Whether it’s games you’ve already paid for or F2P titles, there’s no shortage of free gaming content out there.
Not too long ago, when esports was still something that South Korea was revolutionizing while the rest of the world played catch-up, freeware was a term. Okay, so it wasn’t all that long ago but “free content” in the gaming space meant something different. It meant free demos on game discs included with magazines like Computer Gaming World, offering a taste of titles like Thief: The Dark Age or Unreal Tournament for those who couldn’t afford them. Some companies thrived on this practice – Valve’s Half-Life: Uplink was a stand-alone demo with original content that couldn’t be found in the main game.
“Freeware” games added on to this. They weren’t demos but entire full-length games created and released for free. The quality of these experiences wasn’t on the level of commercial games, especially in terms of visuals and feature sets. But they were free! If you wanted a fun arena shooter with multiplayer support (Cube) or a decent horror adventure game (The White Chamber) to pass the time, there were quite a few gems out there.
"Let’s briefly touch upon Monster Hunter World. You can criticize Capcom for its approach to new content with so many things on a limited-time rotation."
Things are quite different today though. Recently, I discussed end-game systems in the current industry. Present in action RPG loot-grinders like Diablo 3, numerous titles have begun implementing end-game content to keep players coming back for more. There is a broader narrative of post-story gameplay though, bolstered by today’s emphasis on games-as-a-service and free content. The argument could be made of these loot-based end-game systems eventually struggling to coexist, especially when games Anthem and The Division 2 have to stand alongside Destiny 2: Forsaken and Monster Hunter World. That’s not even considering upcoming games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Battlefield 5, Forza Horizon 4, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and so on having their own post-launch support to keep players hooked.
That being said, it’s amazing to think of the games that offer so much more after release, completely for free. It’s one thing to have so many compelling free to play titles like Path of Exile, Warframe, Fortnite: Battle Royale, Guild Wars 2, TERA, Hearthstone, Dwarf Fortress, Dungeon Fighter Online and what have you. However, the amount of free content that any player can get is simply overwhelming. When one is told that there’s no better time to be a gamer, there’s more than enough merit to the claim.
Let’s briefly touch upon Monster Hunter World. You can criticize Capcom for its approach to new content with so many things on a limited-time rotation. However, the developer still brought in Deviljho, a brand new invader with two sets of gear and new weapons across all trees. It then upped the RNG ante with Kulve Taroth while introducing a new Siege Quest type involving up to 16 players. The loot pool only had a few selectively awesome weapons, something which RNG looters are known for, but you could also craft an exquisite armour set, garner tickets for two new sets of Layered Armour, and even farm the mission for Armour Spheres and money-making materials.
Lunastra came next, introducing a new Elder Dragon that could fight alongside Teostra (and is still agonizingly tough if you don’t deal with her ultimate attack). She brought two new armour sets and a new twist to weapons. Each base Lunastra tree weapon was capable of upgrading into three variants, each offering a unique skill. This offered another reason to grind monsters like Bazelgeuse, Xeno’jiiva and Nergigane since their Mastery skills could essentially be equipped for free.
"How about Enter The Gungeon, Dodge Roll’s awesome rogue-like top-down shooter and its recent Advanced Gungeons and Draguns expansion which adds hundreds of new rooms, new weapons, etc?"
Keep in mind that this is all on top of the base game which delivers up to 50 to 60 hours of gameplay if you just complete the main campaign. It doesn’t even take into account all the side-content, Elder Dragon end-game, really tough missions like The Sapphire Star’s Guidance or all the different builds that players could experiment with. Say what you will about event quests and their limited time windows, Layered Armour not being a good substitute for transmog, Arch-Tempered Elder Dragons being annoying variants without really offering overwhelmingly good rewards, and whatnot. We could talk endlessly about how the end-game is fairly limited in terms of farming – even if you really want to try out every single weapon and conceivable build out there, you’re still eventually funnelled into farming the same handful of Tempered Elder Dragons (Tempered Deviljho is a limited-time event, you see).
But on the other hand, after paying $60 for the base game (and thanks to numerous discounts, it’s possible to get it for almost half as much), all the new weapons, gear, cosmetics and seasonal events have been free. Even if loot boxes were included for Layered Armour (heaven forbid), that’s still an absurd amount of content. And all of its free.
How about Enter The Gungeon, Dodge Roll’s awesome rogue-like top-down shooter? The developer already released a fairly substantial free expansion with Supply Drop. With Advanced Gungeons and Draguns, which is now available, it went even further by adding hundreds of new rooms, new weapons, new Synergies (unique effects created by having certain weapons and items equipped), and so on. It’s one thing to simply tell you that some rooms indeed “look” new but they do offer new gameplay possibilities, either through the rolling spiked logs on the first floor or the new enemy types.
