Reviews
enfrdeitptrues
boxart
Game Info:

Homefront
Developed By: Kaos Studios/Digital Extremes
Published By: THQ
Released: March 15, 2011
ESRB Rating: M
Available On: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 
Genre: First-person Shooter
Number Of Players: 1 offline, up to 32 online
Price: $9.93 US, Amazon

In 2012, Kim Jong-un (son of Kim Jong-il) united the Korean peninsula into the Greater Korean Republic.  By 2015, the KPA (Korean People’s Army) has taken impressive strides towards modernization by using American and Chinese weapons and vehicles.  In 2018, the KPA takes over Japan, subsequently annexing the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, while Malaysia joins willingly.  During the next few years, the KPA serves many peacekeeping actions across the world, seeing action in Iraq, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and Cuba. By 2023, the KPA has become the largest standing army in the world.  Finally, in 2025, a Greater Korean Republic communication satellite fires an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) into the United States, which is followed up with a mass invasion.  Two years have passed since then, and everything west of the Mississippi River is occupied by the Korean armed forces.

This is the initial plot to Homefront, and what a story it turns out to be!  While trying to keep the spoilers to a minimum, I will attempt to give a decent overview.  You play as former Marine helicopter pilot Robert Jacobs, who is taken from his home to serve ‘America’ (the KPA).  Shortly after his arrest by the KPA, which is nothing more than forced enlistment, members of the American resistance free you.  You will then be greeted with the other major characters in this story, who are Boone Karlson (leader of the local resistance), Rianna (former hunter), Hopper Lee (electrical engineer) and Connor Morgan (former soldier).  From that point on, you will battle throughout the city in order to put a stop to the KPA.  Eventually, it culminates with an amazing fight that takes place on the Golden Gate Bridge.

The campaign is very enjoyable, but goes by rather quickly.  I believe it took about 4-5 hours for me to run through the campaign.  Enemies are not the smartest, but still present a challenge.  The weapons you are presented with provide a decent variety.  Even in the first chapter (which is what missions are called) you get to use a Goliath unmanned ground vehicle, then later in the campaign you get to fly a helicopter.  These are fun experiences and they help keep the experience interesting, but the game still runs through quickly.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Excellent campaign, Voice acting
Weak Points: Online multiplayer was mediocre
Moral Warnings: Violence, War, Language

Homefront is a rather standard First-Person Shooter game.  The controls are easily picked up by anyone with previous experience in the genre.  It does depart from most games when it comes to ammunition.  You will frequently be required to pick up a different weapon, simply because there is not enough ammunition for the one you have.  This is not as common for the KPA weapons, but still occurs.  Some may consider this annoying, but I found it to be an interesting twist that helped further the realism in the story.

The story behind this game is truly one of my favorites and is reminiscent of the 1984 movie "Red Dawn".  This should not be surprising, as the game is written by John Milius, who co-wrote Red Dawn.  Fans of the movie will enjoy a friendly acknowledgement as to what inspired this game.  

The sound in the game is quite impressive.  The voice actors for all of the characters did a terrific job in their portrayal of the fellow resistance members.  The in-game audio was also very good and comparable to many other major First-Person Shooters available currently.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 87%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 60%
Violence - 2/10
Language - 0/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

Overall, the graphics for Homefront are relatively average for when it was released.  Not nearly as impressive as other FPS games, but at the same time they did a pretty good job.  The real support behind Homefront is not the graphics, but the story behind the game.

In regards to the multiplayer, I did not spend a lot of time online in Homefront.  This is mainly because I constantly was suffering disconnections and other issues.  I have not had these issues with other games, which leads me to believe it is not just me.  A quick check shows that despite this, 39 servers are online currently (8 of which have players, and only 2-3 are full last time I checked).  The multiplayer experience is unique when it does work though.  This is accomplished through the use of the Battle Points (BP) system.  When you capture/defend and objective, shoot an enemy, or do other related actions, you receive BP.  This in turn is used to purchase armor, weapons, drones, airstrikes, and vehicles.  At the start of every match, you begin with 500 battle points, regardless if whether or not you did well on the previous one.  This has a balancing effect that is quite helpful for newer players.  It also allows a new player to have access to the same nice items as a hardcore player.

