Time to put on your shades, spin the name wheels and step into your time machine, because it’s 2004 and SOE has just released World of Warcraft: Kids Edition.
This isn’t a criticism. WoW is a great game, but the similarities are unmistakable. It looks JUST like WoW, the game is HIGHLY polished, consistent look everywhere. You are in a cartoon, but it’s a fun cartoon.
Character creation is meant to be easy and simple. The small number of choices will be instantly familiar to anyone who plays WoW or Wizard 101 because in Free Realms, as in those others, you are recognized by your gear. Fifteen different outfits for fifteen different jobs. The name wheel will also be familiar to Wizard 101 players, though you can request a custom name which, if approved, will replace your name wheel name.
There are no irreversible choices in Free Realms. It’s nearly always, can’t decide between Option A and Option B? Choose them BOTH! Your first choice in the game proper is which job you should train first, Chef or Brawler. No matter which you choose, you get to try the other before you leave the tutorial.
The choice between Chef and Brawler is, in reality, the choice between Minigames and Combat. Free Realms is two interlocked but separate games. In one, you travel from location to location playing minigames to advance — Chef, Kart Driver, Demolition Driver, Postman, Pet Trainer, Miner, Blacksmith and so on. In the other, you enter instances to fight monsters or take treasure from dungeons — Brawler, Ninja, Wizard, Medic, Archer and so on.
There’s a bunch of non-profession specific minigames as well — harvesting, certainly, but they have a broad selection of themed games like various flavors of Tower Defense and an in-game collectible card game that, like in Final Fantasy VIII, has you seeking out trainers all over the game world.
The professions themselves are evenly split between free jobs everyone can play, and those requiring you to be a member. There’s no need to pay real money for anything in game, but if you want to be a blacksmith and make weapons, or an archer and zap from a distance, you need to be a member.
Free Realms isn’t shy about pushing their membership; you’ll see a basic version of a minigame available, with a more advanced version stamped with the Members Only badge. And so forth.
Free Realms offers SO much variety, it’s hard NOT to like the game… except for the issues, which may be because I have a crummy computer, admittedly.
The game sometimes gets in a state where it starts choking and stalling. I think this might be because of interactions with XFire, the tool I need to run because it is the official communication tool of Nostalgia the Meta Guild. In this state, it becomes impossible to play unless I reboot.
The chat window plain doesn’t work for me and I don’t know why. It’s okay until it needs to scroll, and then — it’s a jumbled mess.
Even with the issues, it’s a fun game that I look forward to playing when it goes live. There’s a sense of humor — and a sense of wonder — that I enjoy, and for a kid game, the dungeons are extremely clever and cool and often quite challenging.
The game is even MORE fun in a group!
Totally recommend this game, and Free Realms is one of the big reasons why I think 2009 will be a fantastic year for MMOs.