World of Warcraft has been on top of the world for seven years. No other MMO has come close to challenging its dominance of the genre, and it has generated billions of dollars for Blizzard. They have spent a lot of money adding more and more content, to the extent where the full game with all the expansion packs takes up 65 GB of hard drive space. It is a beautiful game; well balanced, and a milestone in the history of the medium.
However, it's also seven-years-old, expensive, and requires both a gaming PC and a mammoth time commitment to get anything out of it. For many gamers, those factors are deal breakers. I have done the WoW dance myself, but couldn't get past the staggering demands the game makes of players to engage in repetitive actions over and over again for margainal increases in power. I liked the game, but not enough to pay $15 a month ad infinitum to continue playing it. It's recently become partially free to play, but the other problems remain.
Realm of The Mad God (RoTMG) has none of those problems.
RoTMG is a free indie flash browser-based action MMORPG schmup. After creating an account, players are cast a wizard character and walked through a short tutorial before being deposited in the main game world. Like in WoW, it is full of other players using different character classes, completing quests for loot and experience points, and saying mean things to each other. Combat is a simple schmup affair in which the mouse is used to aim a stream of shots. Enemies attack you the same way, creating some epic bullet hell moments during boss battles. Those can be especially crushing thanks to the unyielding and ever-present threat of character permadeath.
That permadeath is necessary to keep playing the game for free, however. Players cannot switch character classes except by dying—unless they pay real world money for an extra character slot. Letting a character you're bored of die is the only way to try out a different type and unlock new ones for the budget minded gamer.
Despite the lack of in-game currency, NPCs, towns, or ability trees, RoTMG still manages to suck one into the same "I'll just finish this quest to get this sword so I can finish that other quest and go to this area to fight that guy oh wow is that the sun coming up when was the last time I ate?" thought loop familiar to any seasoned WoW player.
It obviously has some disadvantages compared to its much larger cousin, namely that the experience is nowhere near as deep. There is a wafer thin story, no way to meaningfully customize your characters other than picking different classes, and a one note two button combat system. People will not go as crazy for RoTMG as they have for WoW because there simply isn't as much there to get into.
While it might not be the epic experience that WoW is, with Realm of The Mad God two-man indie developer Wild Shadow Studios have captured some of WoW's magic and brought it into a much more accessible space for most gamers. They pushed build 116 of the game last month, showing impressive dedication to making the game better over time.
Click here to create an account and give it a try. I play under the name Battj if you want to try to team up and go slay some zombie hobbits.