[From now until late January, sister site IndieGames.com: The Weblog will be counting down the best independent and freeware games of 2010, with descriptions, screenshots, and links of the best games in each major category. Previously: Top 10 Experimental Games, Top 10 Shoot 'em Ups] The third of our in-depth 2010 Best Of Features here on the IndieGames.com blog (after the overall Top 10 we did for Gamasutra and the 10 Indie Games for '11 article), we're proud to present ten of the best freeware role-playing games released in 2010. Here, we have a couple of interesting indie-developed freeware RPGs for you to look at. One requires the player to control nine party members at the same time, another deals with insanity, and there's even a roguelike game that is set in the middle of a zombie outbreak apocalypse. Here are the top freeware role-playing games of the year:
10. ro9 (Justin Smith) [Windows, freeware] ro9 is a turn-based role-playing game in which you get to control the actions of nine different characters at the same time, using only one set of controls for all. The objective here is to get all of your heroes down to the ninth and last level of the dungeon to loot the treasure, although you can still win if some of them succumb to their injuries before reaching the goal.
9. Madness (hmp) [Windows/Linux, freeware] In Madness you play as an adventurer who has to descend ten dungeon floors before defeating the evil Dungeon Master residing at the lowest level. You have a sanity meter that counts down after every couple of moves. When your sanity is low, you will begin to imagine things. Instead of fighting the usual array of rats, goblins and dragons, players may have to do battle with odd creatures like butterflies, flying spaghetti monsters and unicorns (both pink and robotic varieties). Occasionally you may even come across one of your brethen, but the state of their mind is more likely to cause concern rather than bring a sense of comfort. If you enjoy light roguelikes, then this is definitely one game that you should download just based on the concept alone.
8. Dubloon (Banov) [Windows, freeware] In Dubloon, you play as a pirate who stumbles upon an incredible treasure, and puts together a crew to make the treasure his own. The game plays out in classic RPG style - there's a world to explore with items to collect. Happen upon an enemy wandering about, and you'll be transported to a turn-based attack-a-thon, with stats et al. Definitely worth checking out for the RPG lovers among you.
7. Maze of Space (Petri Purho, Martin Jonasson and Niklas StrAi¿½m) [Windows/Mac, freeware] Maze of Space is a dungeon crawler set on a space station. Killing aliens will allow you to grab better gear and level up your character. Petri has attempted to render pixel art to look as if it has been painted onto a wooden surface, and for the most part it works really well. It's definitely worth giving a go, if only for the visuals.
6. Realm of the Mad God (Wild Shadow Studios) [Flash, freeware] Realm of the Mad God is 'a massively co-op fantasy adventure' featuring a remarkably large world to roam and explore (inhabited by thousands of monsters), real-time battling, a full leveling up system, plus lots of different equipment and magic spells to experiment with. Starting a game is as simple and entering your name and pressing go, at which point you'll be dumped into the world alongside every other connected player. You can choose to team up (text chat is available) or go it alone. A major thing to note - death is permanent. Lose all your health and you'll have to start all over again, whether you were level 1 or level 100.
5. Dungeons of Fayte (Brent Ellison) [Windows, freeware] Dungeons of Fayte is 'a non-linear, replayable RPG/Sim' that supports up to four participants on the same computer. Players spend time building up their stats by doing farm work/guard duty/visiting the pub, then set out on a quest at the end of each month to beat up green blobs and undead skeletons. There is an insane amount of content here, and with it a lot of replay value.
4. Rogue Survivor (Roguedjack) [Windows, freeware] Rogue Survivor is a survival roguelike sandbox game with plenty of depth to explore. You are put in the role of an average person in the middle of a zombie outbreak, and must stay alive for as long as possible. Each day you survive, you'll level up and become stronger - but tougher enemies will also appear. Apart from finding weapons and barricading yourself into a safe area, you'll need to make sure you have a good supply of food and perhaps some friends to help out. Apart from playing a survivor, you can also play as a zombie and see how many humans you can eat.
3. The Spirit Engine 2 (Mark Pay) [Windows, freeware] The Spirit Engine 2 is Mark Pay's self-developed sequel to the original TSE released way back in 2003. Set in a new world, with new characters, new graphics and a rewritten game engine, TSE-2 is a major improvement over its predecessor in every possible way. This side-scrolling RPG doesn't cost you a single cent to download, but will still provide you with hours upon hours of gameplay enjoyment.
2. Space Funeral (thecatamites) [Windows, freeware] Space Funeral tells the story is about a man named Phillip, who is on a journey to reach a place called the City of Forms. You get to recruit only one travelling companion during the entire adventure, meaning that there is very little party management and individual character stats to worry about here. The exercise of grinding for experience is also kept to a minimum, and you can beat the final boss even before either of your party members reach level twenty or above. The game takes about two hours to play from start to end, but you have to remind yourself to save often because there are no inns or checkpoints to record your progress for you. Should the random encounters becomes tedious over time, players can also use the auto option to have battles resolved for them automatically.
1. Desktop Dungeons (Rodain Joubert) [Windows, freeware] Desktop Dungeons is a puzzle-based roguelike with an emphasis on resource management, where the health of your adventurer is restored by walking into unexplored rooms or corridors. You can choose to engage an enemy immediately upon finding them, or save the tougher encounters for later after you've gained some battle experience with weaker inhabitants of the dungeon first. That is basically the gist of the game, yet once you've spent about an hour or two with it you'd realize that Desktop Dungeons has plenty of hidden complexity to offer anyone who is willing to learn the advanced strategies, bonuses and random elements that Nandrew has implemented in this gem of a time sink. [Got feedback? Reasons to disagree? Post a response and we'll do a special 'best of reader comments' round-up at the end of our chart countdowns.]