I'm amazed Warhammer Online hasn't gone free to play yet. Amazed! I say as much to everyone I meet. "I'm amazed Warhammer Online hasn't gone free to play yet" I said to my dad on the phone only yesterday. "Son, is that you?" he replied. "Is something wrong? What do you need a free hammer for?" Then I hung up.
Mythic's underwhelming MMO may be resisting microtransactions, but as an alternative it's releasing side-project Wrath of Heroes, a free-to-play PvP game featuring quickie battles and pre-made heroes, with more emphasis on the bashing than the levelling. That's now in open beta, which means you can right now and for free.
I've just had a quick battle in Wrath of Heroes, and can confirm that it's a series of point-capture arenas featuring three teams of six heroes, each with five abilities to call on. It's also very much all about the buying stuff. While it seems that, in theory, you can some of what you need to buy new heroes, abilities and skins by playing loads of the game, it seems like a long road. A new hero, for instance (you start with just one unlocked) costs 25,000 gold and 125 gems. I have just shy of 300 gold after being on the winning team for one battle. It will cost me around £7 to buy 125 gems, which I can't yet ascertain a way to earn without paying.
Currently it is allowing players to try out three other heroes for free (not the Skaven or orge, sadly), but you can't level them up or equip items unless you head to the store and fork out in-game currency for them. So, unless you want to be the same character throughout, this can't be thought of as a truly free game to any extent. That's ok - I mean, the game needs to make money after all - but I'm surprised by how little is in the starting hand, is all. I guess I do feel compelled to splash out so that I can test-drive a Skaven, so perhaps the system is working.
Basically, it's the League of Legends model as applied to MMO PvP, which is definitely a good idea from a business point of view. My gut reaction is that it needs more variety in terms of the arenas/battles to be a true success, but that will more than likely come over time.
Anyway, you can indeed try it out without spending any Earthbucks right here. Also, here's a very strangely-narrated, super-jabbery video for 'new' hero Dulg Kineater, who totally looks like the most fun but will set you back about £10.