Are you staying at home? That’s great because it can help reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus. As many people are spending money to get their own gaming PCs, that is only part of the entertainment equation. You also need to think about what games you are going to play.
In this article, I will talk about the best free to play steam games in 2020 that will surely keep you glued to your seats.
The Valve-owned gaming company has the biggest library of games out there. From MOBA games like Dota 2 to first-person shooters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the platform has everything that you need.
While there are some games that will require you to pay a fee upfront and those that are free to play that also provide microtransactions (like the aforementioned games), there are some that require you to not pay anything at all.
I will go over some of the best games out there that require absolutely no money upfront, though I will also include those that allow you to enjoy a much fuller experience by spending some.
Without further ado, let’s get on with it.
1.Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO)
Counter-Strike, as a title, is by no means a new game. In fact, the franchise debuted more than 2 decades ago.
However, one of the most popular games on Steam is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or more commonly known as CS:GO.
This game was introduced back in 2012 and it has gained a massive following ever since.
CS:GO is the first-person shooter that revolutionized the entire FPS genre. Games like Valorant, Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege, and even the Call of Duty franchise have picked apart some elements of this highly popular title and included on theirs.
While this game is free to play, meaning, you do not have to pay anything upfront, you are allowed to buy some skins- either from the in-game store or from other people via microtransactions.
To this day, it remains quite a popular game whether you are a casual player or a professional one.
Although critiqued as a Destiny 2 rip-off, Warframe is actually a pretty good game in its own right. You, as the player, will control a Warframe which is basically a space ninja suit that allows you to use a lot of cool moves.
While it wasn’t as popular as it is today when it first came out, the game has amassed more than 26 million players through its almost 7-year span.
You can use many different abilities depending on the Warframe you have equipped. You can also customize its looks, get additional Warframes, expand your storage, and a whole lot of different things.
While you can gain some platinum- which is an in-game currency that players can use to buy premium items, you can spend some of your real money to get that as well through Steam.
What’s more, the game is also available on Xbox One and Playstation 4 with cross-play enabled. What this feature means is that even if you play on your console in the afternoon, you can continue where you left off on your PC at night-time, which is a great thing.
Dota 2 or Defense of the Ancients is a game that was originally just a Warcraft 3 custom map that was made by Icefrog, a community W3 player.
Since the custom map was quite popular, Valve took it upon themselves to buy the rights to the said map, and thus, Dota 2 was born.
The game revolutionized the Massive Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre and it has paved the way for League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, and others to follow suit.
You get to choose your own hero and you will be teamed up with 4 other players to fight the opposing team. Whoever destroys the base first wins the entire game.
This is so massively popular that its main global tournament, The International, garners millions of dollars in prize money each and every year.
Just like CS:GO, the game is free to download and play and it is up to you if you are willing to spend some of your dough on character skins and optimizations.
This game can be construed as a rip-off of Super Smash Bros which is a platform-style fighting game made by Nintendo. Although there are some elements of the game that were copied from Smash, it is actually a fun one in its own right.
The premise of the game is simple. You battle it out against three enemies and you will have to use everything in your arsenal to knock them off the platform. Each enemy you knock out, you will receive corresponding points and the highest-scoring player in the game wins the round.
This is quite exciting because if you intend to play the free version of it, the free playable characters will rotate every week- allowing you to choose another avatar to pit against your enemies.
Of course, if you enjoy using a particular character, you can either use the points that you have amassed during your playtime or you can go on ahead and spend some of your money to acquire them immediately.
5.Paladins: Champions of the Realm
If you’ve seen a trailer of this game, you will find that it kind of resembles Blizzard’s popular first-person shooter, Overwatch.
While it is true that some of the characters and game mechanics have a resemblance to Blizzard’s FPS title, it still offers a lot of unique things to players.
You can choose between a variety of different Champions- each having their own unique abilities to suit your playstyle.
