Free Realms (PS3)

There is a vast world to be found in Free Realms.

By Daavpuke, Posted 06 Apr 2011

Free Realms from Sony Online Entertainment ushers in a new age on consoles, one that has been rampant on PC for years now. This is, of course, the age of freemium Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG); pronounce that name once and you’ll know why anyone simply refers to it as MMO. Players will now be able to simply log in and take on an entirely new game for no money down. Well, simply is a relative standpoint, as the pre-installer might only be 29Mb, but the big chunk of 800Mb needs to be downloaded in-game and can’t be put to background. It’s best to shut off the TV in order not to get that screen burnt into it and then find an auxiliary activity for the next half hour or so. Did you know Sony also released a handheld? This would be the opportune time to launch it as you wait for your game, like you would wait for your laundry to dry.

NoobFeed Review - Free Realms PS3
People don't know about the giant dinosaur between my legs.

Anyways, forgiving this little issue, we can finally start roaming the free world of realms. And you’ll do just that, as Free Realms drops players into the universe without so much of a ‘hello,’ so you’ll need to roam about and unlock some tutorial messages by sheer luck.  But barring even this, in the assumption that at some point these messages will present themselves, every other aspect will be overly complex. At first, an instinct will be to access the menus and search for help and tips there, but merely getting somewhere in there is mind-boggling. Not only is every interface used clustered together and compacted into a colorful blur, but the menus themselves are incredibly convoluted in sub-sections and incomprehensible categories.  Trying to find anything; from equipment, quests, details, stats or any information whatsoever, is a hefty task that is far from appealing for anyone. Even shop inventories are a bulky bazaar where players need to scroll endlessly to find their wish. All this labyrinthine rummaging, together with the bright and extremely vibrant and helpless world, turns Free Realms in a seriously overwhelming experience, but not in the good sense.

This really poses the question whether or not the family friendly sales pitch of Free Realms can really be applied to the user unfriendly aspect in-game. As adults might already struggle with these confusing, never-ending trials, there isn’t a chance that younger people already in need of some guidance can hope to find their way effortlessly. Although it’s more about the experience and not about the actual role-playing, a load of info will go lost to most, simply because there’s no way to see through it.

NoobFeed Review - Free Realms PS3
Phallus-shaped hoverboarding anyone? Why am I the only one who wants to ride it?

But luckily, there are some redeeming factors to recompense this. Letting go of all the blur blocking visions, there is a vast world to be found in Free Realms; with vast being an understatement. There is an unprecedented amount of content in the realms and not the traditional kind either. For instance, there are 15 different jobs to be found, which is not far off standard, but what is, is the fact that most of these offer an entirely new world of gameplay for an MMO. From simple questing, to soccer star, racing, fishing, postman, cooking and did someone say ‘Ninja?’ There are some classes that are similar to each other, but what is certain is that Free Realms offers a wide amount of variety that is unheard of in any other game, period. The phrase ‘anything is possible’ has never been more applicable than here. And as if that wasn’t enough, there are an additional amount of fun mini-games available, just because. Penguin tower defense or even chess are the tip of the ice berg, as even jobs themselves offer their own mini-games in order to complete tasks and quests. If there is anything that would sell a person to this game, it would be this sheer amount of content.

Yet, as expected, there are also some quarrels here as well, more specifically when questing. Not completing the sense of innovation from mini-games, Free Realms offers a fetch quest galore. Come hither ye merry gentlemen, because everyone needs something delivered to someone else. No wonder some of these critters are so fat; no one in this world moves from their spot. This wouldn’t be so bad either if not for constant loading screens when trying do to just about anything.  Additionally, players seeking out a traditional MMO feel can kiss their hopes goodbye, as combat here is horribly broken. The controls are strangely simple enough, but the collisions, aiming and overall action is nowhere to be found. There’s never any indication when an enemy will hit, nor what range is like, nor how anything works, so most of the time damage will be seen getting dealt without combatants even being near to each other. A wolf claws on the other side of the field and 2 seconds later some health disappears from the health bar. This makes it impossible to play as anything else as an attack spammer. Just gather around foes with a special attack that unleashes a powerful area effect and take potions accordingly. Better yet, have some fun cooking and add some of those tasty bits during these missions.

NoobFeed Review - Free Realms PS3
Gross, generic innuendo number three

However, the deciding factor will always be whether or not someone is willing to pay for the perks of freemium membership. And this is where ultimately the coin drops, sort of speak. In-game currency is nearly useless, as all the ‘good stuff’ costs real money and on top of that, access to the real fun is preserved for members. Each job goes up to level 4, which entitles the tutorial missions and a handful of continuing quests. As soon as there’s a hint of something awesome happening, the level cap will be set and a screen will prompt to upgrade for more. Additionally, this will also apply to many missions, mini-games and overall content scattered throughout the realms. So, the promotion of marketing the ‘first ever free MMO on a console’ is a little bit of a cat in a bag. While it is true that there is an incredible amount of gratis content to be enjoyed in Free Realms, this will have a serious lifespan limitation.

Getting involved in Free Realms will ultimately depend on 2 things. One; let go of a vast amount of content in menus and interfaces meant to help, but actually harming gameplay. This will open a different world of content for all to enjoy for what it is, being the most varying and original MMO out there right now. Say goodbye to combat for that matter; there’s lots of better things available anyway. Two; wallets will need to come out if this is a game meant to last. It is well worth the effort and prizes aren’t steep at all, but there’s no such thing as something for nothing. And if this is meant to spur the littlest of people, children not midgets, towards consoles; be a dear and help them along, as the overwhelming and colorful universe of Free Realms can have any soul get lost in it, but that’s a good thing really.

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Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed. (@Daavpuke)

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General Information

Free Realms

58/100

Platform(s): PS3, PC
Publisher(s): Sony Online Entertainment
Developer(s): Sony Online Entertainment
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Massively Multiplayer, Adventure
Release Date: 2009-04-28

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