More on Free Realms

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.

Pros:

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.

Cons:

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.

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Oz

Jaded old gamer, and father of gamers, who’s been around long enough. Still, he’s always up for giving the Next Big Thing a whirl.

7 thoughts on “More on Free Realms”

  1. Thanks again, Oz. Good reviews contain some sort of community pulse and it seems like you are reading the forums, which can be a very good thing.

    Since Ethic gave his few sentence review, I will give mine: I am truly not the intended audience (a feeling I did not get in W101), and everything feels like it has been tacked on instead of blended seamlessly.

  2. I appreciate you revisiting the topic, Oz. Some very good points that I’ll keep in mind when I finally try the game.

    My only point of contention is your fourth in the bad column. Equating any form of leveling as a grind undercuts one of the very foundations of the RPG genre. Taking out all forms of statistical improvement essentially converts the game into something else. Maybe you don’t want FR to be RPG-like or maybe you’re burned out on the leveling treadmill. However, one person’s treadmill is another’s path to pixellated glory.

  3. Argh..! When do you people understand that levels do not equal a rpg. An rpg does not need levels to be an rpg. An rpg is still an rpg even without any levels in it.

    There are gazillion different rpgs and rpg systems without levels and they work fine, in fact most of them work much, much better than any rpg with levels. (If you don’t believe me, just start going through , you’ll find plenty.)

    Drives me mad, seeing this asinine comment repeated in every commentary in blogs that talk about the issue.

  4. I have to go with the chicken on this – just because they are there in other games does not mean you have to have them.

    Take FR’s Combat jobs, for example. Instead of exp points, you get stars. These stars you then allocate, on a different menu, to make other skills better. You have exactly enough stars at level 20 to completely max all your combat skills. Why not use this already-existing system as your “levels”? Your level in FR only decides what kind of gear you wear, so it’s largely useless. Why not get rid of it entirely and make/use a new system?

    “Because we’ve always done it that way” is a poor reason to do something.

  5. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this game and for some of the reasons you mentioned under pro above. My fundamental problem is that I just don’t like the micro-transaction business model. No matter how I try I just dislike the fact that people are rewarded in the game based upon how much real life money they have. I cannot think of a game in real life that is like that. Some hobbies, like flying, yes; but games, no I can’t think of one.

    I found the two tier structure especially disconcerting. I can spend $5 a month and see more content but then the pet is above and beyond that. Me no like.

    I do agree that the mini-puzzles are repetitious but I actually found them to be surprisingly challenging. And I really liked the way cooking was done.

    Overall, I’d be very tempted to subscribe to this game. But as it stands I just can’t go done the micro transaction road.

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