Homefront contains the standard Team Deathmatch for up to 24 players.  Additionally, there is a objective control mode with up to 32 players.  The other version is called Skirmish, and allows for up to 16 players to alternate through both of the previous modes.  There is also a Battle Commander mode for all of them.  This version is capped at 24 players for the objective control mode, but is the same for the other two modes.  The difference here, is that a player that is doing well and killing many enemies, will receive buffs that will make them more difficult to kill.  On the other hand, players who are getting these streaks will be specially flagged to the other team, who will also get bonuses for killing them.

Despite the interesting storyline and gameplay, Homefront did not receive an M rating for nothing.  Blood splatters with every shot, frequent swearing, and the acts you see committed around you mean that Homefront is a hard game to swallow.  The first time I played this game, I actually stopped halfway through for a while because I found some of the in-game content gruesome.  In the very beginning of the game alone, you see North Korean soldiers beating civilians, executing them, dumping bodies off the side of a road, but that is not all.  A mother and father are killed while their toddler stands next to the soldiers crying.  As their bodies fall to the ground, he runs over to them while the soldiers just look on.

These atrocities are not limited to just the North Koreans.  At a point in the game, you break out of the city of Montrose to get to a helicopter under the control of some American survivalists (apparently the people who have been preparing for this since Y2K).  They end up being about as friendly to you as the KPA are.  While sneaking through their camp, you see them torturing and toying with a captive KPA soldier.  The resistance fires white phosphorus rounds into Korean soldiers, leading to you running through the burning, writhing, still quite alive bodies.  This situation is complicated by dual achievements, one for putting them out of their misery, or another for letting them burn. 

That is not to say that everyone around you enjoys killing.  Rianna, after silently killing a KPA soldier says, “It never gets any easier.”  This stuck out to me for quite a while after playing through the first time.

Everywhere you turn, you are reminded that the country you are in is your home, and you can almost see glimpses of what used to be.  A teddy bear in a tree-stand, crayon-drawn pictures in houses, a small sanctum of peace where the resistance operates at times, all of these tug at your heart.  Homefront makes sure to remind you that you are not fighting in some other country for a political reason, but rather you are fighting to protect and free your home.

 

boxart
Game Info:

Warlock: Master of the Arcane
Developed By: Ino-Co Plus 
Published By: Paradox Interactive Released: May 8, 2012
ESRB Rating: E
Available On: PC
Genre: Turn-based Strategy (4X)
Number of Players: Singleplayer
Price: $19.99 on GamersGate

Special thanks to GamersGate for the review copy of this game!

Warlock: Master of the Arcane is a new installment to the Majesty series. This time we see the series taking a turn towards the 4X genre, which is known to be famous in the ever-popular Civilization series. Regardless of the high similarities, Master of the Arcane brings a unique twist to the genre, and is an overall excellent title for someone who isn't familiar with it.

For those who are unfamiliar with the 4X Genre, 4X stands for: explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. The map is built up with hexagons, which serves as a grid. The grid is used for movement and to display the property that is under the leadership of your opponents. When you need to move a unit, you set the destination on the grid and your unit will move towards it each turn. When your city population expands, you will be able to control more land. When you stumble upon enemy units or cities, you will be given the choice to either exploit the faction or attempt to exterminate it. The object of the game is to be the strongest faction in all of Ardania, and to keep it under your control.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Great for beginners; Interesting Universe; Low system requirements
Weak Points: Would liked to have seen more choices when it came to choosing a leader
Moral Warnings: Magic; Violence; Suggestive dialogue

When you begin playing the game, you are given the choice of deciding the map type and the number of empires that you will face against. You also have the choice of deciding which mage will lead your army, and what abilities and perks you will start out with. I didn't expect any more customization than that, but I do wish that there would be a better choice of mages that can be chosen to lead your empire. This could be due to my lack of knowledge of the series, but I feel like some of the leaders look ridiculous and silly. Either way, it fits in well with the humor and hilarity that the Majesty series is known for, and I don't believe I've ever played a game before that features a rat as the leader of an army. 

