World of Warcraft might be the current king of MMOs, but it has one major flaw it simply can't overcome: you have to pay for it. It's $20 for the game, $40-50 for the expansion, and another $15 each month, which adds up to a pretty hefty price tag for your online gaming. Unfortunately, most MMOs go by this system: buy the game, pay more per month to keep playing.
Now you can get your massively multiplayer gaming for free with Dungeon Runners, a new MMO from MMO company NCSoft (of City of Heroes/Villains and Guild Wars fame). NCSoft released Guild Wars a few years ago, surprising gamers by offering MMO gameplay without a monthly fee; once you get Guild Wars, you can keep playing online indefinitely. Now the company has forgoing even the initial price tag with Dungeon Runners, an MMORPG that's free to download, free to start playing, and free to keep playing for as long as you want.
Dungeon Runners plays like a cross between Diablo and Guild Wars. Players can interact with each other and team up in public areas, then go into randomly generated private dungeons called instances created just for those cooperating players. It doesn't sound quite as massively multiplayer as games like World of Warcraft or City of Heroes, where most of the overworld is shared by thousands of gamers, but it still works out pretty well. Instanced dungeons mean that, while you won't randomly meet new people while slaying goblins, you also won't have to deal with rare monster farming, harassment, or many of the other problems that plague less-instanced games.
The gameplay itself is a bit lean. You're limited to only one race (human) and three classes (ranger, fighter, or mage). You can further customize your character with various skills and equipment, but the selection is still pretty sparse compared with most other MMOs' countless combinations of race, class, and appearance. The gameplay is just as simple, with plenty of click-to-attack action.
You can play the game for free, but if you want, you can also spend $5 per month for a Dungeon Runners membership. The extra fee can get you access to the highest-level equipment in the game, loot-saving features like a bank vault and potion-stacking, and higher priority when connecting to game servers. They're nice touches, but don't really seem worth $5 per month.
While Dungeon Runners might be one of the most up-to-date free MMOs out there, it's not quite the only one. Though several years old now, the cyberpunk MMO Anarchy Online can also be downloaded and played for free without any expansion content. Just like Dungeon Runners, though, you have to pay extra if you want to get more than the basic experience.
Discuss 'Dungeon Runners,' other games offer MMO goodness for free...mostly.