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Considering PlanetSide 2's CPU bottleneck, World of Tanks was the most demanding free-to-play game out of the four we tested. Compared to games such as Battlefield 4 and Crysis 3, the graphics in both freebies look dated, allowing high-end GPUs such as the GeForce GTX 780 to deliver over 100fps and/or max out our test rig's CPU. The GTX 780 provides less than half that in both Battlefield 4 and Crysis 3 at the same resolution.
But of course, World of Tanks hasn't become this popular for its graphics, but for its gameplay, free access, and constant updates. Although the environment isn't that visually amazing, the tanks are. The attention to detail on vehicles is impressive. This is likely enough to keep fans happy and the bright side is that they'll be able to play on upper quality settings without spending big on a GPU.
Dota 2 and League of Legends can be run on their highest settings at the same resolution with nothing more than an AMD APU such as the A10-7850K while discrete cards like the R7 260X (aka the HD 7790) could be considered overkill.
In many cases, the discrete GPUs were limited by our CPU and it's clear that free-to-play developers are focused on making their games playable across a wide range of hardware. And while most games including graphics-intensive titles like Crysis 3 can be scaled down to run on older hardware, the problem there seems to be that gamers aren't happy knowing they are missing out on features, so it seems easier to exclude them. Nonetheless, graphics aren't everything and with free-to-play games attracting millions of players, they're obviously doing something right.
If you've enjoyed this article, note that we are running a follow-up feature with 4 more free-to-play games. This review focused on some of the most popular games, but we know there are dozens of others. Please vote for the games you'd like to see in our next free-to-play performance review: