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While free-to-play games have been on the rise in the last couple of years, there have also been quite a few supposedly “free” games that eventually hit you with some kind of paywall. However, we’ve found ten great free-to-play games that, while sporting microtransactions, won’t try to suck you dry.
Update While this is quite an old article, as many long-time readers will notice, we plan on updating this list of great free-to-play games whenever there's a new one out that manages to prove to us that it's not just out there to bleed its playerbase dry.
Few developers are so adept at making niche genres accessible as Blizzard Entertainment, and Hearthstone sees the studio working the same magic they applied to massively multiplayer online roleplaying games on collectible card games. There's a surprising amount of depth hiding beneath its colorful boards and cheery dwarven taunts, and themed expansions and multiple classes keep it fresh hours into the experience. Provided you don't get addicted to the Arena mode, there's no reason you'll ever need to put down cash at all.
Lord of the Rings Online is only a little older than Team Fortress 2, but unfortunately it hasn't aged as well visually. On the bright side, Turbine lets you experience the entirety of the game if you have the Hobbit-like courage to grind out its premium currency. It's generally worth it, if you're of a roleplaying bent. LOTRO boasts one of the most faithful and enthusiastic communities of any MMORPG (provided you're on the right servers), and there are few experiences in gaming quite like setting out from the Shire and riding all the way to Isengard. For the most part, LOTRO gets Tolkien right.
If there's a price to pay for playing League of Legends, it's the time you spend trying to catch up with the skills and tactics of a community that's lived and breathed this insanely popular multiplayer online battle arena game (MOBA) for almost all of the five years it's been around. On the bright side, it costs you nothing to learn if you're ready to make such a commitment. If you are, you'll find a gameplay experience that's incredibly polished and a roster of characters large enough to satisfy almost any preference.
TERA isn't the most innovative MMORPG; most of the time you'll run around slaughtering monsters with only the slightest idea of why you're doing it. But, man, it looks good (at least if you're comfortable with the softcore outfits on some of the ladies). TERA was also one of the first MMORPGs to draw attention to "action" style combat, which is quickly becoming the norm, and its version of it still holds up today. And if you don't mind some instance cooldowns and some loot restrictions, you can enjoy the whole thing for free.