I decided to try out Sword of the New World. The game recently became free to play, and its received some accolades in the press, mostly for its art work. And, its well deserved. The graphics in game are very well done, especially for a game with such low system requirements. SotNW is particularly interesting in that it eschews the standard medieval Tolkienesque setting that plagues the MMO genre. In this game, you play a settler in a Renaissance-era New World. Not our New World, mind you, its a New World with magic and monsters, but its still a refreshing change of pace.
The game play is also somewhat different from the usual mold. Instead of playing one character, you play three. That means you can play a warrior, ranger, and a healer all at one time. Its not too unlike having a party with Heroes in Guild Wars. Well, except for the fact that Guild Wars is a better game. One downside to this is that there's very little incentive to group up. Maybe later in the game, they might have raids or areas where you need to group to survive, but in the beginning areas I've seen so far, you basically solo your party of three as they traverse dungeons with extremely rapid spawn rates, running past a lot of really quiet parties of three with random names. The game is very fast paced; you'll down thousands of mobs in the course of a few hours.
The game in most areas almost plays itself. You hit Ctrl+Click on a location and your characters automatically walk through, fighting everything on the way. Hit Ctrl+Shift+Click on a location, and they walk there, picking up any treasure they see along the way. Fighting boss monsters does require some more strategy and the use of skills you level up along the way. You can also collect "UPCs" (Unique Player Characters), which are henchmen you can swap in as a member of your party, and "Stances" which give you different skills you can use.
There isn't much depth to the game. Its basically your standard level grind. The gameplay is designed more for Eastern audiences, so there are many nuisances such as the fact you have to click to move places. And the translation from its Far East origins apparently wasn't entirely smooth; many UI dialogs have buttons that are too small for the text within them. But it IS free to play. So, if you are stuck waiting for the EverQuest II servers to come up like I was earlier this morning, its not a bad way to wile away the time.
There are a lot of better games out there (even free ones), so I doubt I'll be coming back to it often, but it is nice to see more MMOs out there trying out new settings. Now, if only one of them could break free of the standard level, monster, item treadmill grind rut this industry seems to be stuck in...