Free Realms is a new MMO, developed by Sony Online Entertainment. (http://www.freerealms.com) The game is one of the newest of the free to play games (FTP). You can be online and play for free, but you get more content if you spend money in game, or if you pay an additional subscription fee, in this case a relatively inexpensive $5.00 per month, US dollars. From what I’ve read, the “free to play” part doesn’t appear to be the proverbial “bait and switch” – it looks like you get a lot of game for free.
The game is ostensibly targeted to, as SOE puts it – “everyone young at heart: tweens, teens, and families alike. It’s a rich and magical world where even parents are welcome. In fact, you’ll want to jump right in and play with your kids! ” http://www.freerealms.com/forParents.vm
Gameplay is stunningly diverse. You can fight monsters, explore new areas, train pets, mine for things like shiny gems, cook, race cars, and play minigames. I may have left something off the list – there’s so much of it. The game is set in a fantasy world, but not a heavy, dark one. The look of the game is bright, lively, pretty in parts, with a great sense of design. It’s like a fun wacky cartoon you get to be in. You can also play as a character (an avatar) with wings! If I have a choice, I’m always going to play someone with wings. Why would you not?
My character in the starting area, where we learn to play the game. Notice the wings?
Free Worlds was originally marketed to families, but I’ve read articles and posts across the MMO world saying that adults are jumping in and having a great time. Even at the, for want of a better word “hardcore” or “classic”, MMO sites such as TenTonHammer and MMORPG, I’m finding posts where grownups say that they are playing this game, sometimes as their secondary “no pressure” MMO. I’m still at the beginning of the game, but it looks like a fun game I’ll enjoy playing.
Massively (http://www.massively.com) can do hardcore, but they aren’t snooty about what is supposed to count as an MMO. They’ve done some interesting articles on Free Realms, and a great little webcomic!
Here’s a great picture of a crowd of people in Free Realms