By Michael Justice (Alphamage), Onrpg writer
At some point in our lives, we have all opened up a popular mini-game website and played around with a game or two. Some people have even played mini-games for hours and hours on end. ( I know I probably wasted ridiculous amounts of time playing Winter Bells ) while others are only the “play it at the office when i’m bored” kind of people.
Whether you’re a die-hard mini-game champion or a relaxed laid-back player, you will like Free Realms; the game where you can combine MMORPGs with mini-games to create a casserole of online fun. I was taken aback when I realized that the game wasn’t traditional in many ways, but I came to find that it had plenty in store for me.
Engine & Graphics
MMORPGs usually require a client in order to run the game, and that requires large downloads and disk space, etc.. Free realms, however uses none of those. It runs a engine that downloads and streams straight to your screen, allowing a lot of things to be changed almost instantly. The potential this type of software engineering has is staggering, especially for MMORPGs.
The game looks pretty, too. It’s not a big process hog and it doesn’t require high-end hardware, meaning even those people who don’t have great PCs can still enjoy the game’s vivid textures and gorgeous environments. Exploring this game is probably one of the most fun things I have had the pleasure of doing, because you can tell the developers really put a lot of effort into the magical world.
Free Realms combines a myriad of mini-games and mashes it together with a traditional RPG system in an online world. I created a character ( choosing from several different looks assuring I wasn’t going to look like everyone else ) and immediately set off in the world, accepting all quests and taking any adventures that came my way. When I first logged on, I thought that this is a traditional MMORPG with standard point-and-click or WASD movement, enemies, combat, etc.; but after I realized it was more than that, I was only further intrigued.
As I put an end to my first quest and accepted my second, I was given a choice. The quest simply wanted to me “remove the enemies from my birthday”, however, it asked me if I wanted to simply fight them and take them out myself, or I could “cook a magical stew that makes a fairy-girl super strong so she can kick them out”.
Many long-time MMORPG players have always gone with the “where is my sword so I can kill these monsters” mindset for a while, and I have to admit, I was very tempted to merely go in and beat them up myself, however, the opportunity was just too much to pass up. Who wouldn’t want to watch a little girl turn into a fairy-hulk and beat a couple of monsters to a pulp? Therefore, I accepted the quest to concoct a steroids-endowed stew.
This was something extremely exciting for me. I was treading new ground from my perspective. There was no “please kill ten rats for me because it’s raining” quests, I was given a choice. Wary of how this was going to turn out, I proceeded to my next NPC who would help me in my cooking desires. When I realized that I had to merely click on an object and it would give me the items, I was a bit disappointed. That wasn’t exactly such a large choice. However, upon actually clicking the object, a screen popped-up that had all types of little icons lined up in a box.
“Match the tiles up with each other and you will get vegetables!” was merely the object of this little mini-game, and so I did. Upon collecting various plants and such, I returned to my quest giver. I was then instructed to now cook everything. Another box popped up, and series of mini-mini-games began. Hesitant at first, I got the hang of the little mico-games and I passed with flying colors. Handing the fairy my five-star stew, I felt like a sous chef and, to top it off, I got to see a funny little cutscene in which she knocks the stuffing out of all the monsters while other NPCs shouted things such as “you go girl” .
“Well that was fun” I merely thought to myself. A small amount of fun combined with a small amount of gratification make a great way to start an MMORPG. However, I didn’t realize that most of the quests were going to be nearly exactly like this one, only with perhaps a larger amount of “fun” with a small amount of gratification.
Well, cooking may be nice, but there certainly is more to the game than just making delicious food. Finding out I could repeat the quest. only choosing to knock them out myself as a “Brawler”, I returned to the NPC and entered an instanced-like area. Perhaps it is because I have played many MMORPGs that center around combat, but the game’s combat system is just a bit too dumbed-down. Basically, you can attack a monsters over and over again until it dies, and you can use one skill that hits multiple enemies. Of course, this is merely the very beginning of the game, surely it will get better. It is very dumbed down, but I got the same result.
I have already described three of the jobs in this review. Adventurer,( which is what you do while looking for quests basically ), Chef ( which is used for certain chef-based quests ) and Brawler ( which is used for combat-oriented quests ). You can pick whatever job you want and still have fun, but the game allows you to pick whichever you think would be the funnest.
After a bit of research, I found out that there were a lot of classes to chose from, ranging from Go Kart Drivers to Wizards. This was a bit overwhelming, as I didn’t really know what the different types of classes would turn out be to, but really, you only need to play the class for a little bit before you get the gist of what the entire thing is like. Such is the way of MMORPGs.
There are two types of classes as far as I am concerned. There are the “combat classes” which are merely classes you can use during combat-related quests. The only jobs available to you are Brawler and Ninja, the rest are “Member only” which kind of doesn’t make sense. There are also the non-combat related jobs which are jobs you do things related solely to your own job.
Deciding to go be a miner, I went to go look for all sort of gems and ores waiting for me in the mountains. After harvesting a few minerals and and having nothing to do with them, I was a bit lost. Then, it hit me. This is what I would do for the rest of my entire job career as a miner. The same old mini game time after time. The snowglobe containing my “fun” was merely shattered to pieces as I realized that all jobs that didn’t involve combat were going to be like this.
Typically, when I am not having fun doing something that is supposed to be providing my with entertainment, I simply quit. Free Realms did indeed provide me with entertainment, even though I would not dare tread farther than repeating the same mini-game more than three times in a row. I explored many of the other jobs, which are, in turn, merely mini-games with experience and leveling.
I tried kart-racing, which definitely felt like some kind of Road Rally spin-off. The pet trainer job just felt like I was playing nintendogs. Card duelist was kind of fun, but again, it’s not something I wanted to do over and over. All combat classes are stale, and let’s face it, why play a combat job when there’s a lot of MMORPGs that are focused around combat jobs?
Honestly, I am extremely happy that MMORPG developers are looking to branch out into new and exciting ways to get MMORPGs focused on more than just combat, however, mashing MMORPGs with mini-games can be a deadly combination. Perhaps there is someone out there who enjoys doing nothing but play the same mini-game over and over until their eyes bleed, but I assure you they only do that because they like the mini-game, not because they want to level up a job or get new clothes or finish a quest.