend. Let’s take a closer look at what else Steam has to offer.
DC Universe vs Champions Online
So last week I told you all I’d play both of the free-to-play superhero MMO’s available on Steam, and it’s time for me to relay which one is superior. I think I’ll let my Steam library answer this. DC Universe has 15 hours played on record. Champions Online is no longer in my library. As a superhero MMO, storyline is extremely important, as comic books rely on excellent storytelling. Champions Online starts out with an unexplained alien invasion, by an unknown alien force, when your super hero character with no back story explaining his origin or powers shows up for whatever reason. No one just has superpowers, you’re not born with them, this isn’t Avatar: The Last Airbender. Which I love, don’t get me wrong, but you get the point. Also, Champions just looks bad visually. Even on high graphics it looks glitchy and fuzzy. So on top of poor performance due to the high visual settings, the game isn’t graphically appealing. DC Universe looks better on its lowest settings than Champions does on its highest. Now plot-wise, DC Universe also revolves around an alien invasion, but Brainiac is behind it so at least we know what the hell is going on. Lex Luthor, after Brainiac conquers the world, travels back in time and introduces the powers Brainiac stole from everyone in the future, into the present-day atmosphere, creating a new breed of superheroes and villains. There’s a bit of inconsistency though, as the heroes and villains agree that they should team up and stop Brainiac, but then turn around and start fighting each other again, which was how Brainiac conquered Earth in the future. You pick a mentor when you create your character, with the options of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman if you’re a hero, and the Joker, Lex Luthor, and Circe if you’re a villain. But all of them have you focused on fighting their sworn nemesis as opposed to the looming alien threat THAT WE ALREADY KNOW WILL DESTROY THE WORLD IF WE KEEP FIGHTING AMONGST OURSELVES. I expect this kind of behavior from the Joker, but you, Superman? Why don’t you worry about the people of the planet you’ve sworn to protect instead of trying to stick it to present-day Lex before future Lex does something sinister, like, I don’t know, save your sorry ass by traveling through time to give Earth a fighting chance?
I’m getting a bit off topic now, so let’s talk about gameplay! If there’s one thing DC Universe loves, it’s skill trees. You get two skill trees for different tactics based on your set of powers, whether it be control of nature, mental attacks, gadgets, fire, or ice, or whatever. Then you get another tree for “iconic powers”, which are powers and moves you can copy from other heroes and villains, like using Batarangs, Scarecrow’s fear gas, or Poison Ivy’s….ivy attacks. Then you get another tree for the weapon you use, such as bows, staffs, guns, or swords. Then you get ANOTHER tree for your movement type, which can be either flying, acrobatics, or super speed. So there’s a lot of points to assign and decisions to make, but if you make some assignment mistakes, you can always head over to the Hall of Doom or the Justice League’s Watchtower and reassign your points. Besides basic quests and missions, the game features a lot of other things you and your tights-wearing avatar can participate in. There are raids and events that you can group up for, races and time trials based on your movement type, arenas for your PvP needs, and even a Legends PvP mode where you can fight as famous heroes and villains. So I ended up picking DC Universe over Champions because I actually look forward to playing DC over and over. It’s got a ton of content to get you to keep playing, a lot of variety when it comes to characters and combat, and stories that would make any comic book or superhero fanboy (or fangirl) giddy. And keep an eye out for yours truly, Halfbeard Bow, as he zips across Gotham revelling in the world of chaos the Joker has opened him up to. What can I say? The lunatic has started to grow on me.
Comic books and caped crusaders not your thing? Well how about guns, jetpacks, and telling the laws of physics and friction to go fuck themselves? If that sounds like your cup of tea, then Tribes: Ascend is just for you. Tribes: Ascend is a class-based FPS with a neat twist. Besides the jetpacks, the game explores a mechanic known as skiing. While the spacebar in most FPS’s would have your player jump, in Tribes it puts your soldier into ski mode, allowing you to rocket down slopes at breakneck speeds. Combine this tactic with your jetpack and you’ve got you, your teammates, and your enemy combatants flying all over the huge map. With everyone moving so rapidly, this makes killing your enemies a bit difficult, but it’s just as difficult for your enemies to kill you. Because of this, team deathmatches and free-for-alls can drag out for a while, but it makes modes like capture the flag very exciting and epic. And no matter the mode, getting a kill is so rewarding, because it requires a great deal of skill, and just a little bit of luck. With a multitude of classes, and a rank/currency system for upgrades, the possibilities for combinations of weapons and armor are endless, but you gotta work for them. The commanding officer doesn’t hand out rocket launchers and sniper rifles to the privates the first day. So strap on your jetpack and ski boots, soldier, and get ready for some fast-paced, free-to-play fragging.
Global Agenda: Free Agent
In keeping with the theme of jetpacks, more jetpacks! Global Agenda: Free Agent is a free-to-play MMO/third-person shooter hybrid taking place in the 22nd century after a devastating third world war. This game also comes from Hi-Rez Studios, the team behind Tribes: Ascend. They sure love their jetpacks over there. The game revolves around resisting a tyrannical government known as the Commonwealth, who uses a vast army of artificial drones to oppress the surviving Earth population, which now numbers less than a billion people. Your class choices include Assault, Medic, Recon, and Robotics. Each class comes with various options when it comes to weapons, armor, and gadgets. Cooperation between classes is vital, and when executed flawlessly, it is a thing of beauty. The Assault agent lays down suppressing fire while being healed by the Medic, during which the Robotics guy sets up turrets, healing stations, and force fields, all while the Recon man deals damage through his gun, mines, or sneak attacks. The game’s biggest draw is its missions and instances that you queue up for to advance your rank and equipment, as well as joining an Agency, Global Agenda’s form of a guild, that suits your play style. Once you join an Agency, you can compete in Agency vs Agency battles, which pit two agencies against each other in a team deathmatch style fight for control over territories throughout the Earth. These battle are always going on, and very fun, and to the victor go the spoils, as control over a territory yields rewards and benefits to the Agency that controls it. There are a lot of Agencies available, and many of them are looking to add new members, and with the AvA battles starting in three days, it’s time for you to start making a name for yourself, agent. It’s rare to see MMO shooters done so well, and when it’s free to play, that’s just icing on the cake. And inside the cake, is a jetpack.
If you have any recommendations for other freebies, feel free to comment below. If these pieces gain some more popularity, maybe I’ll do a part three. Don’t forget to check back here at Halfbeard’s HUD for more recommendations, reviews, and other features. And of course, thanks for reading, I’m sure your bank account will thank you too.