You start out with a small capital city that has a very low rank level. The rank levels up depending on how big the population of the city is. There are four very important resources in the game, and they are: Gold, Food, Mana and Research points. Food is used to feed your population, and helps it grow. Every time you level up a city rank, you can begin building structures that help you garner a different variety of units, which are then purchased for gold. Buildings also help supply your population with food, give you more research points, and help your leader gain mana that allows him to cast magic spells. You can also learn new spells through research, using your research points. Since the game is turn-based, everything from the movement of the units, to learning a new spell, is done at your own leisurely pace. The game helps you understand how many turns it will take for you to learn something, build something and how long it will take your unit to arrive at the destination you have set for it.

Eventually you will stumble across other cities that are owned by other leaders. You can negotiate with these leaders to join your side or to give you their resources. Sometimes you will come across leaders who will want nothing to do with you and will declare war. When you're in battle with them, you can take control of their town by destroying it. Another way to have more than one city is through the settler unit. There are also many mobs and mob cities scattered around that you can also attack for experience points and other goodies.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 75%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 2/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Every unit can level up and gain perks that will help make the unit stronger. To level up, you need to gain experience points through exploration or by killing enemy units. I personally enjoyed the way the units were designed, and I had a lot of laughs from the dialogue that was given. It reminded me of the kind of humor you would expect from the Warcraft games because the units have a hilarious way of speaking. It gives this lighthearted feel to the game, which is what the Warcraft games are known for. A lot of the dialogue is easy to remember because of this as well.

Occasionally you will receive a quest that will have you either kill a group of mobs, attack an enemy faction or construct a specific building. These quests are usually easy to accomplish, and reward you with gold. They are also excellent at helping you understand the game better and to progress quicker.

The soundtrack in the game is good. I enjoyed listening to the music, and didn't once feel like I needed to mute the track. I also enjoyed the ambiance and the voice acting. It really helped bring life to the game and made it feel unique.

The graphics are great as well, and you don't really need expensive hardware to run this game. I was running the game on the highest setting with my PC being average at best. I enjoyed the detail on the units, and the world looks nice and colorful.

As for morality, I didn't enjoy the female dialogue due to it being very suggestive. Also, there is a lot of magic in the game, with a lot of summoning and enchantment spells. I didn't see any pentagrams or any other satanic imagery, but I still felt uncomfortable. You can take control of an undead army. The violence in the game is very minimum and you won't see any blood or gore. 

Overall, I enjoyed my time playing Warlock: Master of the Arcane. This game is easy to pick up and play, has a nice setting and is very addicting. There is a difficulty setting for when you want a challenge or when you want to relax, and even though the game is strictly single player, it still has a lot to offer. The average game could take you many hours to complete depending on the game options you have set before you begin playing the game. I'm not very familiar with this particular genre, but I have played Civilization before, so I noticed the resemblance right away and understood how to play the game very quickly. If you're unfamiliar with this genre and would like to get into it, this would most likely be the first game that I would introduce to you. However, the heavy use of magic and suggestive dialogue makes it hard for me to keep it as a personal recommendation. For those who don't mind it, you will definitely enjoy this game.

 
boxart
Game Info:

Dungeon Blitz
Developed By: Blue Mammoth Games
Published by: Blue Mammoth Games
Release Date: March 26th 2012
Genre: MMORPG
Modes: Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: Not rated
MSRP: Free but premium content costs money.

DungeonBlitz is a free to play browser based MMORPG developed by Blue Mammoth Games.  The founders of the company have worked on popular titles including Cities of Heroes and Global Agenda.  This game is Flash based and has many features of mainstream MMO’s such as chat (with swear filters!), forming parties, and character/weapon customization.    While much of the customizations can be done with gold harvested in game, there is premium content that can be purchased with Blue Mammoth money that is bought with real currency.  I purchased a mount and a pet with Blue Mammoth currency given to me by the developers.  While the mount is attention getting and faster, I found the pet to be absolutely worthless since it does not help attack swarms of enemies coming my way.  The mount does not attack enemies either and disappears once you draw your weapon.  It is good for traveling between towns and jumping over enemies along the roads.