It’s crazy to think that new mid-bosses have been added to the mix as well, one acting as a loving tribute to Bowser from Super Mario World. Then there’s the secret boss fight against Resourceful Rat, a multi-phase extravagant fight that embodies two awesome classics which has to be experienced. Let’s not forget the new Turbo Mode either offered by Tonic the Sledge-Dog (yet another classic game reference), which simply makes everything fast. It might not change things to a crazy degree but it’s another challenging fun mode to keep dedicated players coming back. It’s one thing when a title like this, that too for $15, offers so much new content. However, a lot of the playability also comes from how well this content fits together with the base game, pushing you to replay it again and again while experiencing something new each time. That is the point of a rogue-like game (see The Binding of Isaac) but Enter The Gungeon does it so darn well.
"Divinity: Original Sin 2, one of the greatest RPGs ever made, is receiving its Definitive Edition this year. While that marks the game’s release for consoles, the Definitive Edition will be free to owners of the PC version."
No Man’s Sky is another a prime example. Even if you hated the game or simply didn’t feel that interested at launch, the drive of Hello Games with its free updates has been fantastic. The NEXT update not only adds full multiplayer support, allowing either pre-made or random groups to play together for various hijinks but they can also undertake new multiplayer missions for some added challenge. Base building has hundreds of new parts with increased complexity, size and freedom. You can also create a fleet of Freighters, sending them off to complete missions (which play out in real-time) or ask them for back-up during large fleet battles. New mission types, enhanced visuals, a rebalanced resource grind (with both positive and negative aspects, don’t get us wrong), character customization…all of this is now available and weekly updates will bring new missions and community events. All of this is free with no microtransactions whatsoever.
But wait, there’s more. Do you like Ghost Recon: Wildlands? Even if you don’t, there’s a new Special Operation which crosses over with Rainbow Six: Siege, the new Ghost Mode for a totally new level of difficulty and the option to play solo without AI teammates. The microtransactions inherent in the game are annoying, especially with the new HK416 weapon being heavily requested and yet only available through spending real money (that too as part of an item pack). This doesn’t even take into account how new emotes, victory poses and voice lines were introduced to obviously pad the loot pool. That being said, many of the core gameplay aspects like new PvP classes and maps are free.
Have you been playing Hollow Knight? It’s next big content update is out in August and brings three new bosses, some new enemy types, a new NPC, new areas and a new mechanic. That’s not including the teased new mode, which many assume to be New Game Plus or the new Charms that will likely be added as well. If you’re playing Hollow Knight for the first time on Switch and experiencing the sizeable base game along with its other free content updates, the update will be out just in time to hop back in.
Divinity: Original Sin 2, one of the greatest RPGs ever made, is receiving its Definitive Edition this year. While that marks the game’s release for consoles, the Definitive Edition will be free to owners of the PC version. Along with the Sir Lora DLC, which adds a free new quest centred on a squirrel knight combating an apocalypse of sorts, the Definitive Edition will significantly change encounters, add more enemies, change up the Gold and XP curve from Act 2 onwards, overhaul Act 3 entirely and add new characterization for characters like Beast. The story as a whole is undergoing significant rewriting with lots of new material added as well. Such a practice is nothing new for Larian Studios – it did the exact same thing for Divinity: Original Sin’s Enhanced Edition, adding tons of new content for no additional charge if you owned the PC version.
"Even if something unsavoury is going on to explain why X game is free or Y game needs to provide free content, the free gaming life is surprisingly lavish."
I could go on with games like Moonlighter, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition, Frostpunk, Overwatch and Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, at least among the game that have received free content in the past few months or launched and then had more free content this year. But honestly, that’s not it. We live in an age where a random game will be available for free on Steam, no questions asked (aside from all the free weekends). One where free games are doled out on a monthly basis via Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus, to say nothing of sites like GOG or Humble Bundle. Do you want to experience HackNet, Shadowrun Returns, Galactic Civilizations 2 and The Flame in the Flood for free? Even FTL: Faster Than Light was free when purchasing Into The Breach. Such offers aren’t exactly rare these days.
Of course, before we forget, there’s Warframe consistent updates or the new Leagues and content drops of Path of Exile that make Diablo 3 look fairly tame in comparison. Fortnite’s developers work tirelessly reacting to fan feedback, ensure a stable experience and delivering new content, both in small doses and large seasonal updates. And yes, much as they may be lambasted, even Bungie has been doing a pretty good job with free updates to Destiny 2. The amount of free content that the game has received might not be the heftiest but if the recent Whisper of the Wind quest proves anything, it’s the developer can still deliver compelling content that its fans will love. Except for the idiotic Public Event requirement though.
My heart goes out to all those developers doing their best, trying to support their games and make a decent living while pushing out so much consistent content. While I do question the sustainability of so many games with end-game systems – with each following different ways of engaging consumers, building goodwill to incentivize future purchases or sustaining a high daily active user count to keep investors happy – there’s no denying that gaming, in general, is as generous as it will ever be. There’s always a sale going on, a free game doled out or free content for your favourite game. Even if something unsavoury is going on to explain why X game is free or Y game needs to provide free content, the free gaming life is surprisingly lavish for those who embrace it.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.