Is Once Human free to play?

Once Human
A particularly massive "Deviant," a creature born of Once Human's parasitic alien lifeform called Stardust. (Image credit: NetEase)

Is Once Human free to play?

Yes, Once Human is free to play. The game can be enjoyed for free on Windows PC via Steam, the Epic Games Store, and NetEase's Loading Bay launcher, and is also coming to mobile devices through the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store at a later date.

Yes, Once Human is free for all

The front of a large bunker-like facility in Once Human. (Image credit: NetEase)

One of the biggest new games that dropped this summer is Once Human — a post-apocalyptic multiplayer survival shooter from Starry Studio and publisher NetEase that's about fighting a parasitic alien lifeform called Stardust that's overrun Earth and has infested everything from humans and animals to the water they drink and the ground they walk on. As a Meta-Human, you're one of the lucky few who not only survived Stardust's influence, but is capable of commanding its powers yourself (don't miss our Once Human FAQ if you want a more detailed rundown).

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It's a neat sci-fi concept for a game in a genre that tends to stick to focusing on natural wildlife or the zombie apocalypse, and what could be one of the best PC games of the year has attracted a huge following. Once Human was the fourth most-wishlisted game on Steam before its release, and gamers around the world flocked to it in droves when it launched on July 9. Many are wondering, though, if Once Human is a free-to-play title.

If you're hoping it is, good news: Once Human is indeed a free-to-play game, so you don't have to pay in order to check it out. Note that like all free-to-play games, it's monetized with in-game microtransaction purchases. And that raises a question...

Does Once Human have pay-to-win microtransactions?

A player fires an RPG at a structure in Once Human. (Image credit: NetEase)

Something that has the potential to absolutely ruin a free-to-play game is monetization that's "pay-to-win," giving players that fork over lots of cash a significant gameplay advantage over those that don't reach for their wallets (Diablo Immortal is a strong example of this). Now that Once Human is here, one of the biggest concerns fans have about it is that it may have payments like this — especially since several of NetEase's past games, such as Dead by Daylight Mobile, have had frustrating pay-to-win mechanics.

According to Starry Studios' head of overseas operation Derek Qiu, though, players don't have to worry about any pay-to-win systems in Once Human whatsoever, and never will.

"We definitely don't want to see any pay-to-win features in the game," Qiu said in an interview with streamer King Gothalion, explaining that Starry Studio has full control over Once Human's monetization. "There will be no pay-to-win. I swear to God, there will be none."

The microtransactions are instead completely cosmetic in nature, with players able to buy items like character and weapon skins as well as decorations for their bases. These cosmetics are also included in Once Human's battle passes as rewards that you'll be able to earn by progressing through them as you play.

Once Human is here, and the multiplayer open world survival shooter might just end up being one of 2024's biggest and brightest PC games. Notably, it's completely free to play, so you can check it out without spending a penny.

Once Human | Free at Steam

Once Human | Free at Steam

Once Human — a free-to-play multiplayer survival shooter set in a post-apocalyptic future where an alien lifeform overruns Earth — looks to be one of 2024's biggest game releases. It's out now on Steam, the Epic Games Store, and NetEase's Loading Bay launcher, and is coming to iOS and Android as well.

Also at: Epic Games Store | iOS App Store | Google Play Store

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.