SOE (Sony Online Entertainment) has struck gold with its newest release on the Playstation Network with Free Realms. Free Realms is a free to play MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game) that grants players a freedom of experience that before now, was yet to be seen on the Playstation.
“Our games extend the current lifecycle of the console with the added value offer of bringing tens of thousands of people together, in a game world, to socialize at community events, compete in combat activities and engage in a diversity of gameplay experiences, for years to come.” – John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment.
Once the download from the Playstation Store was complete, I was immediately submersed in a family friendly world that can only be described as a cartoon WoW (World of Warcraft). Free Realms has your families safety and pleasure in mind with special safeguards that allow you to control the experience your child will have while still allowing for a depth of online gameplay sure to draw in both kids and adults alike.
I first began Free Realms like any other standard MMO with a character creation screen. Unlike the other games in this genre, Free Realms has your online enjoyment in mind while still keeping it clean and fun for even my seven year old to play and enjoy. When asked for a character name, you may input your own choice or you may choose one of the preset names provided to you by a spinning wheel of names. If you choose to use your own name you will be asked to choose a “place holder” name to temporarily use while SOE moderators examine your inputted one for vulgarities and other offensive language.
Next, you may choose between two races to play as, the Human male and female, or the Fairy male and female. Once you have chosen your race and sex you begin the customization phase. You can change everything from eye and hair color to clothing types and facial structure, (these can later be changed while in game).
Once your character creation is complete, you then are spawned in the village of Sanctuary. Sanctuary is mostly inhabited by Fairies, though many races are present here. Once you have spawned you will be tasked with choosing your first job class (job classes can be changed at any time during the game through a simple menu system, the default job class is the Adventurer). I choose the Brawler job class, a heavy melee fighter wielding a large warhammer. You begin with basic weapons, armor or clothing, and a few spell potions and healing potions. You gain experience in each class by completing quests just like in many other MMOs out there. Though you can change job class as you feel necessary, you will find that certain job classes are combat oriented while others are wholly support classes.
The job classes that appear in Free Realms include:
Combat job classes
Archer: The Archer is a long distance fighter, specializing in ranged weapons such as bows and arrows.
Brawler: The Brawler is a close ranged melee fighter, specializing in two-handed warhammers and are the essential “tank” job class of Free Realms.
Medic: The Medic job class is a healer that can use natural herbs gathered through mini games and its own abilities to heal both others and themselves. They are armed with a small one-handed hammer to attack enemies.
Ninja: The Ninja job class fits the basic Rogue aspect of Free Realms, allowing players to use a stealth ability to sneak attack their enemies. The Ninja specializes in using Katana like swords to dispatch their enemies. Sadly as of yet no “thieving ability” is available.
Warrior: The warrior job class is a mix between the Brawler and Ninja classes, allowing players to still “tank” through levels but with the use of heavy swords instead of a warhammer and they tend to rely on heavy armor more so than the Brawler job class.
Wizard: The Wizard job class encompasses the basic spell casting nitch of Free Realms and can call upon the elemental forces such as rain and lightning to deal damage to their enemies.
Crafting Job Classes
Blacksmith: The Blacksmith job class allows player to gather recipes for weapon and armor creation of which they can freely trade or sell to other players.
Chef: The Chef job class allows players to use ingredients and recipes to create edible items such as potions all of which can be used, traded, or sold.
Miner: The Miner job class grants the players the ability to mine for special metals to be used in conjunction with or sold to someone with the Blacksmith job class.
Freestyle Job Classes
Adventurer: The Adventurer is the most common job class and allows the player to collect certain items and is more fit for exploration than most job classes.
Card Duelist: The Card Duelist is essentially a card game buff allowing players to compete against NPC’s (non-player characters) and collect cards to be used during matches.
Demo Derby Driver: The Demo Derby Driver allows players to compete in demolition derby style races for coins and prizes.
Kart Driver: the Kart Driver is similar to the Demo Driver except that instead of trying to destroy your opponents through crashing into them, you race against them to collect points and coins.
Pet Trainer: The Pet Trainer allows the player to train pets and grants him/her the ability to trade or sell pets trained by them to other players.
Postman: The Postman job class allows player to take the role of a Postman and deliver mail to various drop boxes and houses.
Some job classes can only be progressed through mini games such as the Miner, Chef, and Blacksmith. While others such as the Brawler and Archer progress through combat. Both grant players experience points that are added to the job class they have selected at the time of completion. Each player is given a house for their personal use as well. You can invite your friends into your house to show off your decorations which can be bought at the many stores found throughout Free Realms.
There are currently eight diverse and unique world sections for players to explore. Each section has its own theme such as the tranquil ponds and waterfalls of Sanctuary or the sunny sandy beaches of Seaside to the dark and mysterious swamps of Blackspore. You may go about exploring these regions by yourself or make friends and create a group or join a guild and battle alongside each other, bringing even more victory and spoils your way.
The controls in Free Realms really help make the game shine with the easy to use special abilities and intuitive targeting system, giving old and new players the sense that they are truly in control of their character. While the quests in Free Realms are not as varied as I would like them to be (most quests have multiple quest givers and can be taken several times) they do allow players to grind their way to a higher level.
To really enjoy Free Realms you will have to become a member (cost varies from a one month subscription at $4.99, to a lifetime subscription at $34.99). You can play for free but will not be able to access most of the higher level quests as you can only get to level 4 in each class. Members are given exclusive access to an additional 400 quests and special features such as new equipment and special pets.
I have personally found Free Realms to be as addictive and enjoyable as many of its PC/Mac MMO counterparts but with less of the competitiveness found in most online games. I have enjoyed my time running and battling through the various unique settings, not to mention the hours I have spent playing the game with my oldest son. I would suggest that if you are looking for a nice family friendly online world to treasure, then hop on your Playstation 3 and download Free Realms from the PS Store for a free and enjoyable gaming experience.
Free Realms is a fun and addicting title. The easy gameplay and controls make even beginners feel at home and the cartoon like atmosphere will draw both kids and their parents into the game's world.