The enemies vary and increase in difficulty as you explore new areas.  You encounter your typical ogres, spiders, skeletons, bats and wisps.  Each dungeon has a boss waiting for you at the end.  Once the boss is defeated, you’ll be ranked on how much treasure you collected, amount of enemies defeated, number of times you died, and how much time you took to clear the dungeon.  

You can go into a dungeon alone or form a party with players and share the load.  If a person is not a team player, they can be booted from the group.   I got invited to join parties almost every time I played.  I think the frequency increased when I was riding my mount or had my pet following me.  While the people are friendly, I preferred to play solo. There is an in-game buddy system where you can request to be buddies with players and chat with them, join them or just know when they are online.  

Highlights:

Strong Points: Free; easy to learn controls; browser based game play makes this game very portable on PC's.
Weak Points: While the 2D Flash graphics are amazing, the paths to take are confusing at times.
Moral Warnings: Violence, magic use and undead monsters.

Other than dungeons, you’ll come across various villages with trainers, vendors and quest givers.  The trainers can make you more efficient with your weapons, luckier with loot finding or better at defending against and attacking enemies within that region.  I trained to upgrade my attacks but never invested in the loot or enemy boosts.  

Like many dungeon crawlers you can get better weapons and armor by simply defeating enemies.  The item and crafting drops are not as frequent as other popular RPG’s out there.  I guess I’ve been spoiled by Diablo III. You will get some gold with every kill and most monsters drop health too.  Later in the game you will get a house with a garden where you can forge gems and hire workers to mine dragon stone for you.  The dragon stone is essential for crafting and upgrading your weapons and armor.    

Before you can enchant your weapons and armor you have to pay some gold to unlock the ability.  Combining crafting items can create gems that increase the gold drop, item drop, attack speed and so on.  Each item has three sockets for customizing.  I seldom had one maxed out since I often found a better item soon after upgrading my current one.

Each item that is equipped changes your character’s appearance accordingly.  The graphics are 2D and cartoony in appearance.  The monsters are not terribly scary but the bosses are intimidating.  The movement animations are good and the world offers plenty of colorful scenery and variety.   This is the most complex Flash based game I’ve played and it works pretty well for a MMORPG platform.  My only complaint is that the areas with forks in the road take a couple of tries to get on the desired path.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 75%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls 4/5

Morality Score - 75%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 2/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Even though the interface can use some tweaking, the controls are pretty solid.  The Flash architecture makes this game portable but sadly, not every device supports Flash.  Even if your tablet can load the game, the next obstacle is controlling it.  Movement is done by WASD and the attacks are done by clicking and using the number keys.  Easy for PC users but crippling for mobile devices.  The boss battles require both strategy and button mashing to defeat them.  Their attacks often have a pattern and when you see an opening, you gotta press buttons like crazy to get every attack in before you die.  If you do die, both your health and the enemy's health gets replenished.

The sound effects are decent and each monster has their own unique grunt, howl or growling noises.  There is no background music so you can play your own music to drown out the sounds of dying foes.

Yes there are dying gurgles of slain monsters but there is no blood or excessive gore.  You can play as a sorcerer in this game so there is magic use. Even if your warrior or rogue does not use magic, it will be used on you.  There are some skeletons and monsters rising from their graves so a couple of points will be docked for supernatural references.  This is not an uncommon theme in RPG games.  Even though my female rogue was fully clothed some of the female characters show off their chest a little bit.

So how does Dunegon Blitz stack up to other MMORPG’s out there?  Graphically it’s unique and stands out compared to other free MMO’s. The weapon and loot system is not as complex as other games but it’s still satisfying. Dungeon Blitz is free, it’s portable and fun.  It does get a little repetitive but for the price, you have nothing to lose by giving it a try.  

boxart
Game Info:

Dawn of Fantasy
Developed By: Reverie World Studios
Published By: 505 Games
Release Date: September 6, 2011
Available On: PC
Genre: Massively Multiplayer Online Real-Time Strategy
ERSB Rating: Teen
Single Player/Multiplayer
MSRP: $24.99  (no monthly fees, micro-transactions)

Thank you Reverie World Studios for sending us this game to review!

