|System: PC, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sony Online (SOE)||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sony Online (SOE)||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 29, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: MMO||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The job class structure offers a lot of different ways to play Free Realms. Combat is completely optional, but players who feel like cracking some heads together can do so anywhere they can locate bands of roaming monsters or when exploring the deep caverns and dungeons hidden throughout the realm. The real-time battles have you clicking on opponents to attack and triggering special abilities by clicking on a menu sidebar.
Its important to note enemies are not slain; theyre knocked out and disappear. The same goes for you, and you can be knocked out a predetermined number of times in a battle map before being booted back outside. Quest-based battles often have multiple objectives that give you incentive to do more than just clobber opponents and collect shiny weapons. Theres also an option to invite nearby players to a one-on-one duel.
For players less interested in fighting, there are a tremendous number of other activities to engage in, depending on your interests and what classes youve found. Chef jobs involve Cooking Mama-like food prep mini-games that are fun and goofy. Mining lets you play an addictive gem matching game to unearth precious ore. Animal raising lets you groom, care for, and play with your pet. The games race-driver jobs let you hop into suped-up rides for arena demolition derbies or racing matches. Beyond class focused diversions, the world is teeming with mini-games to play by yourself or with other players. Theres a penguin tower defense game, musical rhythm games, boardgames, and much more. Youll also find tons of items to collect in each region. Free Realms even boasts a robust Magic: The Gathering-like card collecting and battling game, and that alone can provide hours of entertainment. As is expected, the realm is also riddled with fetch quests that can grow tiresome after a while, and spending too much time on a single job set will quickly find you bumping up against the level 20 cap. The latter will likely be expanding as the game continues to change and grow.
Free Realms sports a lighthearted fantasy presentation thats loaded with colorful, cartoonish visuals that will undoubtedly appeal to its younger target audience. Characters are nicely animated, and expressive, thanks to a bevy of emotive selections to trigger. The visual and thematic variety in the main town regions is strong enough to keep you exploring to see what else there is out there, but the paths and terrain in between also holds plenty of cool surprises. Though things look good overall, theyre not so high-end that they cause problems when running in the web browser application, which is always good.
Much of the games content can be freely enjoyed without paying anything, yet there are benefits to signing up for the monthly membership to access extra stuff. Additionally, microtransactions arent necessary to obtain a lot of general items, outfits, and equipment, but players who are hardcore into dressing up their character and decking them out with slick accoutrements will find enough compelling reasons to spend a little extra here and there. With new regions, more character races to play as, additional jobs, a house maintaining element, and other goodies in the works, it seems the already strong baseline of online fun Free Realm provides is set to grow exponentially as the year progresses. This pleasant, free MMORPG is off to a great start and holds even more potential as Sony continues to implement new features and additions in the future.
CCC Staff Contributor