Sunday, April 26

FreeRealms SOE's free to choose MMO?

Disclaimer: As ever with anything posted here the cry 'It's all Lani's fault!' must always be heard, I only know of and have played the beta of this game because of links Lani provided, it really is his fault!

So what is FreeRealms? Having played for hours into double digits I still haven't a clue, one thing is for sure it has the potential to make Sony alot of money and provide many a happy hour for people who aren't willing to give them said money too.

It's important to note that the 'Free' part of it's name (as fanboys and Sony would have us believe) is the freedom to decide which activity your going to take part in and not that it's all about being F2P, FreeRealms will provide you with hours of fun for absolutely nothing but if you want to get the most out of it then of course your going to have to pay. The game has a membership fee should you choose to go that route of $5 per month, a third of your average MMO BUT not everything is included in that monthly fee, if you want a pet then you need to buy that seperately. It's an interesting mix of subscription and RMT, theres 2 ways of looking at, it's either about more choice in how you spend your money or it's about money grabbing corporations, all depending on which side of the fence you sit on.

Target audience is probably pre-teens (the whole question on responsibility and the ethics of online gaming being introduced to young kids is something that requires a post unto itself, I'll keep it zipped on that subject for now), you really need to take that into account when you login, it's graphics are akin to PS1 games , it reminds me of a platformer called Psychonauts but less quirky. In total contrast to this review I found the music to be cheap, nasty, uninspired and hard to stomach for more than 10 minutes, thankfully the game provides the option to turn it's volume down to zero, forget the lush orchestral schores your used to and say hello to something that sounds like it was composed by some advertising wizz kid on an uninspired day on something not much more technicaly advanced than a Stylophone.

The initial download of the game is a mere 50mb, in these days of 1.5gigs and up for most games it's gotta be the quickest game to access out there, that's going to play a big part in it's popularity, kids who've seen their mates play won't need to take up hours of downloading time on their parents PC, the game downloads the rest of it's content once your in and playing, I was in within minutes of deciding to give it a shot, it currently takes up 1.7gb on my HD.

So onto the gameplay, and this is where I find it hard to describe this game as an MMO or even to pidgeon hole it. Their are no classes to choose from, just 2 races, human or pixie, the choice being either cute or super cute, neither has any impact on gameplay. Customising your character is fairly limited although you have more choice if you subscribe. There are no classes because you decide which 'jobs' your going to pursue, for free players these consist of - Postman, Chef, Ninja, Brawler and Kart Driver, if you decide to subscribe your choice widens to include Medic, Wizard, Ranger and Blacksmith. Each can be leveled up at your own leisure to a max level of 20, there are also other jobs such as Miner and Pet Trainer (you can be a pet trainer for free but you need to buy a pet with real cash) which fall under your general 'Adventurer job, although I've yet to get my adventuring level beyond 1 ?

Quests are simple and are the usual fed-ex, kill x amount or gather x amount format though most are designed to draw you into the mini games, Quests are also designed to draw you into subscribing, a quest chain can come to a premature halt unless you subscribe.

The quests and therefore the mini games are all about advancing one of your jobs, the Kart Driver job just means getting better and winning more in either Demolition Derbys or Go Kart Racing, I didn't pursue that job as the controls are quite sensitive and I'm just plain rubbish at it, coming last so often was getting embarassing. The reason I put the question mark after the word MMO in the title is because the term MMO hardly applies to this game, racing is one of the few times you will have to come into contact with other players.

Gathering and crafting - the game does involve both, the Chef recipes require you to gather items as well as prepare the dishes, the cooked dish is useful as they provide buffs in a more traditional MMO way. Both the gathering and cooking for Chef dishes take part in Flash 2D minigames, gathering (same is true with mining as the picture example) is done via a game that is a total remake of the popular flash game Bejeweled, not a bad thing if you enjoyed that game.

How useful Mining is I've yet to fathom as I've only seen one recipe that uses metal, a wand for wizards which as I'm not going to subscribe is useless to me.

