Ranking my Free-to-Play Free-for-All

When I decided to see what free-to-play console games might work in my household for future fun times, I didn’t intend for the venture to become “a thing.” Now, with six new games proverbially under my belt, it seems like deciding which ones were the “winners,” is only the right and fair thing to do. After all, not only can it be helpful to take a look back on achievements and failures, but… I also need to clear off my Xbox’s nearly-full hard drive. (No seriously, I can’t fit another thing on it — something’s gotta go!) Anyway, of the games I played – DC Universe Online, TERA, Skyforge, Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, Final Fantasy XIV, and Star Trek Online which ones are being cut, and which ones are keepers? Read on to find out! And note, these are my personal rankings and reflect which ones that resonated with me the most. All these games are worth trying – free is free! – and maybe you’ll find a perfect experience among them, too.


6. Skyforge

Of all the games here, Skyforge, while a perfectly serviceable game with solid combat, felt the most generic. The story wasn’t particularly inspired, and the characters didn’t seem very interested in telling it. Further adding to the minus column is that the game doesn’t allow for alternate characters, and the starting classes are just bland. They apparently become more complex later in the game, but when nothing about the game stands out as compelling or unique, it’s hard to want to care. The game’s fantasy/sci-fi/steampunk environmental aesthetic was intriguing, at first. But that quickly gave way to a general fantasy landscape that wasn’t terribly interesting and didn’t offer much in the way of exploration. There’s just not enough to Skyforge to make me want to play it.

Off we go with me, myself, and…this guy.

5. Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis

On the surface, Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, looked very promising. Once I got into it, however, the game’s slick, shiny facade began to crumble. I was met with decent combat and an interesting setting, but the reasoning for my character’s very existence was flimsy, and the story was lackluster, at best. In a way, my experience with PSO2NG was very similar to Skyforge, fine but nothing to get excited about; however, it sits in second-to-last place because it has better beginning classes and room form alts. I could see giving this game another try, but it’s far from a priority.

If you’ve got to pick a site on which to crash land, you might as well pick the beach!

4. TERA

First off, TERA on console is not dead! Or, at least not strictly so. It’s nice to know, but does that mean it’s in my to-play roster? Um, not really. If the female character models and wardrobe in the game weren’t so dang obnoxious, I’d honestly be all over this title. Of all the games on this list, TERA has the most engaging combat. It’s fun, fast-paced, and full of options. Its story is fairly compelling, if convoluted, and offers up some awesome scenery and great dungeons. Yes, of course I could choose to play as a non-female character, and yes, I’d probably have fun doing so, but it’s hard for me to support a game when an entire character set (which includes related NPCs) is personally off-putting. That alone keeps the game low on my list.

The game’s dungeons are pretty darn great, and weird, but mostly great.

3. DC Universe Online

I didn’t have very high hopes going into DC Universe Online, which is likely why I found it to be far more fun that I expected. This is a good game, and probably an even better game to fans of DC itself. I had a blast roaming around Metropolis and Gotham as two different characters – a fiesty, acrobatic hero and a high-flying villain – and was treated to plenty of good combat, humor, and voice acting along the way. The only downsides were that I wasn’t wowed by its leveling-up and ability systems, and playing with others never felt very cooperative. DCUO felt much more like an RPG that just happened to include other people rather than an inclusive MMO. I’m not incredibly compelled to log back into DCUO any time soon, but it’s staying on my Xbox’s hard drive, for now.

The game offered up some occasionally great views.

2. Final Fantasy XIV

The most significant reasons I’m not giving up on my unintentional foray in the free trial of FFXIV are the characters, story, and music – all the things that make for a great Final Fantasy experience. When I jumped into this title, I was hit with a huge wave of nostalgia, and I realized that I hadn’t sunk my teeth into one of these games since Final Fantasy X. That alone make me want to keep going with my Roegadyn archer. It’s tough, though, because its systems and massive player base are intimidating, and its combat remains more unpleasant than less. When I tried out the game, I did so during a chunk of free time and was able to really spend time digging into the game’s mechanics. I’ve not had such time since, and until I do, I don’t think I’ll be diving back in anytime soon. But, I have a much better understand of why this game is so popular, and I hope to return to it at some point.

I’m mean, yeah, I’m new and all, but jeez.

And the top spot goes to…!!

*drum roll*

1. Star Trek Online

While STO making the top spot was a very deliberate choice, it’s also the oddest one, because honestly, until I played what little I did of this game, it had never once crossed my mind as something to actually play. I don’t know what that is, because I’m personally entrenched in the Star Trek universe. Its movies and TV shows were and still are a staple of my own entertainment sphere. Why I never thought to look to its gaming options, well…I just don’t know. But having experiences STO, I only know that I want more of it. Even though the game’s beginning throes show some age, and I didn’t fall head over heels for its combat, there was something immensely cool in taking control of my own starship, coursing through space, and visiting new worlds. It’s not the game I need at this very moment, but I absolutely feel like it could take over the spot left when my Fallout 76 sub expires (very soon).

Space…the final frontier. Lemme at it!

All images including lede, were taking by author during Xbox One gameplay of Final Fantasy XIV [free trial] (© Square Enix), DC Universe Online (© Daybreak Game Company, Sony Online Entertainment), Star Trek Online (© Cryptic Studios, Perfect World Entertainment), TERA (© Bluehole Studio, Inc.), Skyforge (© Allods Team), and Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis (© Online Entertainment R&D).

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