I spent a bit more time in Sony’s new kid-friendly MMO Free Realms this weekend. I came away pleasantly surprised, now that I’ve broken through the “tutorial missions for half a dozen jobs” barrier.
Let me gripe first, so I can end on a high note. 🙂
Contrary to all the ‘smooth launch’ praise, I’ve been finding the servers are down more often than they should be. And the Friend Server still seems pretty borked. I had some random stranger try to friend me yesterday. I refused the invitation, of course. This morning, he was listed as my friend. I tried to remove him from my friends list, and got a message that the Friend Server couldn’t remove him. So I put him on ignore.
For me this is no biggie, but since this is supposed to be a safe environment for kids, people getting on your Friends list against your will is pretty big. Hopefully this was just a fluke. Maybe it was even user error on my part (I sure hope so) but after all the years I’ve been using computers and playing games, I’d think I could reliably choose “No” from a Yes/No choice. We’ll see.
Some of the mini-games are pretty awful, particularly for old folks like me who worry about RSI issues. I’m thinking in particular about the Cooking mini games. Chopping and carving meat even more particularly. And stirring the pot seems way harder than moving your mouse in a circle should be. My on-screen spoon doesn’t move, then suddenly it’ll zoom in a circle and give me a great rating, then stick in place again for 10 seconds before doing another circle. I’m not sure if this is a problem with my setup or what. Angela was puzzled that I was having such a hard time, so I guess she wasn’t.
OK that’s it for griping. Fix the servers, fix the friends stuff, Sony. I’ll just avoid the cookery bits; that’s easy enough.
So what did I like? The Brawler job, of all things. That’s basic MMO combat, but it had me running far and wide, finding new, very atmospheric areas. Dismal regions full of foul smelling swamps and poisonous frogs. Blech. It was there that I entered by first dungeon/cave area, and it was nicely done! The combat is still very simple, but in a way that had me thinking of Diablo (high praise from me). Using a few skills, slurping potions, getting loot. There’s not a thing in the world wrong with that, as far as I’m concerned.
In a perfect world, I’d love an “aggressive” setting that would allow mobs to come after you. As it is now, you can walk right past a combat encounter and unless you choose to initiate combat, you’re perfectly safe. I get why it works this way — kid friendly! But I’d love an option that would allow those encounters to snare you if you get too close.
There’s also a lot of collecting quests, some pretty funny NPCs (Sal Monella is one of my favorites) and just a fun and interesting vibe for us explorer types.
And I like that one job (cooking) can feed (hah!) another job (brawler). Using your cooking job to make food that’ll heal you when you’re being a cook. Fun! Granted, many many MMOs have this without separate jobs, but it was still a nice touch.
I was in a Target anyway, so I wandered through the game section and sure enough, they had time cards, so I broke down and picked up a couple of sets. One was $0.99 and gives you a 30-day membership, 250 Station Cash and a magical potion (?). I’m assuming you can only apply this to an account once as it says in teeny-tiny text “New Accounts Only.” [UPDATE: This card wouldn’t work with an existing account, even though I’d never applied any codes to the account. I guess it has to be used when you create the account? Oh well, I kind of thought it was too good to be true.] The other was $10 and have 1000 Station Cash and a red pirate hat for your in-game dog. I love that they specify “in-game” dog. 🙂 Of course, you have to spend Station Cash to get that dog…
I suppose once you have that pirate hat, there’s no real reason to go back to Target for additional points.
Oh, one last thing, not related to Sony. Is anything running Vista able to get XFire to detect Free Realms? I can’t, and I don’t seem to be alone in that, from what I’m reading on the XFire forums.