Free Realms

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UPDATE: This game has been shutdown and is no longer available

Free Realms is a casual, 3D fantasy MMORPG with bright colors, a large game world and plenty of activities to keep players coming back. While Free Realms is aimed at a young audience, it can be enjoyed by players of all ages. Each character can play as over a dozen professions and participate in dozens of mini-games. Free Realms is one of the most in-depth and enjoyable free online experiences now available.

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Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Playerbase: High
Graphics: High Quality
Type: MMORPG
EXP Rate: Slow
PvP: Duels
Filesize: 100+ MB

Pros: +Fourteen  jobs. +Plenty of quests. +Dozens of mini-games such as kart racing & cooking. +Instant transportation.

Cons: -Some jobs and features are for subscribers only. -Background downloads may slow down dial up users. -Quests involve a lot of backtracking.

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Overview

Free Realms Overview

Free Realms is SOE’s latest MMORPG but unlike its previous titles, this one is free-to-play with an option to subscribe for premium content. The company best known for the early pay-to-play hit EverQuest has now officially embraced the F2P model, and that’s good news for everyone. Free Realms has the high production value and level of detail you would expect from a top-quality developer, which helps set it apart from most of the rushed grindfests we see popping up these days. It’s obvious that Free Realms targets the kids market, but that doesn’t mean older gamers can’t enjoy it. Each character can freely switch between fourteen jobs though must level each up separately. Each job has a unique play style. You play cooking mini-games similar to those found in the DS title Cooking Mama or kart racing mini-games similar to the Mario Kart series. The jobs available are:

All players - Ninja, Chef, Kart Driver, Postman, Demolition Derby Driver, Brawler, Pet Trainer, Card Duelist, and Miner

Subscribers only - Archer, Wizard, Medic, Blacksmith, Warrior

Free Realms Screenshots

Free Realms Featured Video

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Full Review

Free Realms Review

By Erhan Altay

Free Realms is proof that the success of free-to-play MMORPGs hasn’t gone unnoticed by large developers. Sony Online Entertainment (SOE, the name behind such classics as EverQuest) gave us a peak at the game back in 2008, but Free Realms wasn’t officially released until May of 2009. Like Wizard101 and FusionFall, this game is aimed at the 9-14 audience but can still be enjoyed by older players. There are dozens of activities with each tied to one of the fourteen jobs. Players are encouraged to try out all of these professions but are never required to do so, making combat in Free Realms entirely optional.

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First Step: Browser

Free Realms forces players to log in and launch the game from the official website. This is a small inconvenience, but seems to have been done as a safety precaution. Since it is aimed at young children, Free Realms offers heavy parental control options. The download and installation process is also simplified, players install a small plug-in than create their characters on the website as the rest of the game downloads in the background. There are two races to chose from – Human and Pixie – but their differences are only cosmetic. Appearance customization options include various hair, face, and clothing choices with many colors available for each. Naming your character follows the same odd system as other recent, kid-oriented games. Players can either enter a custom first and last name than wait for it to be approved or use what looks like three slot machine wheels to generate a name. Depending on your internet speed, the game may or may not be ready to play by the time you finish making your character.

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Step by Step

The download-as-you-play method is nearly flawless (at least, it was for me on my 20mbs fiber optic connection), but those with slower services may experience delays when venturing into new areas. The first of these areas being the tutorial zone, which comes complete with voice acting. The female voice instructs players on basic movement (W,A,S,D, arrow keys, or point & click) and camera controls. Two short trial quests are available, one that utilizes the Brawler job and the other for the Cooking profession. For anyone interested in a classic MMORPG experience, brawler will be the class most used. As the first combat class, brawler scenarios are done through classic point-and-click combat. Cooking, on the other hand, is done through a serious of mini-games, which include stirring, pouring, chopping, slicing, and so on. I was reminded of the Nintendo DS title Cooking Mama the first time I found myself putting together a dish in Free Realms. Players are only required one of these quests before leaving the tutorial area, but it doesn’t hurt to complete both and grab some extra experience.

