Saturday, April 3, 2010

Free Realms - One Year Later

With Free Realms approaching their one year anniversary, I thought I'd have a look at all the new things added that I've read about. I had played at release and stuck around for a month or two. There have been a heck of a lot of changes since then.

I opted for the $4.99 subscription which is really hard to beat. While you can do some things for free, it's become much more restrictive. The combat has been completely revamped. I had left as an 18 archer and still had quests on me that were too difficult to complete. The past few levels had become a bit tedious.

So checking my quest list, I headed into one of the instances I couldn't complete previously. I'm not sure why, but they removed targeting of mobs. I used to try to single pull a mob, since getting too many would mean being knocked out. But now you just pretty much charge in and your attack abilities hit whatever is in front of you. The first time I saw about a dozen mobs rush at me I thought "uh oh". But my main arrow attack is now an area attack and they all went down pretty easily. Combat has definitely been sped up and the instances don't take nearly as long as they used to. Also, instead of being granted three knockouts before you fail the instance, you are given 15 in most.

Regeneration also seems higher. I used to be annoyed at all the potions I had to buy and consume. Now I only had to use them for the boss fights and a few times when I just took on too many. I'm sure many were not happy with the combat being made easier. But for their targeted younger audience, I do think it was a bit too hard before. And I even thought it was fun blasting tons of mobs at a time.

Housing has been added and I was given a small house with a yard for free. You can buy a larger house with Station Cash, but I thought the small one was plenty large enough for now. There's furniture of course in the SC store, but you can also purchase furniture from various merchants with game coins. Since there is no housing zone (you just click a button to get to your home), I haven't seen any way to randomly visit other player's homes to see how they've decorated them.

Guilds were also added and anyone can start one up solo. I think the kids are having a lot of fun with this. Looking at some of the guild names, it's pretty easy to tell it wasn't started by an adult, but some are actually cute. The guild names all are sent for approval before showing up, so you can be sure you won't see some offensive name as you or your child runs around.

Travel has been made much easier, not that it was difficult before. You used to be able to only teleport to certain hubs which you've opened up. Now you can teleport directly to any point of interest or instance.

While you always were able to see new areas referenced on the edge of the map, these areas still have not been implemented yet. But they have added more quests and more activities such as soccer and pirate plunder. And of course the SC market is filled with tons of stuff like furniture, pets, mounts, and cosmetic outfits. You do also get lots of free stuff. There's a daily wheel that spins that gives you some random item. Also, if you go to the main Free Realms page, there's usually an item displayed that you can claim.

I like the changes they've made, and I think it's a great value for 5 bucks a month. It's a cute, casual diversion from the typical MMO grind.

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