There are so many game modes to choose from. You can either defend a payload, play in a battle royale-style game called survival, and so on.
While you can technically gain everything in the game for free, you will have to grind for them.
6.Path of Exile
While a lot of people love Blizzard games, you will have to spend money upfront just to gain access to them and that is not something that people would want to do willy-nilly, especially since we are living in unprecedented times.
Well, if you love the style of Diablo 2, you would want to give Path of Exile a try. No, this is not a game that tries to mimic the said title but it is one that has its own unique elements.
First of all, it doesn’t use in-game money but instead, it uses certain items that you can trade for the things that you want. This is both true when you trade with NPCs or other players.
Aside from that, its unique class skill tree is so diverse that you will have to spend some time studying it completely so that you can plot a course for the build that you want to end up with.
All in all, Path of Exile is a fun and exciting game with numerous opportunities for growth.
7.Art of War: Red Tides
MOBA games like least Dota 2, was derived from a real-time strategy (RTS) game known as World of Warcraft 3.
RTS games would have you build entire buildings and you can acquire units by gathering up enough resources and training them in your own barracks.
The entire thing is a mess and that is why people gravitate more towards MOBA games because it helps speed up the process.
Well, if you want to somehow relive the experience of RTS games while also marrying some elements of the MOBA genre, then you have to give Art of War: Red Tides a try.
Your objective is to basically destroy the enemy’s base but it takes the brunt of the work off of your shoulders so you basically have to position the units yourself, pretty much like a true RTS game.
You can either play against one player or you can party up with two more players in an intense 3v3 match. The choice is entirely up to you.
If I were to describe this game, it would be an MMO version of the Halo franchise. You are essentially a shooter and your main job is to go against other players on the battlefield.
You could say that it is a hybrid between an MMO and a battle royale game because it borrows some of the elements from the aforementioned genres, but it is quite an enjoyable game nonetheless.
It is slowly gaining traction on Steam and I highly recommend that you check this out, especially if you are into FPS-style PVP. You would need a beefy graphics card for this one so that you can enjoy the amazing visuals that this game has to offer.
Are you familiar with Final Fantasy Tactics? It was a Playstation One RPG game wherein you control a group of characters and you move them like pieces on a huge chessboard.
Well, Atlas Reactor borrows similar elements from that genre but instead of waiting for the enemy team’s turn, the battle will actually take place in real-time. In other words, you will have to plan accordingly and act quickly so that you can take out the enemy team in the most efficient manner possible.
The graphics are pretty good. It is a mix of cell-shaded pixels and some 2D elements to provide a somewhat unique visual experience.
When you play this game, your decision-making ability will be tested. The longer you play it, the more adept you are in making snap decisions that could alter the course of the entire match.
Amazon Luna- Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Cloud Gaming Service
It seems that cloud gaming is the future as a lot of companies are pooling their resources just to make things happen.
Amazon Luna is Amazon’s foray into cloud gaming and it is going to be available soon. Read further to find out more information about this new experience.
Google has paved the way for cloud gaming to come to the fore with the release of the Stadia not too long ago. Although it was mired with a lot of different issues, it seems that the company has found a way to make things work.
Amazon also wants in on the action and although there are some similarities with Luna and Stadia, there are also some stark differences as well.
Before I begin, I just want to explain the concept of cloud gaming. Basically, instead of downloading games to your gaming PC or whatever platform you choose to install them, you will just stream those games using data centers that are scattered all over the world.
It should go without saying that you need to have a fast internet connection to make this happen and so that you will not experience high latency (which was a huge problem when Stadia launched).
That being said, the premise of Google Stadia is that you need to either purchase an individual game so that you can play it at any time (forever) or you could subscribe to the monthly plan and play the games that are on offer every month (and continue to play them so long as you’re subscribed).
With Amazon Luna, you will be presented with different channels that you can subscribe to. Each of these channels has different games on offer which makes this quite appealing for game developers to show their mettle.
