I’ve been puttering around in Free Realms since shortly after it launched, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the game.
Up front, I want to point out that I’m a Station Access subscriber, so all the Members-only content is open to me. This post is written from that perspective, so if you’re not a Member, realize that not everything that is mentioned below applies to you.
First of all, I’m having an absolute blast. I’ve only got one character so far, but that’s really all I need at this point! You can do anything in the world — literally; every single occupation in the entire game world is open to any character at any time. I’ve unlocked most of the jobs, although there are only a few that I’ve leveled up in to any degree.
When I initially heard about some of the mechanics in FR, I thought for sure they would be deal-breakers for me, the die-hard EQ2 fangirl. The opt-in combat system sounded really flaky: where’s the adventure in that?? Having multiple jobs (or classes, if you will) available at all times for a single character seemed pointless: is it really better to be a jack of all trades than a master of one?
Let me just allay your fears now: there are NO deal-breakers here.
I find the opt-in combat system to be a relief, actually. I love exploring and questing, and if I don’t want to fight, I’m actually kinda glad that I don’t have to. In EQ2, I do most of my exploring in zones that have greyed out to me, so I’m not sure why I thought FR’s combat would rub me the wrong way.
I’m also happy with the fact that I have so many different career paths open to me. They’re all leveled up separately, so in a way, it’s like have a whole bevy of alts rolled into one character. I can tell right up front that there will be a few that I favor over the rest, but they all have their usefulness and they’re all fun in their own ways.
For those who would pooh-pooh the “cartoony” style of the game art, keep in mind that this is a game geared toward young folks. Being an artist myself, I personally find the graphics really pretty and very appropriate for the genre. There are lots of sophisticated subtleties thrown in there, so don’t ever think you’re just looking at a hole in a dead tree trunk; you might get a nasty surprise:
While there are plenty of polygons, the only real pixels you’ll see is when you’re fact-to-face in dialog with an NPC of the larger variety (like trolls.) The smaller races are quite charming, and the humans are very attractive. There’s plenty of humor for us grown-ups too: quest names have been the main source of my laughter so far, such as Peavey’s Big Ad Venture, as well as the odd EverQuest homage, like an NPC named Murdunk.
This game won’t appeal to everyone, but I believe SOE has done an admirable job. It’s beautiful, clever, and most importantly, fun. If you haven’t given it a try by now, I strongly encourage you to.