Free Ride

Free Realms

I have not had a chance to explore all that this game has to offer, but I have played enough of it to tell that the name most definitely does not refer to the cost.  I would go so far as to say that for the target audience this game is not free to play.

Ok, ok; that is not entirely fair you can actually run around and take part in many activities without spending any money. Yet, at its heart this is a game that so heavily tempts its target audience to pay, that I have a hard time believing it is free to play.  Three examples below after the break.

  1. The very first quest after the tutorial sends you to talk to the Pet Trainer. There you get another quest to learn about pets, and you can try out a pet. The pets that are cute, and I suspect every kid will want one, but the kicker is you can only keep a pet if you pay $4. That’s right, there is no option to buy a pet with in game currency, you can only buy one for real money. Also while the pet trainer job is free, you can not level it up unless you own a pet.
  2. As you run around the world following the quest helper, you will be guided passed many other quest givers and job trainers that you can not access unless you have a membership.
  3. A part of the game I have yet to actually experience is the Trading Card Game. From what I understand the only way to get new packs of cards is with real money. I will check this out today, but as a player I would rather there be an option to buy cards with in game currency.

Now with all that free to pay (yes I said pay), out of the way, the game launched with a nice level of polish that I feel the devs tried to hide some flaws.

  1. Very limited UI and control customization. Yes I know the game is targeted at kids, but I don’t believe that in any way should stop you from building an advanced menu that allows for additional customization. An option for Inverted Camera controls, at the very least.
  2. Friends list issues. I could only add someone to my friends list if they were online and on the same server as I am. Since they allow you to move from server to server (a great idea), they really should queue friends requests and send them across servers.
  3. Chat is a mess. This goes along with number one, but there is no way to customize the chat interface. No way to create new tabs or windows, and no way to filter chat messages. This is a fail.
  4. With a dozen jobs comes a whole lot of gear and equipment. The game’s inventory system is easy to access and use, it offers very little in the way of filtering. It also does not offer, at least I could not find, a way to quickly compare currently equipped items to non equipped ones.
    • Edit: I just discovered that if you select “equipment” while on the “jobs” page the game filters the list of items down to only those applicable to your current job. That solves much of my troubles I had before, but I still wish I could filter the main equipment list by job.

You might think that all this means I hate the game, but that is not the case.

In fact I think the game is fun, cute and benign enough that if my daughter were a bit older (and could control a mouse)I would certainly let her play.

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Heck, throughout the day yesterday I found myself continually wanting to pop back in and play just a little bit to get one more quest done, or try and get one more level in a job.   The mini games were more fun than I expected, a few even challenged me, and I thought they did a great job integrating them into the game world.

Oh and one last thing; it looks like they they have plans to enable built in video recording and uploading to youtube.  The video recording is available now, though the uploading part is not.  Also accessing the .avi files was causing some errors on my computer, but I was able to work around the errors and I am manually uploading a test video now. I will post it here when it is complete. (Edit) Here is the video:

Since it has fairly low system reqs, loads from your browser, does not take long to get to playing and has has some fun to offer, I suggest (if you have the willpower to not spend real money) you give the game a try.

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