Perfect World International is a free 3D MMORPG that has been around for several years. Even though it has been out for a while, the developers are continually releasing new patches and expansions for it-- all free.
The premise of this MMORPG is that an alternate, fantasy version of ancient China is being invaded by mythological monsters. Your character has to help fight off the armies of demons and restore peace to the world, or something like that. Originally there were three races (human, wing-elf, and beastkind), although they are continually adding new races and powers. Elves start the game with the ability to fly, but archers (as opposed to clerics/healers) do not regenerate mana quickly enough to maintain flight for very long at the beginning. At level 30, all classes receive a quest that gives them flight ability, and elves receive upgraded wings that do not use magic (which are pretty useless if you just upgrade your flight skill all the way, especially as cleric-- much faster that way!).
There are an overwhelming number of options in the game, and that can be overwhelming when you first start out. However, with time and perhaps a little help from someone who's been playing for a while, it's second nature to use the controls. Perfect World International offers a dizzing number of features and gizmos to make the game play highly satisfying, and it doesn't fail in that regard. Some servers are PVP and some are PVE only, meaning that those who hate getting player-killed (cough, me, cough) can beat up on monsters all day without jerks attacking you and making you drop expensive items. One class, venomancers, can tame certain creatures and use them to fight, making for some interesting gameplay dynamics.
The game supports itself financially with an item mall, not surprisingly. Unlike many item malls in free-to-play MMORPGs, this item mall contains all sorts of items that you actually really want to buy. You can even trade your cash currency to in-game gold and buy things from stalls, something especially useful for fashion, since if you buy it direct from the shops you get a random color. Of course, if you want a black dress, you might be better off getting the random dress! Black, white, and red outfits tend to cost quite a bit of in-game gold. Besides fashion, you can buy scrolls that revive you when you die, scrolls that keep you from losing experience when you die, inventory expanding stones, fireworks, bits and pieces to make armor and potions, and mounts-- among many others! And their fashion selection is incredibly expensive, even ignoring the season/limited edition options.
The graphics are highly impressive, and vary according to an advanced options menu so that even my youngest brother can play it on his seriously old-school PC. At the highest setting, the setting cycles between night and day, you can see highly detailed rain, and you can even see your reflection in water. Likewise, the music is beautiful with a touch of Asian influence. It does loop, however, so if you're grinding in the same area for extended periods of time you may end up muting the game volume and putting on your own music (or the television). The water sound and graphic effects especially are very immersive, and the game is worth playing simply for the experience of swimming, flying, and riding reindeer!
Back when Perfect World International was known as Perfect World Malaysia and we had to play the game with at least one typo in every sentence, hitting level 40 was something of a death sentence to most peoples' interest in the game. The quests wouldn't quite line up with enough EXP, so not only did you have to grind for quests, you also had to grind for EXP just to get to the next level to get more quests that wouldn't give you enough EXP to level. It was incredibly frustrating, and most of my friends and I would give up trying to level and simply roleplay or help lower levels in our guild. However, PWI has improved the game on many fronts, from eliminating most of the typos to adding in several major quests at level 40 that jump you up from 40 to 45 in a matter of hours and give you a lot of in-game gold. They've also added several dungeons and daily quests, and these quests are designed so as to make it extremely easy for higher levels to help lower levels.
I know that I have lamented before over the fact that so many MMORPGs just don't have anything to make me stick with them. Perfect World is one of the few free MMORPGs (or just MMORPGs, full stop) that doesn't suffer from this potentially fatal flaw. It's highly addictive, and if there were one MMORPG I would end up playing for exclusively, it would probably be this one. It's well-known and generally heavily populated, it has a massive amount of features, the customization and item shop are extensive, and there is plenty to do even at high levels. Perfect World International is arguably one of the best free MMORPGs in existence so far, if not the best.
Use caution when playing this game, as it tends to drain your bank account and steal your hours away. That's certainly the mark of a well-made MMORPG, as I'm not usually susceptible to this and have the opposite problem of not being able to get addicted to games. However, if you can use moderation with the game, I think you will find it highly enjoyable if you're looking for an MMORPG to call "home".
- Extremely high customization for most characters' appearance.
- Plenty to do up to level 100ish, and a decent amount to do after that.
- Beautiful graphics
- Extensive flying and mount options.
- Interesting pet system and some interesting new classes.
- Easy to lose a lot of time and money on there (moreso than other MMORPGs that I've played!).
- Very addictive... though that might be a pro.
- Very slow leveling/EXP rate.
- Lack of intelligent quest-person-finding technology
- You generally have to belong to a certain race AND class to do any specific job (such as assassin, healer, etc.) and for the venomancer and barbarian classes, you don't even get to choose your gender!