Right now, the platform is still in beta and there are only two channels available at the moment- Amazon’s own Luna Plus and the Ubisoft Channel. The latter will have 50 games that you can play right away and more Ubisoft games will be added in the future.
Keep in mind that this channel-based system makes it so that developers can price their services accordingly. It remains to be seen how much Ubisoft will charge individual users, so stay tuned for that.
1080p and 4K Gaming
Just like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna will support both 1080p and 4K resolutions. Of course, the latter would be more taxing and you will need a fast internet connection to be able to enjoy high-fidelity gaming. I suggest that you get a WiFi 6 router and a compatible device to make the most out of your experience.
Unlike Stadia, Amazon Luna is more flexible in that it supports a lot of different devices. Not only can you play on your PC, but you can also choose to play it using your iOS devices, Android phones, and you can even utilize the company’s own FireTV devices as well.
Now, there has been this entire debacle about Apple’s 30% cut on every app in its App store but the good news is that Amazon can circumvent that.
You see, when you are going to play on your iOS devices, the application will actually be a PWA or a Progressive Web App. Basically, the game that you want to play will run in a contained web browser instead of it being an actual application that you install in your device. This bypasses the whole 30% cut issue which is a good thing.
NVIDIA Hardware Use
According to a recent Steam survey, the vast majority of PC users are all using NVIDIA graphics cards. This is a good thing for Amazon Luna because it means that it can support a lot more people.
That is because the company’s cloud gaming service will use NVIDIA GPUs instead of AMD cards (which Stadia uses for graphics processing).
Supposing that Amazon Luna will be more popular than any other cloud gaming service out there, NVIDIA will enjoy huge profits as a result.
Can Be Streamed to Popular Sites
Twitch is arguably the most popular streaming platform today and Amazon is looking to forge a partnership with the said service to allow you to stream your games to the popular website.
The said platform is widely used as a means of generating revenue- something that is quite popular today due to the recent pandemic.
This move also makes it appealing as well as more and more content creators can use Amazon Luna to reach a broader audience.
New Controller with Alexa Support
Just like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna also requires you to get a special controller. The good thing is that the control will have a microphone so that you can use Alexa for specific voice commands.
What’s interesting about the Luna’s controller is that it is completely connected to the Cloud, which means that you do not have to pair it with the specific device you are going to use to play games online.
According to Amazon’s website, it should have a grippy texture and will feature low-friction thumbsticks that provide maximum performance across the board. By using the controller’s microphone, you can actually tell Alexa to fire up the specific game that you want to play, so long as it is inside the channel that you’ve subscribed to.
Amazon Luna is quite enticing, at least, on paper. It is shaping up to be a better cloud gaming service compared to its competitors but the service is still in beta, so there are more things that need ironing out before its official release.
Right now, there are only two channels that are available and Ubisoft hasn’t imposed its pricing yet. The Amazon Luna channel is priced at $6.99
If you are interested in getting in on the action, you can be an early beta tester by subscribing to the service.
Amazon Luna will be out sometime in October.
Acer Nitro XV340CK Review- A Greatly Competitive Ultrawide Gaming Monitor Under $500
Ultrawide monitors used to be a niche display in that the only people who work on productivity tasks and creative workloads usually buy them.
Fortunately, the display technology has evolved and gamers, too, can enjoy a much wider screen.
Today, I am going to review the Acer Nitro XV340CK which is a 34-inch ultrawide gaming monitor that is priced competitively.
Even though this is marketed as a gaming monitor, the Acer Nitro XV340CK actually doesn’t look like it. It looks simple and I love the aesthetics, especially if you want to place this in your office.
The only thing that might make you think that this is a gaming display is that red accent that you can find on the base of the monitor but that’s about it.
Anyway, let’s start with the stand. Aside from the aforementioned red accent, the stand provides good ergonomics.
It gives you the ability to swivel the monitor a complete 360 degrees, you can tilt it to 35 degrees back and you can adjust the height up to 5.9 inches. Because this is an ultrawide monitor, you cannot put this thing in portrait mode.
