Free Realms Preview: Your Next Guilty Pleasure?

Updated Wed, Apr 22, 2009 by Ralsu

Fresh doughnuts. Homemade fudge. An extra beer. Yet another “figurine” for the collection. We all have our guilty pleasures, but MMO gamers are about to acquire a new addiction when Sony Online Entertainment releases Free Realms. SOE’s collection of minigames is delivered in a very kid-friendly package , and (most importantly) it’s very fun.

The exterior is very kid-friendly, but many adults will soon find Free Realms to be a guilty pleasure for them, too.

I joined the closed beta for Free Realms (FR) over the weekend and was impressed early into the experience. Since it is a browser-based game, the tiny plugin for FR takes just seconds to download and install. The game downloads new content as you need it, so you can jump in and play right away. From my experience, the download happens seamlessly with only a little icon on your screen alerting you to the fact that data is transferring. The opening tutorial instantly got me into the fun of two different minigames: cooking and combat.

Cooking required me to first harvest ingredients and then to prepare and cook them. Harvesting was a separate minigame that worked a bit like Bejeweled. Match three or more items in a row or column for as long as you can draw a “line” through them. Each match puts some harvest in your basket. After enough matches of one item, you get a full unit of the item. Reach a certain number of units to win the minigame. Next, I had to chop vegetable, tenderize and slice meat, and smash berries. I stirred in the ingredients to make a stew. It was a fun way to harvest and craft.

The combat minigame was only slightly less fun. Combat is real time with a key press or click required for each attack. My one special attack was a leg sweep, which has a longer cool down timer than the almost instantaneous regular attack. My one gripe here was that I could not find an option for auto attack. Yes, I wanted auto attack! Since even a regular attack has a tiny cool down, it’s not possible to get more attacks by clicking frantically. But it IS possible to be less than 100% efficient in timing your attacks by having to watch the icon and time your clicks.

The great part about combat missions is that they help deliver the story and conflict of FR, which revolves around the mischeivous actions of such pesky critters as "robgoblins." First introduced as part of the tutorial for how to walk, robgoblins are trouble-making goblins that raid crops, torment pets, and steal items from the good humans and fairies of FR. Early quests are very light-hearted and pastoral in nature, but things get a bit mroe serious later on. Even so, FR keeps it upbeat and adventurous at all time.


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