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Top 5 free-to-play games of 2013

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It's December, which means we are finally nearing the end of 2013. With that in mind, here the top five free-to-play games of the year.

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5. "Solforge"
From Stoneblade Entertainment, "Solforge" is a free-to-play collectible card game. In "Solforge," you duel against one other opponent, playing creatures to attack and spells to effect the board. The fun catch to the game is that the spells and creatures have three different levels; each one being more powerful than the other. As you play more spells, you gain experience. Once you level up, you gain the ability to play higher level spells and creatures.

Your deck constantly recycles, so you never run out of cards. However, when you gain a level the high level cards are added to the deck rather than replacing the lower leveled cards. The overall object of the game is to lower your opponent's life total from 100 to zero.

Currently the game is open beta, but they just celebrated their two millionth game. Not all of the features are unlocked, but when they are, the game should much better to play.

"Solforge" is available for the PC via Steam as well as the iPad via the iTunes store.

4. "Hearthstone"
"Hearthstone" is brought to us by Blizzard. It combines two awesome things: "World of Warcraft" and card games. Many have compared this game to Wizards of the Coast's "Magic: The Gathering Online." However, the big difference is that this game is everything that people don't want to see in the online edition of "M:TG." It has a much friendlier user interface. Additionally, the color scheme is much livelier and more colorful.

Some of you may be asking though, with all the buzz, why is "Hearthstone" number four on the list? While the game is considered free-to-play, one of the best parts of the game is the "Arena" mode. Unfortunately, you have to pay $1.99. You do have the option of spending 150 gold instead of using real money, but gold is a bit of a grind to come by compared to the other free games on the list.

If you're willing to put in the hard work though, you can earn everything without dropping a dime. It may just take a little longer, and luckily $1.99 is not a lot of money. However, if you play a lot, it can add up.

"Hearthstone" is currently only available on PC. However, it was announced during BlizzCon 2013 that it would be making its way to Android and iOS platforms in the future. It is also in closed beta, but it is expected to open to the public later in December or early January.

3. "Card Hunter"
Made by Blue Manchu Games, "Card Hunter" is a great combination of an RPG and collectible card game rolled into one. Right from the start, you are literally thrown into a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Throughout the game, you explore different dungeons and participate in various skirmishes. You move your figures across a board like in Chess and perform attacks or cast spells using cards from your own personalized playing deck.

As you complete quests you obtain different kinds of loot; from normal items, to rare items, to epic and legendary items. These items then contain different types of movement or attacks for your heroes.

"Card Hunter" also contains a multi-player mode which you face off against real life opponents using the items you have found and trying different tactics. One of the great features of multi-player mode is that as you win more games, you gain the chance to open better chests which contain better loot. There is no real punishment for losing except you have to wait a little longer to get to that better chest.

"Card Hunter" is currently only available on the PC via your browser.

2. "Might and Magic: Duel of Champions"
Ubisoft's free to play CCG hit American shores in March of early this year. This has to be one of the best incarnations of a free-to-play collectible card game out there right now.

The game sets you up with enough in-game currency as well as a set of cards to make you competitive from the get go. Once you make your way out of the initial tutorial stages, the rest of the game is played against other real life people. The game has daily jackpot tournaments set up with up to five different tiers of prizes depending on your overall record as well as the number of participants. There are also eight man, Swiss-style tournaments. These are three rounds each and prizes are given to the top two players, and a random door prize is given out. Tickets for these events can be purchased, earned, or won as a daily reward for logging into the game.

The game has a great balance and is not overrun by micro transactions.

As you finish each match you gain gold and experience based on your overall performance. You can use the gold to buy boosters in the store and you gain bonus in-game currency every time you gain a level. In addition, there are achievements which gain you special promotional cards as well as other prizes.

"Duel of Champions" is available for PC and iPad.

1. "Path Of Exile"
"Path Of Exile" may have just hit the formula for dungeon crawler RPGs right on the head. From Grinding Gear Games, the first thing that should stand out to the player is that there is no gold. No gold? Yes, no gold. The entire economy is based on a barter system. When you sell your weapons and armor you get scrolls of identify or pieces of various orbs that can enhance your items later in the game. You also never have to buy potions because your vials refill themselves. And, in case you were wondering, yes, there are micro transactions available, but they are mostly cosmetic.

The game also has a very complex talent tree. It's very reminiscent of the one found in "Final Fantasy VIII." "Path Of Exile" is a very beautiful game that is fun to play. It is complex and simple at the same time. And, best of all, it is completely free to play.

"Path Of Exile" is available for download for PC via Steam.

That's it for now. If you have a comment, then sound off below in the comment section. If you'd like, you can e-mail BGExaminer@hotmail.com with any direct questions. Also, if you like what you're reading and want more then click on the "like" and subscribe button. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @simeoncortezano.

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