Title: Fallen Sword
Style: Browser based MMORPG, traditional fantasy format, PvE/PvP
Cost: Free, but with optional payments for in-game currency/bonuses
Fallen Sword is a pretty remarkable achievement. It has a huge world, while there are hoards of creatures, hundreds of levels and thousands of items. It also has (with the exception of meaningful grouping, housing and pets) everything you'd expect of a good MMO: chat, guilds (and guild bonuses), quests, auction house, crafting, PvP (including arenas and guild battles) and item improvement. In fact, it packs in more of the essentials list than many of its graphically superior counterparts.
Admittedly Fallen Sword is no great shakes in the graphics department, and there is no sound. However, the design of the menus and gameplay areas is professional and extremely functional, with a solid fantasy theme.
The many creature and item images are nicely drawn and the various menus and pop ups work really well. Also, there are no ads (except for ways to gain in-game currency, but these are hidden away in menus). You get nine slots for equipping items, as well as an achievement system - they really pack everything in.
The game is simple to pick up and well populated - it won't be long before you're being approached to join guilds. I found people to be generally polite, but this is helped by the lack of a general chat channel. With the exception of guild chat and PMs, there are no global chat options (a good thing for me, to be honest).
The basic mechanic is turn based - you have a certain amount of moves you can make (increased each hour) around the world - each square you move takes a turn (two for a diagonal move) and a battle uses up two more (or more, depending on buffs - some increase the turns used but also the xp gained).
While there are quests to do, mostly in the kill-x or fed-x mould, the PvE/levelling game is largely grind-based - go to optimum location for your level, kill critters until you get to the right level to go to a new area, rinse and repeat.
While there are definite choices/consequences in how you choose equipment and allocate skill/levelling points, there is a disappointing lack of depth to your character. You have five stats to spend points in when you go up a level, which affect combat, but there are no character classes - combat is an automatic turn-based bash fest in which you take no part beyond watching it unfold (except possibly running away).
You also get skill points, which can be put into a tree-based system of buffs. This is really nicely implemented and gives a little room for personalisation, but only in how you can help yourself and others - not game play style. It was the grind and lack of combat options that eventually led to me moving away from the game.
That said, I played for longer than I normally would a free MMORPG, mainly because while limited, the combat system rewards those who play it well. Arena battles give good rewards, guild strength equates to real bonuses (extra turns for all members, for example, or stat increases) and a strong PvP character can make a real nuisance of themselves - stealing money and PvP ranking points from other players.
Also, the payment method implemented is a very clever and effective one. FSPs (Fallen Sword Points) can be bought with real money and used to buy really useful stuff - extra turns, bag slots, auction house sales, bank visits per day etc.
However, none of these 'have' to be done to play regularly - I didn't spend a penny (as it were) in months of play. Also, more importantly, the standard in game cash that drops from critters can be exchanged on the market in-game for FSPs, so with patience a dedicated player will get their hands on plenty of the good stuff in time.
Fallen Sword has been around a while, which has had the usual detrimental effect on the lower levels of the game. Established guilds rule the roost and have all the gear a young player needs to waltz through the lower levels - and I mean hundreds of levels. In the right (if right is the right word) guild you go to level 400-500 without needing to have a PvE fight that was a challenge.
Of course, you can just stick to the item drops you find, or buy - but this leaves you horribly exposed to PvP attack from twinked characters (which, to be honest, is almost everyone once you get up a few levels) - this just wears you down mentally and is no fun at all.
If it were me, I'd seriously consider implementing a system where each character had a PvP set of gear and a PvE one to avoid you letting down your guild by being an easy target for PvP while still allowing PvE to be a challenge.
This is because guild vs guild battles can be incredibly exciting, tactical and tense - perhaps the highlight of the game - but they surely don't need to be at the detriment of what 90 per cent of the game's code is about?
Crafting isn't a very big part of the game, but is nicely implemented all the same. Certain creatures drop items that can be collected and combined to create items only available in this method. Unfortunately, crafting doesn't make you better at it, more a way for the patient few to make some extra coin.
Overall, Fallen Sword is a very good free MMORPG which has been expertly executed. I particularly like the scale, the fact the optional payments really are optional, and the strong guild elements. But the combat just didn't hold my attention sufficiently. That said, I'd certainly recommend the game to anyone looking for a free to play fantasy MMO experience.