Despite the blogs and posters claiming otherwise, I did not hate Free Realms. In fact, I had high hopes for it, and at least two potential customers for it. Just to prove that, as well as flesh out my review some more, I’m going to give a quick 5 pros and cons of Free Realms. My goal here is to make sure that if someone is listening to me for advice on how they are spending their gaming dollars that they have a full picture.
1. Fight when you want to fight. I enjoy exploring a world, and being able to completely avoid fighting is nice. Yes, it removes a level of realism, but considering almost every other game has mobs jumping me non-stop, it was nice to be able to explore without getting attacked. This is a huge plus to me, because not everyone wants to fight.
2. Card game playability in game. Costs of the cards can be debated elsewhere, but the game is very simple for a card game, which I do have some experience playing, having played back on the original Magic 15 years ago. The AI on the NPCs is very good, and they play just as deviously as I do. Plus, if you like, you can play virtually in game with others. Very well done.
3. Well rendered environment. There’s a lot of small environment bugs that should be fixed sometime soon, but overall the variety of environments is very good. Visually, it is a cartoony style meant to appeal to a specific market and it does that. Somewhat humorously it leads more into WoW’s style than Sony’s own EQ1/EQ2 products.
4. Quest indicators & help. Again, slightly buggy right now but overall working pretty well and I expect the small fixes will be done soon. You can turn them off if you like, but for the audience, they are perfect. Also, the game leverages the quest trail tech Everquest 1 rolled out over 5 years ago, which gives you a trail to follow to your goal. I wasn’t a fan of this in EQ1, but it works well here.
5. Cost. A generous portion of the content is free. Again, debates about how much can be had elsewhere, but there is plenty to do without paying a cent. Unlike most demos that heavily restrict what you can do, this is essentially a never-ending demo. That’s a huge gamble, but appreciated.
1. The member option is a bit heavy in over promotion. Of course, if I was running a free game, I’d probably want you to pay me whenever possible too. A simple change of color of the member quests from green (the current color of all quest givers) to say gold would prevent me from climbing a mountain only to find the quest giver wants my credit card info.
2. Pet training taunt. I will likely take some slack for this, but I found this akin to how toy marketers buy advertising space during kids’ cartoon time. The pet trainer class, which is quite different and interesting, is not a member class. However, you have to buy a pet (or get one in the card game, which is possibly why it’s not a member class). This is their answer to Webkins, I’d guess. But I found being able to start playing the class but being shut down on continued play annoying and unfair. I could see my daughter demanding I buy her a cat (which is $3-$4) to be able to have the pet to play with for more than 10 minutes every two hours.
3. Early deployment. The game is not ready. It’s obvious that it is being launched to meet some internal deadline, as the devs undertones in their posts belie their feelings on this. You really cannot launch a buggy game these days and hope for a huge hit. You might get a spike, say like AoC, but it’s not sustainable, and that’s what you need for long term financial gain.
4. Levels. I see no true need for levels at all in this game. Maybe for the combat jobs, but why have a level in cooking? Even if there are 20 levels, and it only takes 20 attempts to level to finish, it’s still a grind. I hate grinds, sorry. In fact, the star concept you have in this game, which takes the stars won in combat and uses them to increase your battle skills, stand alone as a perfect leveling system without the levels.
5. Minigames are too repetitious. I disliked that the minigames for multiple jobs were the exact same thing. Since you will likely play all jobs, and are encouraged to do so, why make them all the same? With the crazy variety of flash games out on the market today, it seems like an oversight to rely so much on Bejeweled.