MMOBomb's Guide To Finding A Free Game When You're Social Distancing At Home
You're probably staying at home this weekend. No need to explain; we all know why. You've already binged your favorite shows on Netflix (twice) and now you're looking for some other form of entertainment -- preferably cheap or even free.
Maybe video games aren't your first choice, but seeing as how you've got all this time and nowhere to go, you'd like to give something new a shot, but you're a little intimidated by both the sheer number of games out there and the notion of playing online against people half your age with triple the reaction time. Yeah, I feel you. I was born when Nixon was in office, and while I've managed to do OK in modern-day shooters, sometimes I want something that doesn't require hair-trigger reflexes and that I can play while doing something else. Like watching more Netflix.
With that in mind, here are a few games I think you might enjoy if you're in that not-exactly-a-casual-gamer-but-also-not-hardcore, "I don't usually game a ton but I've got time now so what should I do?" crowd. Maybe that's a little specific, but even if you fall outside that narrow categorization, you might find something you like below.
If you want to blow things up ...
Even if you don't have the reflexes for fast-paced shooters, you can still shoot things and have a fun time doing it. Wargaming's World of Tanks (Website) and World of Warships (Website) both technically qualify as "shooters," but since you only fire a few times per minute and need to focus more on movement and tactics than pinpoint accuracy, they might be more up your alley. This isn't by accident, either; their age demographics skew older than most games, and their subject matter draws in a good number of active duty and retired military.
While Wargaming leads the field in this category, other games offer a similar style and pace. War Thunder (Website, Steam) offers ground, air, and sea battles, sometimes combined, as well as different types of game modes of varying difficulty and realism. Then there's Armored Warfare (Website), which is all about tanks and other ground vehicles, particularly ones with a more modern bent and current technology. Just don't do what I did when I was new to these types of games and think, "Hey, I'm in a tank, I'm freaking invulnerable!" A few AP shells to the face will quickly change that line of thinking.
If you're into card games ...
Your local friendly gaming store might not be able to offer Magic: The Gathering tournaments for a while, but you can still get your collectible card game fix -– by playing Magic: The Gathering Arena (Website), for instance. That's the latest online version of Wizards of the Coast's iconic CCG, and it plays pretty much like the original, so if you're used to that, you should be able to slide right in.
Magic's not the only game in town, as most online CCGs are free-to-play. Blizzard's Hearthstone (Website) is the other obvious choice, offering a somewhat more colorful and chaotic option. Don't worry if you're not into World of Warcraft; you don't need to know anything about the related MMORPG to enjoy Hearthstone.
Both of those games offer single-player options, but if you'd rather have a more robust and repeatable one-person experience, check out The Elder Scrolls: Legends (Website). Like Hearthstone, it's also based on another video game series, and it offers a PvE Arena mode where you build a deck from random cards and take on a series of AI challengers. The better you do, the more rewards you earn. The best part is that you can get up to grab a snack between turns and the computer won't complain that you're wasting its time.
Those are just a few of our favorite online free-to-play CCGs, but there are plenty more out there, like Eternal (Website, Steam), Shadowverse (Website, Steam), and Gwent (Website), the last of which is based on the Witcher series of games.
If you want to take over the world ...
Globe-spanning conquest games -- also known as "grand strategy" -- are rare in the free-to-play world, but there are a few exceptions. Probably the apex game in the genre is Crusader Kings II (Website, Steam). The base version is available for free, but there are a ton of DLCs and Paradox frequently runs sales on them for up to 75% off. Even with the basic version, you can plot and scheme your way to the throne of a medieval kingdom, but be warned: The game is ridiculously complex, though tons of fun once you get used to its esoteric mechanics. Also, don't piss off the pope.
Another popular, and slightly less dense, free grand strategy game is Age of Conquest IV (Steam). You'll command armies from an ancient or medieval power, like Rome, China, Persia, or even the Incas, and look to conquer the world. On the home front, you'll need to keep your people happy and forge strong diplomatic alliances. Developer Noble Master also makes a related title, Demise of Nations (Steam), which focuses on "the rise of Rome till the fall of modern civilization."
If you just want to chill ...
Things are stressful right now, so maybe you don't want to kill things or conquer the world. It's cool, I get it. Maybe you just want to set up a private art gallery and walk its marble corridors. Occupy White Walls (Website, Steam) will let you do just that, and you can visit other players' galleries to see how they've designed things and leave donations for their efforts.
If you'd rather enjoy nature, there's The Endless Forest (Website), which is, well, just what it sounds like. You play as a deer and simply wander the woods with no particular goal other than to interact with other deer-players. Don't worry, there are no hunters.
For something a little more active, there are a few free-to-play fishing games out there for you to try out. Fishing Planet (Website, Steam) bills itself as the Ultimate Fishing Simulator, and it does a fair job of living up to that name, with over a hundred different species of fish, 19 locations, different tackle combinations, and, if you're feeling competitive, multiplayer tournaments. There's also Professional Fishing (Steam), which boasts of "Advanced Fish AI" -- fancy! -- and lets you get around on land with an ATV or on the water with a pontoon boat. Again, if you're feeling social, you can form or join a club or enter a tournament.
If you don't care what you play, just GIMME FREE GAME!
The Epic Games Store offers one or more premium games for free every Thursday. (Here are this week's games.) If you claim the games before the next offer, they're yours to keep forever. Some of them are the usual "hardcore" fare, but they also offer a lot of more casual titles, including simulation titles and board games. (Just as all this was going down, they were going to offer a digital copy of the board game Pandemic. That offer was quickly rescinded, for obvious reasons.)
Of course, keep checking back here at MMOBomb for more news and updates to keep up to date with all the free games and other giveaways going on in the gaming world. And a final note if you're trying one of these games or something else new: Even if you're playing something casual or relatively light on the reflex-o-meter, it might be a challenge. And if you're playing online, with or against other players, you'll probably be a noob and make mistakes. It's OK. We were all beginners once, and you're jumping into the pool after a lot of other people have already learned to swim. Just try to have fun and maybe distract yourself from the trying times we're all facing. Do your best, try to improve where you can, and don't let it get you down.
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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