Monday, April 27, 2009


Well, SOE's FreeRealms goes live Tuesday. Having been in the beta, I can say it's definitely not geared for the hard-core gamer. If you live for 24-man raids that require absolutely perfect gearing, exact raid composition and wipe upon wipe upon wipe to perfect your strats, this is not the game for you. But for everybody else, it'll be a fun game to drop in on, spend an hour or two and head off to other things. If you're a kid, you'll love it. One big draw is the jobs system. No more picking a class for a character. Any character can have any number of jobs, each with their own set of equipment and skills, and can level each up independently. Combat is all instanced, so there'll be no competition for mobs. And there's no more waiting for everyone to assemble, you can teleport to any of your friends just by clicking on their marker on the map. A basic account is free, a membership runs only $5/month and gives access to higher-end content.

It does have a few problems, though. One is the lack of a true world-wide chat channel. You can speak locally, and you can send messages to your friends, but there's no generic chat channels as in other games where everyone in the world can speak and be heard. That'll make it a bit harder to get like-minded people together if they aren't already friends. Of course it also limits the amount of asshattery in chat, so the lack isn't all bad. The other major thing you'll notice is that a significant portion of the content, particularly at the higher levels, is either members-only or purchaseable only with Station Cash. Certain jobs are also members-only. The membership is cheap so that's not IMO a major problem, but more stuff requires Station Cash than you might expect from the advertising. And like all SOE games the game and the Station Wallet are tied together through the Station account. If you have kids and want to give them accounts, DO NOT do the obvious and give them their own independent account. Set up your own account first, even if you don't intend to play. Then create their accounts as "child" accounts linked to your parent account, and use the parental controls to lock them down. That way you can use your credit card to pay their membership without giving them an unlimited ability to tap that credit card for Station Cash.

The game hasn't really caught my interest so far. It's fun, though, and a good change of pace. It's perfect for casual futzing around with a few of your friends, and it'll probably be much more interesting for the younger crowd than an old fogey like me.

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