Not everyone has a credit card like Tofu, and not everyone has a full time job with a decent income. Gaming on a budget is about getting the best out of steam with no money to spend. In other words - Free games!
Sure, you can drop the occasional dollar on Humble Bundle or Fanatical. Or keep an eye on IsThereAnyDeal like your life depended on it. But, there are hundreds of games up on steam (and other sites) free to play. I'm sure you've heard of F2P and P2W, or subscription services. The best things (games) in life are free. It's one of the best four letter word that just brings joy to our hearts, does it not?
Some games are cool about it, some will nag at you every chance they get to spend "crystals" or some other premium currency to speed things up or get better equipment. Those are the cheeky ones that may end up costing you more money than a normal paid game would. Do be careful with those. Let us focus on a few of the better ones.
We already have a review up for Warframe, which is also free. But let's look at two other great games in this review. Both worth checking out, or at least reading about.
Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop
Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop is a half-life total conversion mod based on the original engine. It turned the game into a top-down twin stick shooter. Imagine playing Among us, but everyone is sus (yes, friendly fire) and all the aliens outnumber you 40 to one.
Please do note, there are two versions of this game on steam. The classic alien swarm, and the newer Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop. The latter has everything the original had, but with much more content and more players to play with.
2-8 man cooperative play
Alien swarm can be played solo - but you won't have a good time. Similar to GTFO, alien swarm is a survival horror game in many ways. You're dropped into a mission and need to survive and escape with very limited supplies. Meanwhile hordes of hungry aliens will do all they can to make sure you do not succeed. You control the game with mouse and keyboard (or controller) and have a total tactical overview of your nearby surroundings and the map. Nothing scary right? Guess again. Headcrabs, friendly fire, dumb team mates, ammo running out. Plenty of things could go wrong at any time.
As you play the game you gain XP or "ranks" which will unlock more weapons and gadgets. Such as the ever wonderful and ammo efficient flame thrower. AI sentry guns, ammo boxes, welding kits and other tools to spice up your game. No purchase needed.
Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop release date: 20 Apr, 2017
Alien Swarm release date: 19 Jul, 2010 - skip this one.
Minimum system requirements: Windows XP and up, Pentium 4 at 3 GHz, 2 GB Ram, Direct X 9 or higher compatible video card, 4 GB Disk space.
In short, if your potato can't run this, it's time for a better potato.
Path of Exile
This is a big name, and for good reason. It's a diablo-like game similar to Grim Dawn. But it's free, and huge! Not only that, there's a Path of Exile 2 in the works, and it'll be the same game. Meaning, v1.0 becomes v2.0 and you keep all your characters and progress. This will be a major engine overhaul.
Path of Exile 2.0 is not slated for release in 2020, but a public beta is expected soon (tm). v1.0 is still available and getting regular updates however.
Any RPG with a topdown isometric view is quickly labeled to be "like" Diablo. In the case of Path of Exile (PoE) that is more true than most games however. As various devs and team leaders who all worked on the Diablo series have joined the PoE team.
One thing that will really stand out to players is the economy. Specifically the lack of a certain resource. Namely: Gold. While in Diablo and most games like it you'd find millions of millions of gold coins to carry around and spend on upgrades, PoE has none at all. Instead of gold you'll find bits and pieces of armor, alchemical components, runic stones and items with various functions. These can be used to upgrade your weapons, reroll specific stats or change sockets. And, they can be traded. The most rare items will be the most looked after, and will help you trade for some superior armor or skill stones.
Skill based system
And then there is the skill tree. The game has seven classes now, and it is unique in a way that every class has access to the same skill tree. It's just their starting position on the skill tree that is different. There... is just no better way to explain this than with an image. The tree is beyond huge. See the full image here.
The tree is all passive skills. Active skills are found, or awarded from quests and come in the form of gems. These gems must be placed in sockets found in your weapons and armor and will grow in power as you use them.
Six socket weapons are in high demand for this reason - but you can also "link" sockets together and have skills complement each other. It quickly becomes obvious that having a weapon with 6 sockets, all linked is going to get you the best damage. But, the weapon itself also has random effects and properties attached to it. Much like in Diablo - your quest in this game will be to find a specific combination of random properties on various items that work best for you.
Release date: 23 Oct, 2013
Minimum system requirements: Windows 7 and higher, Quad core 2.66 GHz, 8 GB Ram, Nvidia GTX 650 Ti or ATI Radeon HD 7850 or better, DirectX 11 and up, 40 GB disk space.
Path of Exile's system requirements are not for the faint of heart.