I had the good fortune the other day to be hosted by the team behind Realms Online to take a look at the game, which dropped yesterday, May 3rd, and to hear a little bit of what the game is all about. The goal, when taking on the project of Realms Online, was to take an international game, update it and alter it to appeal to the North American market. Realms Online, developed in Argentina, originally known as Regnum Online in Europe. Realms Online is a Free-to-Play MMORPG with a heavy focus on PvP combat, hoping to breakthrough onto the scene in the North American market. When speaking with the team, they're not at all shy to describe their desire to bring a heavy PvP game to the market, and they aren't at all shy to talk about how games like Dark Age of Camelot, during the height of its popularity and success, influenced the way they wanted to approach the PvP in Realms Online. It isn't hard to see the influence that DaoC, and other games like it, have in fact had on the free-to-play title.
The game itself consists of three realms, each one with its unique story and mythology. There's Syrtis, who are the woodland defenders of the game, passionate about nature, culture, archery and swordplay. Alsius, the second realm, represents a Nordic mythology. Alsius is right at the northern border of the world and a peace now exists between the Dwarven, Human and Utghar populations. Ignis, the final of the three realms, are the exiled brothers of Syrtis, Dark Elves and Humans coming together under the common banner of necromantic magic in the barren wasteland of volcanoes, sand and fire. Each of the realms has three races to choose from and there are three archetypes of character class available at character create, Warrior, Archer or Mage and at level 10 every character can then specialize by choosing one of the two disciplines, one of which is offensively bent, the other, defensively. For example, at level 1, you select warrior. At level 10, you then choose between Knight, a defensive discipline that allows a player to be able to absorb more damage, or Barbarian, an offensive discipline that increases attack power.
The point of the PvP, so to speak, lies in the story of the game. The three realms are at war with one another, bloody, violent war. There are three zones that each realm will have access to. The starting zone, which is 100% PvE, the inner zone, which is the frontier to the PvP zone, and finally there's the War Zone, wherein each realm holds forts and castles to be held onto and protected in a bid to protect the gems. At any given time, any of the three realms can be in possession of a certain number of these special gems. When a realm amasses possession of all of the gems all at one time, the Dragon-God will grant the successful group a wish lasting two weeks (so, if the players come together and decide they want 100% XP increases, they get it for two weeks). Now, in order to achieve the goal of stealing these gems, an opposing realm would have to hold possession of every stronghold and castle in the War Zone, allowing them to enter the opposing realms' Inner Zones, attack their bases and make a move to collect their gems.
As mentioned, the tutorial is entirely PvE, however, we were assured that once the tutorial is over, it's entirely possible to level up your character entirely through PvP interaction and gameplay, if that's more your speed than doing the grind of PvE that we all know and are familiar with. The emphasis for this game has been to make PvP be just as much a part of the game, if not more, then PvE.
GameSamba is organizing the North American release and are working with NGD, the developers, to bring the players a huge GM staff, running events for players, getting feedback on the game and other such GM duties while the GMs work with NGD to bring all needed changes, fixes and possible updates as per player feedback. We were assured that Realms Online, though it is a free-to-play game (with an item mall, naturally) will be tended to on a basis that would be consistent with a AAA title; maintenance and updating will not be an uncommon occurrence.
The item mall became a subject of conversation as we shifted from a focus on PvP and more into the North Americanization of this import. We were assured that while Realms Online started as Regnum Online in Europe, the item mall is not just going to be a carbon copy of what they provide to different audiences. It's perfectly accepted in some markets around the world that Buy-to-Win is just a reality of the situation, and if you're willing to spend real world money to be an imposing figure in the game, some markets will respect you for it. The North American market is the perfect example of a market in which Buy-to-Win is never the popular option. In Realms Online, you're never going to be buying things that are more powerful than what you can get by adventuring, the North American item mall is going to be more geared towards items that save you time, and items that increase your social standing.
We were taken on a tour of the game later in the week and were able to experience the game as level 60 characters walking around the world that they've created in Realms Online. The game is definitely a traditional MMO in terms of looks, gameplay and a fairly straightforward UI. The graphics are relatively impressive for a Free-to-Play title, but never exceed expectations too greatly. The gameplay was, for me, a bit muddled. This isn't a comment on the game, necessarily, as it seems to be just fine when you start from the beginning, but diving into the action with a 60th level character, while occasionally amusing, mostly just leads to a frustrating disconnect between your knowledge and your character's abilities. Needless to say, when the time came for a little open world PvP (and boy, did it ever come fast!), I got pretty thoroughly decimated by my fellow players who had been at it a bit longer than I had.
Overall, the look that I got to have at Realms Online was one that piqued my interest, for certain. Free-to-play titles are increasing every day, not just in appearances (we do get more all the time) but also in quality. Realms Online seems to be attempting to give that AAA experience to the import title. The open-world PvP is an exciting venture, provided the server populations stay relatively high and the bloodlust amongst players continues. Overall, Realms Online should be worth checking out if you are looking for that Free-to-Play experience to serve as a secondary game in your MMO rotation. The game dropped yesterday, I suggest you go check it out and see what you think.