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Free Realms Launches!

(This page has been updated a couple times, scroll to the bottom of the page for further details.)

With a twirl and a quick change that would make Wonder Woman green with envy, a sweatsuit-clad adventurer changes jobs and is clad in a cooking apron and fast food hat as they whip up some tasty stir fry. Another quick twirl-n-change, and they're ready to rumble in a brawler outfit. Another twirl, and the suspender-wearing hero or heroine is ready to use their trusty mining pick on the nearest node of silver.

Late this evening (April 28) marked the long-anticipated release of Free Realms, the newest title in the SOE (Sony Online Entertainment) games lineup. While making assumptions based on game titles can sometimes trip you up, Free Realms truly is free. There is no software to purchase, and no monthly charge for the basic game offerings. You don't need an ultra-fancy gaming computer with lots of bells and whistles, nor do you need huge time commitments in order to get much accomplished.

It is also, happily, something I'd recommend for my eighth-grade nephew to play. (While he has already stated that he wants to design computer games when he grows up, most of the online games out there are a tad mature for him still, as well as hair-raising to his mom's current budget.) This isn't to say that it is just for kids, but rather that it is kid-friendly.

Getting started is pretty easy. Just visit www.freerealms.com walk through the sign-in process, and with a couple quick minutes of downloading, you can be happily working your way through the user-friendly tutorial and in the game. An SOE Station account is needed - those of us who play EQ, EQ2, etc. already have at least one station account, so are covered in that respect, but those new to SOE games are going to need to create an account first. (The site will walk you through getting a free Station account.)

In no time at all, you can be running around and working on several professions (called "Jobs") at once - brawler, chef, miner, postman, pet trainer, demolition derby driver, racecar driver, ninja and more!

Not really into fighting? No worries! Not only are several of the professions (such as the crafting ones) totally non-combat, but all the aggressive creatures are locked away in special areas, called encounters. You can explore to your heart's content without fear of being smooshed, and only enter the encounters if you feel like it. (Mind you, I'm a redhead. I was most definitely running amok in many of the encounters at various times during the beta!)

Member vs Non-Member

I'm sure the more cynical among you are mumbling about nothing being truly "free" right about now, and, of course, SOE does have to pay for all the hard work that went into the game. It is relatively painless, though.

Free membership includes the jobs that I mentioned above, one character slot, and quite a bit of solid content. (I wasn't in danger of running out of content while I was running around as a non-member.) Should you find yourself desiring even more variety, as well as jobs such as wizard, warrior, archer, blacksmith, medic, $4.99 a month will unlock 2 additional character slots, member-only jobs, items and quests.

Of course there's a catch ... but it is a good one! If you have a Station Access account, you are automagically updated to Member status right off the bat. (Edit: Well, not quite right off the bat, as there seem to be some issues with it, but I have managed to confirm that you're supposed to be flagged - they're working on the issue.)

Station Cash and microtransactions are also used for small odds and ends that aren't game-breaking, as well as pets. (You can take pets for 10-minute test runs without cost, which should help you decide if you want a dog or cat following you around during your explorations.)

For the Crafters

Since this is a crafting site, I'd best cover a bit more on the crafting front, eh? :D

There are 3 crafting jobs in Free Realms. If you're already a die-hard crafter in an MMORPG, they may seem a bit limited for your tastes, but they can make for some fun diversion as well as create a few useful items.

Chef - cook up tasty treats that either provide useful buffs for combat jobs, or add some fun appearance change to your character. Ingredients are partially purchased, and partially harvested via harvesting (match 3) minigames at various farms around the lands. The actual cooking phase is also a mini-game, where you chop, crush, slice, pour, stir, etc. and try to make certain objectives along the way (such as crushing all the snowberries in 5 seconds or less).

Miner Mine ore and gems, then smelt the ore into bars for use by blacksmiths. Mining is done via a timed match-3 minigame which is pretty straightforward. The smelting process is done via another minigame, in which you'll smash the ore to break it down, operate the bellows, pour the molten metal and fill the molds for the bars.

Blacksmith This member-only profession allows you to turn bars crafted via mining, along with some purchased ingredients, into various weapons that can be used in the combat professions. The weapon forging process is also a match-3 minigame.

Additional Comments

This game won't appeal to everyone, of course - especially some of the hard-core raiders from the various mmorpg's out there. For what it is, though, which is a free, family-friendly online game that appeals to new and/or more casual players, it looks pretty promising!

{Does her own wonder-woman twirl into a chef outfit}

A game where I can run around, visibly wielding a cooking skillet?! You'd better believe I'm looking forward to it!!

Additional details regarding Free Realms can be found on the official Free Realms website.


Updates

  • As mentioned parenthetically above, folks who already pay for Station Access accounts will get free upgrades to Member, but they're having some technical issues with it. Sit tight and they should have it sorted out "soon"(TM).
  • FreeRealms has an official page on Facebook that will include a weekly code to claim a free in-game item in Free Realms. You can find the page here (As with any Facebook link, you must be logged in to Facebook to access that page.)
  • Parents! As I mentioned, this is a family-friendly game. However, as with anything online, you really should check things out before letting your children play without supervision. At the top of the Free Realms main page you will see a tab that says "Parents" - it contains not only Parental Control settings, but also a handy Parent's Guide.

Created: 2009-04-28 02:57:54          
Last Modified By: Niami Denmother          
Last Modified on: 2009-04-29 12:06:39          

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