Free Realms – Preview
Finally an MMO for kids! No, I am not happy to see it released and I am certainly not happy to review it. I was simply pointing out that the next obvious step for MMO developers’ agenda has been made. It’s only natural since the little monsters consume in the early stages of their lives about 99.99% of their parents’ attention and together with it a large portion of their monthly income. So releasing anything on the market with a potential of making a child go berserk on his parents until they finally cave in and purchase whatever ITS immature, overgrown and spoiled ego wants has the same amount of surprise value as seeing the sun coming up every morning. But, as the title suggests in such a subtle manner, the game is free to download and play. Now we all know, I hope, that nothing is entirely free and certainly not games that take months if not years to be created and consume six-sever figures budges in the process. So what’s the catch? Well, let’s see.
You begin the game by carefully choosing your race, sex, general appearance and your name. That shouldn’t take too long since the number of options you have is dramatically limited and even picking out your name is simply the result of placing together predefined words from a list you are presented with. Once you are done with that the fun begins. Well no, not really, I was just being sarcastic, the fun never actually begins unless you are at that stage in your life where seeing a pink pig makes you roll on the floor laughing. Speaking of which, the chromatic of the game is so highly saturated that my gag reflex was constantly challenged. Everywhere you turn the colors are beyond friendly and cute as you could normally expect from a game designed for humans who only eat apple sauce and drink milk. They slip towards something a bit scary, much like a drama queen make-up course with video tutorials.
If you manage to fight your way through the initial shock and aggressive nightmares that follow, the game will not waste too much time in showing off all of its tricks, which to sum them up quite fast are only a series of minigames spread around a 3D environment. All these mini-games are accessed through the job system which functions as the core of the game: doing certain job-related actions will offer experience in that field and will eventually allow your character to level up in that job thus opening up new quests and so called challenges which are instances so this screws up the whole massive multiplayer idea – end of story.
Why would anyone want to play a game in which you have a job to do? I could understand and enjoy jobs as test pilot, assassin or medieval mounted hero because it’s pretty clear that I will never be able to do those things during my life time so like this I feel like I am actually gaining something. But focusing intensively for a few hours towards becoming a cook or a pet trainer is a complete waste of time since you can do that in real life and you can certainly get more kicks out making your living, breathing dog roll over, fetch or simply attack your unsuspecting neighbor. So if you are a parent reading this, I suggest buying your kid a bicycle, a dog/cat/kangaroo and a pair of scissors and I’m sure he will have the best time of his life. That is if you are not secretly planning to turn him into a cybernetic zombie whose goal in life is to eventually connect to his computer directly through USB. I also think it’s a bit less expensive in the long run.
This brings us back to the money issue, because after a point everything you do or want to do in FreeRealms costs money. Not real money like the one you use for buying drugs and hookers, but game virtual money that is called Station Cash, probably as the result of a SciFi enthusiast game designer down at Sony HQ. But since Station Cash is nowhere to be found in the colorful world it apparently governs, or at least I haven’t found the hidden stash, it all comes back to the wonderful magical tricks you can do with your credit card, the real one. This is the point where you really need to make a choice, a choice between keeping that apartment in the other side of town for Cindy, as in the apartment the wife doesn’t know anything about, or buying your kid a fully accessorized virtual pet. In my book that’s an easy choice and Cindy can rest assured.
But, if you do have gold bricks simply laying around in your Jacuzzi and you have no idea what to do with them, FreeRealms might be the game you want to focus your attention on for a while. Sure, it’s not a MMO in the real sense of the word since the game does not make any effort in bringing you together with other people, it’s nothing more than a minigame hub and it has some serious issues towards accepting the idea that colors like bright pink and bright yellow don’t make such a great match. But I must say it has a level of features, design and graphic polish I wish I could say I saw in every other MMO on the market. The quest chains are nicely done and with a really helpful quest tracking system, the card dueling games are addictive especially if you are a geek like me and it does have a really friendly approach towards the player, which considering the fact that it’s a kids oriented game is probably the most important thing.
So if you really think that videogames are the future and your kid should be a great shining part of that future even if that means he will turn yellow and die on the couch at the age of thirty, and also if you are prepared to spend ridiculous amounts of money on things you will never brag with to your friends, then yes, FreeRealms is a game you might be interested in.Seth Lex