 In the land of massively multiplayer online games, the role playing genre has long reigned supreme. But recent years have seen more games bringing different types of gameplay into an online, persistent world. Dawn of Fantasy is one such game. It takes the city building and army creation gameplay of a real time strategy game into an online realm. If you haven’t guessed already, it’s set in a standard “high-fantasy” world filled with men, elves, and orcs. That’s not the only thing that will seem familiar to veterans of the genre. Reverie World Studios has taken many pages out of other RTS games’ play books to put together a game for those who want to build something that exists in a world larger than their own hard drives.

 But the road has not been a smooth one for this ambitious project. In development for ten years, the game’s launch was plagued with a number of bugs that made it almost unplayable. Since that time, there have been a number of patches for the game in an attempt to make it more stable. The largest patch yet, 1.2, went live on the 18th of February. This patch not only fixed bugs, but added a better system for co-op and PvP play, as well as an interactive tutorial to help ease in new players. These tutorials are about the closest you get to a singleplayer campaign. The only other offline game modes are castle siege skirmishes and the “kingdom wars” mode (which gives you a taste of moving in the world map and managing cities). But you’ll have to go online to get to the real meat of the game.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Lots of gameplay concepts brought together; three fully fleshed out factions; large world with plenty of cities to lay siege to; active developer support.
Weak Points: Poorly optimized;  still rather buggy; mediocre production values; slow paced; minimal storyline.
Moral Warnings:  Fantasy violence, blood, use of magic, alcohol references, mild suggestive dialog and mild language.

 You start out by choosing a race (Orc, Elf, or Human) and one of three regions in which to set up your city. You can then choose two traits for your hero unit, some of which will only affect him and some that affect your whole city. After this you will be treated to a brief narration that sets up some backstory. From there you are given control of a hero unit, a few workers and a central building to start your city with. There is also a quest giver that gives you some tasks to get you started on your way to building a city. The quests themselves are pretty standard: kill these bandits, gather this many resources, etc. Later on, as your city grows and you complete quests, you will meet other characters that will give you more story related missions.

Dawn of Fantasy takes a number of gameplay elements from other RTS games and melds them into two main modes. The world map gives a broad view of the surrounding area and allows you to move armies from one city to the next. The actual fighting, resource gathering, and city building take place from a bird’s eye view of the immediate area around a battlefield, or city.  Both modes happen in real time, with no pausing or turns when going from one to the other.  This means that armies you send marching off to a distant city in the world map will continue to march while you recruit more units and fortify your city in the RTS mode.

 But before you can march off to plunder enemy lands, you must gather, or buy, the necessary resources. The main economic unit of any city is the peasants. These hard-working commoners can be tasked with gathering food, wood, gold or stone; and in battles they can also repair structures and loot corpses. There is also a resource trading system that enables you to take surplus goods of one kind and convert it into another. This is nothing new to RTS games, but the way it’s done is fairly unique. Instead of a market building that magically transforms your wood into gold, you need to transfer the goods into an army that has a cart (or other pack unit) and take it to an NPC town. From there you can sell goods for gold and buy any other resource with it. Then you’ll have to bring back your bounty and transfer it back into your city’s stores before you can use it. This can be a little time consuming, but don’t worry about time too much. Unlike most other “gather, build and conquer” RTS games, speed isn’t all that important. You can’t even be attacked by another player until your city grows to a certain size. And even NPC bandits will wait politely outside your city to be slaughtered. Which is good because some of the more important buildings literally take hours to build (such as those that advance your “tech” level). A fifth resource is Influence. This is gained through some quest and PvP battles. You can also buy them from the Dawn of Fantasy’s official web site for real money. You can use Influence to by buildings, elite units, and resources.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 66%
Gameplay - 14/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 67%
Violence - 3.5/10
Language - 7.5/10
Sexual Content - 8/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

