With most descriptions of the game applaud the family friendliness of Free Realms, more serious (and mature) players might be put off by the title. You can't know anything for sure without trying it yourself, so I sat down and spent some time with Free Realms to see if an older player could find some enjoyment in the game. It turns out, even at age 24, I found Free Realms to be an entertaining experience.
To begin with, the game is a breeze to run. I'm actually playing it right now while I'm writing this and just alt-tabbing between selections. I'm using Firefox and I believe that browser works the best for me when I'm playing Free Realms. For pick up and play reasons, that's great. It's also great because I can play for 10 minutes and still get something done or play for a few hours with ease.
In this article, I'm going to cover some of the highlights of playing Free Realms the past few weeks. This is by no means a comprehensive list of the things to do in the game. It's merely a glance at the portions I really enjoyed.
You're not going to get jumped by anything in Free Realms. When you're running about the world you will come across mobs that you can fight, but you must click on them and enter an instanced world. When you click on the mob you can see how hard the match will be and its objectives. Larger areas, like traditional instances, are present in Free Realms and those areas are usually marked with a fenced off location you must click to enter. All battles can be entered as a group and it's wise to choose which combat class you'd like to play as before entering.
This may be a little tame for some MMO players, but it's a sacrifice made to make the game more open. This way, a player doesn't have to fight at all. If you're not interested in combat, then you don't have to do it. This way you can focus all of your energy on the job of your choosing.
Currently, each combat job has a basic attack and four other attacks. Again, this may seem limiting, but with so many jobs and their variety it's really not that big of a hindrance. Besides, each ability is really worth something and you're not dealing with a bunch of abilities that don't really do anything. Combat jobs include a Archer, Brawler, Medic, Ninja, Warrior, and Wizard.
If you're looking to do something other than take part in traditional combat, there are a number of non-combat jobs to level as well. A few of these jobs are arguably somewhere in between non-combat and combat since they will eventually let you battle other players. Some grey area jobs like this are Kart Racing, Demolition Derby Driver, and Card Duelist. All of these jobs allow you to play against other players in the world but aren't necessarily combat jobs. Currently, the Kart Racing and Demolition Derby Driver jobs are not active. You can play these jobs, but not against other people or level them at the moment.
Pure non-combat jobs include: Adventurer, Blacksmith, Chef, Miner, Pet Trainer, and Postman. The Adventurer collects items and explores the world. The Miner and Blacksmith jobs work closely together to produce weapons through different minigames. Two, mining ore and creating the weapon, are tile matching minigames while the other, smelting, is more interactive. The Chef, of course, makes food and dishes through a minigame where you cut meat, crush nuts, stir ingredients, etc. The Chef also harvests food from farms through a tile matching minigame. Pet Trainers literally train pets. You can level Pet Training with temporary pets found at pet trainers throughout the world; however, if you want a permanent pet you must buy it from the Marketplace with real money. Finally, the Postman job allows players to deliver mail all over Shrouded Grove. It does include a tile matching minigame.
The flaw to non-combat jobs is the word seen far too often in the above paragraph. Tile matching minigames are abundant in Free Realms. Although there are some variations of that particular minigame (different objectives), they follow the same principal of matching like tiles in succession to make more tiles fall until time runs out or an objective is reached. This is the biggest flaw, in my opinion, in Free Realms. Hopefully with time more varied minigames will added with new jobs.
One of the drawbacks to free-to-play titles is that there is almost always an item mall. It's a necessary evil and honestly it does save people money if you look at the big picture. Of course a free-to-play game can also cost more than $15 per month if one uses the item mall too often. When item malls contain gear, like weapons and armor, that causes paying customers to become "better than" non-paying customers people usually don't like the results. I'm not a fan of this by any means. I like my item malls to be filled with fringe benefits and things that don't make me better but more diverse. With that being said I'm pretty please with the Marketplace so far on Free Realms.
Station Cash can be purchased via game card, online, or in-game. These points are to the penny meaning 500 points equals $5.00. I like that simplicity and the several ways you can buy Station Cash. Items range from pets to clothes and although there are weapons and armor there's nothing really going to make or break a character. Yes, you can get weapons otherwise not available to a player but I don't feel like a player is better than me if he or she has bought something from the Marketplace. Dueling a player with gear from an item mall seems to only make a difference in appearance to me.
With a fee of $4.99 per month you actually do have access to several things you otherwise wouldn't. Players paying this small membership fee have access to the leaderboards, more items, other jobs and, more quests.
First off, the leaderboards are often down and it's actually quite disappointing. There are leaderboards for everything from harvesting to battles. Most of the time you can see that you're on a leaderboard, but you can't see the ranking or the actual board. This is a known issue and SOE is working to resolve it according to the ticket I recently submitted.
The access to more items is nice but I haven't experienced it to be anything game changing. That's probably a good thing. As you quest and craft, you earn treasure tickets. Everyone gets these but the place where you spend the tickets changes if you're a member. Basically, there's two vault doors and non-members go through the one on the left and members go through the one on the right. By spending treasure tickets you can get random items based on level. Of course this means that in the members vault you're getting items that only a member can use. These items are generally neater than the non-member items, but like the items in the Marketplace they aren't going to make you better.
Finally, the access to other jobs and more quests kind of coincide with each other. There are five other jobs members can pick up and a lot of the additional quests relate to these jobs. There are just freeform quests in the world that are members only and there are mobs that are members only. Although I enjoy being a member I must say again that I don't see a huge difference in having and not having membership. The game is fun either way. If you like the game enough the price isn't bad and the 5 jobs are a great addition. The jobs accessed through membership are Archer, Blacksmith, Medic, Warrior, and Wizard. I'd research the members only jobs to see if they entice you.
As you can see I really enjoy Free Realms. The title may be aimed to children but as I play I meet more people my age give or take five years than anything else. The MMO may be for kids, but it's definitely not "just for kids."