I love the fact that this monitor has slim bezels. At only 0.4 inches, you can place another monitor right beside it and it wouldn’t really take a lot of screen real estate at all.
The overall build quality is good. Despite the fact that it doesn’t feel premium, at least when compared to the best gaming monitors out there, it still feels sturdy nevertheless.
For the ports, you get two Displayport 1.4 ports, two HDMI 2.0 ports, and two USB 3.0 ports. Due to the wealth of ports on offer, you can use this for your PC or your game console.
The only thing that might be cumbersome for some users is that the OSD controls are situated at the back of the monitor- particularly on the bottom right side. The buttons are also a bit smaller than usual, so you may have a hard time pressing the right ones.
The Acer Nitro XV340CK has a 34-inch IPS display with a resolution of 3440 x 1440 and an aspect ratio of 21:9. It is the same as other ultrawide gaming monitors that you can find on the market so there is no problem with that.
You do have the option to enable the picture-in-picture mode so that you can divide the display in two if you wish to fire up two different programs at the same time. This is why it is not only a handy gaming monitor, but it can also be used for office work as well.
Its contrast and brightness leave much to be desired. With a native contrast ratio of 1048:1 and peak SDR brightness of only 247 nits, it is not the best display when it comes to these things.
However, its redeeming quality is that its colors are accurate. After calibration, I got 95% sRGB, 82% AdobeRGB, and 81% DCI-P3. It is relatively color accurate and it would have been nice for creative workloads, but its peak brightness just falls short of making it an ideal display for such use-cases.
It is also worth noting that if you are in a well-lit room that the brightness could be a huge issue. The good thing is that the display’s matte finish can help reduce glare significantly, though you will still find that it is not bright enough in some situations.
I am surprised by the fact that there is literally no color bleed on the Acer Nitro XV340CK. This is unheard of, especially since ultrawide monitors are notorious for this.
Sure, its peak brightness and contrast could have improved, but gamers are not especially focused on those things. If anything, it is the performance of the display that usually takes the cake and I am happy to report that you won’t be disappointed with the Nitro XV340CK.
Normally, with IPS panels, they tend to not have a good response time, but that is actually not the case here. At just 5.3ms, it is definitely one of the best out there even when compared to other, more premium models.
How about input lag? This is a speed monitor and as expected, input lag is minimal. At just 4.2ms, I am really blown away by the performance of this thing. Every keypress on your gaming keyboard will register almost immediately and that is really great from a competitive standpoint.
It is also worth noting that its 144Hz refresh rate is ideal, especially since most gamers are clamoring for high refresh rate displays anyway.
This is a FreeSync gaming monitor and you can enable this variable refresh rate feature in both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards.
To get a hold of the said features, it is important for you to know that you should use the DisplayPort cable that is included in the box. There is also an included HDMI cable if you want to use this display for your Xbox or Playstation consoles.
With all of those things being said, if I were to ask you how much this thing costs, what will be your guess? If you’ve guessed around $700, you’re wrong.
The Acer Nitro XV340CK is priced at just $450! At that price, you are getting a relatively color-accurate monitor, a really fast display with minimal input lag, and a vast number of ports that you can use for your PC or game consoles.
Sure, its contrast and peak brightness could have been improved, but if you are talking about raw gaming performance, the Acer Nitro XV340CK blows other ultrawide gaming monitors out of the way.
Just make sure that you have a nice gaming PC for this thing to work nicely. Other than that, I highly recommend the Acer Nitro XV340CK for its price and performance.
HyperX Cloud Stinger S- A Comfortable 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset
As an audiophile, I’ve always loved HyperX’s gaming audio solution. They are inexpensive and for the price, you are actually getting sound quality that you normally would only hear from expensive products.
In today’s article, I am going to review the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. This is a budget offering that aims to improve upon the original Cloud Stinger with the inclusion of a 7.1 surround sound option.