The main bulk of your time that is not spent mining, trading or building will be spent commanding your armies in battle. Unlike many mainstream fantasy RTS and RPG games (especially MMOs) these battles are not bloodless. As units take damage they will get cuts all over their bodies. When they die they will be covered in blood and their bodies will not fade until a peasant comes to loot the corpse. There is also use of magic, mostly used by the elves. In fact, the elves use magic to gather all of their resources, as they don’t believe in taking things from nature. This preservation of nature is so important to them that, in one early elvish mission, you are tasked with killing a group of human hunters so as to save some deer. Not that humans are all sweethearts either. In fact, most every human unit will swear at you every other time you select him. D***, h*** and “bloody” are all used as expletives. There is also a mission that has you searching for missing ale shipments (no drinking is actually shown), and the human  quest giver keeps wanting to throw a party with “dancing girls” (he never gets them). And then there are orcs. They like to fight, a lot. Plus they not only get gold from looted corpses, but food as well. Yes, that means exactly what you think it does, though you never see the corpse-eating (the bodies just disappear, the same as with looting).

 The look of the game is a bit dated, with blocky models, objects that “pop” in and out quite a lot, blurry textures and an art style that tends towards the generic side. Not to say that it’s all bad. The hero units fare a little better than most units, though there are still some issues when viewed up close. The elves are probably the best looking of the three factions - both in terms of technical appearance and design, with buildings that integrate whole trees into their construction. The environments themselves also look okay, with good use of colors and nice vegetation, with a full day-night cycle changing the lighting and shadows through the course of the game. Sounds are a bit mixed. While the in-game music helps enhance the mood, and the voice acting is passable, the sound effects tend to be low quality and unvarying.

 Ultimately Dawn of Fantasy is a collection of good ideas woven together in a way that lends itself well to online play. But not all the pieces fit perfectly, with many rough edges keeping them from meshing. Most of the stability issues that plagued the initial release have been fixed, but the core gameplay still lacks the refinement to make it a truly great RTS. Units move sluggishly, battles don’t lend themselves well to tactical play, and it’s hard to read most units to tell what they are. But even if it were a great RTS it would still feel lacking in respect to its MMO features. The lack of customization options make your city, hero and units all seem much the same as any other player’s. And while there is an upgrade system that is quite deep for an RTS, it’s nowhere near what most MMO players will have come to expect. The appropriateness of the game is in something of a strange place, with more blood and swearing than some, but not as much as in many dark fantasy worlds. As a result, Dawn of Fantasy is hard to recommend wholeheartedly. And yet, there is definitely some enjoyment to be had here, for the right kind of gamer. You’ll just have to wade through some awkwardness to get to it and be willing to overlook some faults to get there.

boxart
Game Info:

Free Realms
Developed By: SOE San Diego
Published By: Sony Online Entertainment
Released: April 28, 2009 (PC), March 29, 2011 (PS3) 
Available On: Mac, PS3, PC (reviewed)
Genre: Free-to-play MMO
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and up:  Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence
MSRP: Free-to-play, Lifetime membership: $34.99

“It’s your world” and “you rule”, these were the slogans that debuted with Free Realms in 2009. A lot has changed since then, but these slogans are still very true. Free Realms is a free-to-play massively multiplayer online game (referred to as MMO from here on) targeted at children. I first learned about it when some of my relatives invited me to play it back in 2009, and after some time playing on their account, I decided to make my own. Since then, I have completed hundreds of quests, played numerous mini-games, fought in countless battles, and had fun doing it, despite some problems.

Membership to Free Realms is $5 for one month and $35 to become a lifetime member. While membership isn’t necessary to play, the level cap is raised for members, which allows them to access harder battles. Special weapons and clothing are also for members only, along with discounts and daily sales. While the “free” part of Free Realms is only about 25%, newcomers should be able to decide whether or not they want to purchase membership.