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A Bright New Realm

Free Realms is a very attractive game from a graphics perspective. The environments are well drawn and brightly colored, and have what can only be described as a ‘Disney’ feel. The interface is simple yet efficient. The mini-map marks nearby quest NPCs and green dots form a path that leads players towards their next quest objective. By default, players take on the Adventurer job, but automatically switch to the appropriate profession when required. For example, one quest instructed me to visit the kart racing instructor who asked me to complete a racing tutorial. As I was entering the racing area, my player automatically switched to the Kart Racing Driver job. The racing component of Free Realms is another shocker – built into this fantasy MMORPG is a huge racing MMO complete with lobby, rankings, various items and tracks. The other car-related job is the Demolition Derby Driver. In this mini-game, players ram into one another in an attempt to destroy each other’s cars and earn points. Here, too, there is a lobby, several tracks and items that spice up gameplay. So far I’ve only mentioned four of the fourteen available jobs, which should begin to give you an idea of just how expansive Free Realms truly is.

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It’s All a Game

In Free Realms, almost all activity takes place in instanced mini-games or dungeon like areas. There are some quests that have players running from one NPC to another or collecting objects around a particular town, but most send you off to play a mini-game or fight monsters in instanced battle stages. A quest I had asked me to defeat several wolves, so I found one near the woods, but upon walking next to it, I was prompted to either accept or decline engaging the wolf. After accepting, a new screen loaded where I was attacked by several wolves. This is exactly how the brawler quest in the tutorial worked, but I was surprised to see that all combat encounters are handled this way. This may take some MMO veterans by surprise, but after an hour or so I grew accustomed to it.

But There’s a Catch…

Free Realms may not require a subscription, but many of its features are only available to premium users who pay $5/month. Five of the fourteen jobs are only usable by paying members and, as of launch, 400 or so items and quests are restricted to free players. None of these restrictions are unreasonable, but my worry is that most, if not all, future content will be subscribers-only. The game world is already pretty big and luckily allows players to teleport instantly between areas that they have already discovered, but if the world map is any indication, at least three new areas are currently under construction. At least two of the nine ‘free’ jobs have a dubious claim to that title. Both the Pet Trainer and Card Duelist require players to spend real money in some form to get the most out of them. Free players can get ‘trial’ pets and all, but the most basic cards in the trading card game (did I mention Free Realms has a built in card game?) must be found in digital booster packs purchased with Station Cash.

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One Tutorial Too Many

I never felt embarrassed playing Free Realms, but did experience frustration after being told that I had to go through yet another tutorial (14 jobs = 14 tutorials!). If you find yourself in a similar situation, just remember that the game was designed with nine year olds in mind. Free Realms prides itself as a social MMORPG rather than a run of the mill hack & slash game, but the game gives zero incentive to work together or interact with other players. There are so many quests to do, so many different jobs to level up, and so many collections to complete that everyone will be too busy doing their own thing to stop and work together. Even if you start Free Realms with a group of friends, actually partying with them and trying to progress together will only slow things down. Luckily, this issue resolves itself in the late game when individual players don’t have much left that they can do on their own. Even with these minor issues, it is clear that SOE has established itself as a large force in the free to play gaming market with the release of Free Realms. My only concern is that the optional subscription-for-full-content model will completely replace the cash shop model.

Final Verdict: Great

Free Realms is one of the most feature-rich free MMORPGs currently available and it’s all delivered in a beautiful package. With bright, attractive graphics and a huge environment to explore, Free Realms appeals to gamers of all sorts.

Videos

Free Realms Videos

Free Realms Character Creation

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Free Realms Dungeon Run

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Free Realms Cooking Minigame

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Free Realms Kart Racing

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Free Realms Trading Card Game

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System Requirements

Free Realms System Requirements

Minimum Requirements:
OS: Windows XP / Vista
CPU: Intel Pentium 4
RAM: 512 MB
HDD: 500 MB
Graphics Card: Vertex Shaders 1.1 capable

Recommended Specifications:
OS: Windows XP / Vista
CPU: Pentium 4 or better
RAM: 1024 MB or more
HDD: 1 GB
Graphics Card: GeForce 6 or better

Free Realms Articles

  • Sony Online Entertainment Announces Four-Fold Shut Down - Posted on January 24, 2014
    Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) delivers game service shut-down news for Wizardry, Vanguard, Star Wars: Clone Adventures, and Free Realms.
  • SOE Launches Player Studio and Sets Launch Date for Wizardry Online - Posted on December 13, 2012
    Sony Online Entertainment has been working on its new Player Studio program for quite some time now and has now introduced the first ever player-created items into the marketplaces of Everquest, Everquest II and Free Realms. Player Studio offers gamers the opportunity to design in-game items that can be sold in the marketplace. Now, for the first time players are able to contribute directly to their favorite participating online game while earning revenue from their creations.
 
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