Do I recommend this headset? Find out later on in the article.
The HyperX Cloud Stinger S is actually quite similar to the original version. It has the same pleather ear cups that envelope your ears quite nicely and the clamping force of the headset itself is actually quite okay.
I’ve been receiving reports that there are some people that have problems with the tightness or, shall I say, how loose this thing can be. But that will probably be a result of the size of your head and not the actual product itself. For me, the fit was okay, but your mileage may vary.
Although this thing is predominantly made in plastic, the overall build quality is good, though I would advise you not to throw this headset when you lose a round in a MOBA game or first-person shooter.
There is a microphone on this headset and just like the original, it is not removable. It would have been nice if you could remove it when you are not using it because even if you fold the microphone (which also acts as a way of muting it), you will still see it which can be annoying at times.
This thing is quite simple and all you have for the controls is the volume slider that is located on the right ear cup.
While other HyperX gaming headsets come with a carrying pouch, I am sad to say that the HyperX Cloud Stinger S doesn’t have one.
All you get in the box aside from the headset is a USB dongle that is attached to a relatively long cable and some documentation. And, since you use this thing completely wired, it can also be used in your Playstation or other game consoles as well.
The 3.5mm analog cable should be inserted in the USB dongle if you wish to use its 7.1 surround sound implementation, but if you are just going to watch movies or play non-competitive games, I suggest that you do not use it.
There are two modes that you can utilize if you are going to use the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. You can use its 3.5mm headphone jack and enjoy stereo sound or you could insert that into the included USB dongle and use the 7.1 surround sound feature.
Keep in mind that if you are going to use the 7.1 output that it is only supported on the PC since you will need the NGENUITY software to enable it.
That being said, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S’ sound signature leans more toward being bright and with a little emphasis on the bass. This seems to be the preference of the majority of gamers since lower frequencies can make those in-game sounds pop-out more.
I also love the mid frequencies as it is quite balanced as well. I’ve had no problems listening to in-game dialog and when I am using the microphone, it just works really well.
Although the high frequencies are okay, I would say that it is the weakest of the bunch, though not so much as to diminish the overall sound quality. You will still hear the sibilance of the cymbals and lead guitars, but it is not as pronounced as the lower and mid frequencies.
As for the 7.1 surround sound, you should enable it in the companion software and it is only available when you are on the PC.
Anyway, its surround sound is okay but I say this because it is a budget gaming headset. If you compare it to the more premium ones, this is subpar at best. Still, you could enable it in your favorite games but I will advise against it if you are just listening to music or watching movies.
Despite a relatively good clamping force, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S doesn’t do so well in terms of sound isolation. People around me can still hear what I was listening to, so this might not be ideal if you are playing at night and there are people sleeping.
There is usually this notion that budget headsets have horrible microphones but not the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. In fact, I would go on to say that it has one of the better ones on the market.
Instead of sounding tinny, the microphone quality of the Cloud Stinger S is full-bodied and my teammates can hear every word I said without any problems.
The volume of the microphone is also quite good as well. Normally, with budget offerings, you tend to sound a bit ‘too far’ but that is not the case here.
Overall, I am quite pleased with the microphone. The only thing that I do not like is that the flippable microphone may impede your vision sometimes, but I think that you can adjust to this.
For a budget headset, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S is definitely one of the better sounding ones. I also love the fact that the microphone’s quality is top-notch and it can even go head-to-head against its more premium counterparts.
I am just a bit disappointed that you do not get a carrying pouch with this one because other HyperX gaming headsets have them. But, this is a minor inconvenience.
I did not feel the need to talk about the NGENUITY software mainly because it is pretty barebones and all you can do with it is to enable the 7.1 surround sound, adjust the volume and microphone, and that’s about it. There is no equalizer present which is quite odd.
Still, for what it is giving you, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S is highly recommended. This thing costs $60.
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