As a reviewer, I try to keep my gameplay descriptions short; this way my audience doesn’t fall asleep on me.  But since this is a MMO, I’m afraid you’re going to have to bear with me. Instead of picking a class in the beginning, the game allows you to play as every “job” (class) right from the get-go, and each one levels up individually as you use it. These jobs fall into five categories: combat, racing, crafting, miscellaneous, and adventure.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Be who you want; lifetime membership reasonably priced; large and varied world
Weak Points: Too many in-game costs; not very deep; glitchy chat filter 
Moral Warnings: Crude humor; fantasy violence; possible vulgar language/shapes

Combat is the meat and potatoes of Free Realms, and where the majority of the content lies. Instead of fighting within the game world, fights are divided into instances which can be an entire dungeon or simply a fight against a single character. There are six classes in all, and each one focuses on a different play style. Wizards and archers are long-range, while ninjas and medics are mid-range, and warriors and brawlers are heavy, damage dealing tanks. It’s nice to have multiple classes to choose from; it means I could pick how I wanted to take on a fight. Whether you want to be a support class like a medic or a wizard, or run head first into battle, destroying anything that stands in your way as a brawler or warrior, you can play how you want. Add in the ability to play with three friends, and you can make some awesome strategies for some of the tougher dungeons.

Originally, when Free Realms launched, combat was slightly more complicated (and better, in my opinion); but ever since December 2009, the combat has been simplified into a basic attack, a special attack, and a power-up. The weapon you currently have equipped determines what extra effect your basic attack might have, and what your special attack does. Power-ups come in the form of floating icons scattered throughout the level or can be gained from a defeated enemy. They include things like temporary invincibility, to causing an earthquake, or shooting fire.

Racing is composed of the racer and demolition derby jobs. Both jobs are simple mini-games and exactly what their names imply. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the driving though, as the controls lagged too much, the vehicle physics were way off, and the frame rate felt a bit slow, considering the fast-paced nature of racing. Now, this could have been because of my computer, but I even tried lowering the graphical settings and it still seemed slow. The jobs themselves also felt a bit underdeveloped, like they decided to add it near the end, just for the sake of having it.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 78%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls 5/5

Morality Score - 87%
Violence - -810
Language - 8.5/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

The crafting jobs (chef, blacksmith, and miner) are far more passive, and more meant for supporting the combat jobs. Chef is essentially an imitation of Cooking Mama, used to make food items that either buff your character’s stats or augment your character’s appearance. Blacksmithing is similar to the chef minigame, but instead you’re making weapons. Mining is my least favorite crafting job, simply because it doesn’t feel necessary. The only thing a miner can do is gather materials for blacksmithing, something that it seems like a blacksmith could do. I enjoyed the mini-games for these jobs, and I like that there are options for people who don’t wish to fight. 

The miscellaneous jobs aren’t necessarily a class of job, but all the jobs that don’t really seem to fit in anywhere else. Things like fisherman, soccer star, postman, and card duelist; the odd jobs. Fisherman and Soccer star are mini-game based jobs, similar to combat in that they are both instance based. Fishing is rather laid back, and even though it’s a bit simplistic, I enjoyed it. The soccer however, is far too fast for the amount lag that was present, the same problem I had with the racing. Surprisingly, I did enjoy the postman job, which is composed of timed footraces to deliver the inhabitants’ mail. I was addicted to the races, constantly going back to shave a few seconds off my time. The card duelist is generic copy Pokemon/Yu-Gi-Oh, and feels like a cheap way for Sony to cash in on someone else’s popularity. It’s not broken, but it feels unnecessary. 

The adventurer isn’t really a job at all, but rather a basic look and overall experience level for your character. Instead of using mini-games or events to level up, the adventurer levels up by finding hidden coins and completing main storyline quests. They can also wear normal clothing and costumes. I appreciate that there’s this option, since you can look however you want while you wander the land. Whether you want to be dressed as a T-bone steak or in the latest fashions, you can look how you choose.

Overall, I was happy with the wide selection of jobs, but the tradeoff was that none of them felt very deep. Although this keeps it kid friendly, it means that anyone else will quickly tire of the shallow gameplay. I was never completely bored because of this, but it did make the game less enjoyable. Then again, this is a game for kids, and I’m sure they’ll be happy with it; so I suppose it’s my fault for being too old.