Combat is instanced and can be initiated whenever you see a creature with crossed swords above it's head or enter the entrance to a dungeon. Everyone starts with the combat class of Brawler, you start with 2 simple skills, attack and a round kick for hitting multiple mobs, you gain 'stars' during combat which can be used to boost skills, as you level you also access more skills. Combat is simple and comes in varying degrees of difficulty, you can see the difficulty level before you choose to accept. You can solo everything or you can choose to team up. All combat instances will adjust themselves to suit your current level which means areas have no level requirements, the instance will also adjust depending on how may people enter, rumour also has it that in dungeons certain bosses will only spawn with a large team entering, the loot apparently scales too. Sadly as everything can be done solo I am very doubtful that many people will actually get to see or test this aspect out. Teams can be created without the need for a (subscription paying) Medic player if you have enough health and mana pots. I found the combat quite fun and some of it quite challenging, you dont get killed, you get 'knocked out', the combat quests give a bonus for not getting knocked out or you fail if you get knocked out too many times.

The world , as it currently stands, can be walked across in about an hour. Theres a variety in its look but the 'world' isnt that important here, it's all about the instanced game play whether its the 3d combat, racing or pet training or the 2d flash based games such as gathering, cooking or tower defense games. Travelling is by either foot or by warp stones, you unlock a warp stone simply by finding it.

As a 'serious' gamer it's the kind of game I would usually avoid and not bother even looking at but as Lani linked to it i figured it may have some worth, that worth is finding something that has plenty of ways to distract yourself for half an hour or so with something simple and fun to do, considering how painless it was to get in it's something that will stay on my machine when I want that mindless distraction outside my current 'real' mmo.

I'm still intrigued by this scaling dungeon malarchy so if anyone wants to join me to give it a go...? :)


  1. THe scaling dungeon malarchy sounds a lot like City of Heroes/Villains. Except there it'd scale on both difficulty setting and team size.

    I'm impressed! You're a much better game reviewer than I am. :-)
    So, where to get an Open Beta account now? I'd seen some mentions of key giveaways but nothing I could follow up on at the time.
    Or did it launch already?

    P.s. Someone said to me that SOE took the oft heard insult at their address of providing a "guided amusement park tour" by the butt-naked 20-miles of snow hardcore fans and decided to run with it. FreeRealms is the rsult. It really isn't an MMORPG if you ask me, it's an MMOAP, which is ok really. It's something else. I'm still wondering how much it targets the pre-teens and how much the Sims / Sims 2 crowd. Might be some overlap there.

    Good review!

  2. It definately will appeal to the Sims crowd, your right there, that was the other game I thought of while playing. I've heard mention of housing on their forums but haven't seen anything either officially or ingame that would say it exists.

    I saw a link you provided earlier in the week on this blog which made me hunt down the official site, I logged into the site using my Station (Vanguard) log in and got a message saying 'you are already enrolled for beta, please keep checking your mails', 2 days later i got the beta invite.

    From what I can tell (no date as yet) open beta isn't too far away, they are still fine tuning things like xp gain etc.

    If you get in let me know I'm keen to see how this scaling works.

    Thnx for the compliment :)

  3. Ah ok, just followed that route myself :-)
    It's mostly the UI that screams Sims at me. All those Semi-transparent thick-bordered button thingies.

    Beta's Open atm, though not a free-for-all quite yet. I.e. NDA has lifted sometime last week, which is why I saw the other reviews.
    I'll let you know if I get in. Any Realm, Shard or something like that I should pick?

  4. Server 1, no realms or names as yet.

  5. Oh my toon is called Jimbo Jones

  6. I caught that from the screenies yes :-)

    Geez, they really used up all their creativity making the game didn't they? Server 1...
    I really think servers should have names and at least one should have a 'badass' name so I can pick another server with a lower general testosterone level :-)

  7. Server 1 IS a badass name and I was severely dissapointed to discover it wasn't the FFA PvP server it's name screamed it was.../sigh :)

  8. I didn't check the Freerealms forums yesterday, turns out this game goes live tomorrow Tues 28th, characters aren't server dependant btw and all will be wiped ready for launch.

  9. Wow, is it already this long ago?
    At the beginning of this week I tried out Free Realms post launch for a bit.
    It had one major drawback.
    The initial download is something like 50 MB and a "snap" (3 minute download). Not too bad for launch time.

    However, during my 30 minute sojourn into the game I had to repeatedly wait for 2-3 minutes while content for the basic games was being streamed. I'm talking about the first brawl and the first cooking minigame. The real-time data stream came in at a whooping 15KB/s over my line which repeatedly manages up to 10MB/s
    I'm sorry but if you're going to play the content-stream game, you may want to provide a little more bandwidth for that, rent some extra for launch-time maybe? It really broke up any enjoyment I might have had.

    I got a toon Shelaugh made and dragged her through the tutorial, but I quit right after. If you want to try scaling dungeons, let me know. Don't think I'll be doing much beyond that.