But people of all ages can enjoy Free Realms’ graphics, because they are absolutely fantastic. They won’t win any awards, but everything was colorful and mystical. It incorporated many magical elements but isn’t afraid to add in some steampunk and futuristic themes as well. This may sound like just a mish-mash of all the things kids like, and it is, but it works well. It’s a kids game, it’s okay if there’s not a real reason why both wizards and racecars exist in the same world. It just needs to look cool, and it does. And besides, who doesn’t love a cyborg T-Rex?

And while perhaps not as important as cyborg T-Rexes, lore is an underrated but important part of an MMO. Without lore, the world has no story, no history, and no reason for being. Thankfully Free Realms has even more than I was expecting. I doubt kids will care all that much, but I found all of it easy to understand and interesting to discover. From the conversations between NPC’s (non-player characters), to the museum in Sanctuary and the main quest line, it was a tightly woven story well worth reading.

The sound is the only thing I have mixed feelings about. Because even though I loved all of the beautiful music, I was disappointed that none of the characters had voices. I understand how hard it is to find voices for all the characters (not to mention in multiple languages), but it would have been nice to hear at least some dialogue. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem in a MMO geared toward an older audience, but this is a kid’s game, and not very many kids like reading lines of text. Now, it’s not necessary to read all of the text, as there are quick descriptions in your quest log, but kids will miss a lot of the personality and lore of Free Realms without it.

What can I say about controls for a MMO? WASD is for movement, number keys 1 through 3 are for attacks, 5 through 8 are for items, the space bar is to jump and the camera is controlled via the mouse. It’s the same as all the other MMO’s, and it works just as well here as it does everywhere else. Plus, if you prefer, you can control nearly everything by the mouse: movement, combat, even pulling up menus. This way you can mix and match the controls you play with to find something that suits you.

As an MMO with fantasy elements, there are going to be some problems with morality content. Things like magic within the game, violence, and the chat filter possibly letting crude or vulgar words through. I found the majority of these problems rather small however, and I’m sure most parents wouldn’t find too many problems. Although magic is present within the game world, it’s not based on any occult. Violence is fantastical in nature and no worse than Saturday morning cartoons. Being an online game, the possibility that something may slip through the chat filter is always possible. However, the chat filter in Free Realms is by far the strongest I’ve ever seen. I did find some instances of crude humor, farting and burping, but nothing terribly distasteful. Also, with this title being an MMO, there are certain “addicting” elements, which might make it necessary to limit the amount of time you play.

I really enjoyed this game, even if it was made for kids. It was colorful, magical, easy to play, and kid friendly. Add in the low price of admission (nothing!) and lifetime membership at only $35, I don’t see many reasons why a parent looking for a clean MMO shouldn’t give Free Realms a chance. It’s a great alternative MMO, a fantastic way to spend $35, and as long as you control yourself with the in-game microtransactions, ridiculously cheap for an MMO.

 

Like us!

Donate

Please consider supporting our efforts.  Since we're a 501 C3 Non-Profit organization, your donations are tax deductible.

Twitter Feed

divinegames Good night everyone! https://t.co/ZRBXBL1CPU
19mreplyretweetfavorite
divinegames Here's the 3 #giveaway codes for Zombie Party. Read our review here - https://t.co/3MYjXkwGn6 https://t.co/lrUXz5q0tZ
37mreplyretweetfavorite
divinegames Making up for lost time by posting 3 codes for #ZombieParty @patreon backers get first dibs -… https://t.co/xgBEJFys20
49mreplyretweetfavorite
divinegames RT @PaulTurnerToo: I am interviewing @divinegames and @IBJamon tonight to talk about video games, culture, and what how parents can choose…
7hreplyretweetfavorite
divinegames Posted my #review of Jonathan Cain's Unsung Noel #Christmas #music CD - https://t.co/uRxXiFm0mP @hogansonmedia
15hreplyretweetfavorite

Latest Comments

Latest Downloads

About Us:

Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

S5 Box

JFusion Login Module

Register