Monday, May 11, 2009
Free Realms combat
After leveling my first job, blacksmith, to the level cap of 20 in Free Realms, I received a quest to reforge a magical sword, but that quest involved going into a high-level dungeon, where your blacksmithing level doesn't help you a bit. So this weekend I mostly concentrated on my first combat job, brawler.
In Free Realms all combat is instanced. Even wandering monsters aren't attacking you, you need to click on them to get transported to an instance where you can fight them. More interesting are the many dungeons, which unlike other games are often playable solo. Which is good, because besides standing in front of the door and waiting for somebody else wanting to enter and asking him to group, or spamming chat, there isn't really a good way to find people for a group. Once you have a group however, you just need one player entering an instance for all other players in the group to receive the option to join, regardless of location.
I'm at level 9 now with the brawler job, and found the quest chain leading up to there not very well made. There was a curious mix of quests that were extremely hard, and others that were much easier. And the quest chain doesn't provide you with enough experience and levels to continue the chain, you are often being told to grind a couple of levels more before you can continue. As I didn't simply want to grind the same mobs or dungeons repeatedly, I tried doing side quests to increase my brawler level. Which isn't as trivial as it sounds, because many quests in Free Realms aren't combat related at all, and thus don't give you any xp for the brawler job. And sometimes you have to do such a non-combat Fedex quest first to get a combat quest later in the chain.
A lot of things that are impossible in most other MMORPG combat systems still work in Free Realms: Monsters can get stuck, and you can pelt them with ranged combat without them evading or resetting. Some mobs you can even shoot at a few times, run away when they come close, and the mob will go back to his initial position. But as the mob is healing only very slowly, you can repeat that process until the mob is dead. Kiting also works in many places. If all else fails to beat a particularly hard mob, you can always fight it until you get knocked out, then recover and keep hitting the mob, which will still be hurt, while your health and mana recovered fully. But you only get a limited number, up to 5, of such knockouts for the whole instance.
The more usual method of beating harder monsters is using potions. There are potions that recover health, potions that recover mana, and potions that recover both, and they are all on different timers. There are also hard to find heal-over-time potions. As I said, the instances marked "medium difficulty - level 5 and up" are often rather hard for a brawler of level 5 to 9, in spite being part of the brawler quest chain. Potions allow you to beat the place, but then you probably spent more ingame gold on the potions than you got as a reward from beating the dungeon.
The healing potions you can buy for ingame gold heal you for around 500 points. But you can buy healing potions for real money at 10 cents apiece that heal you for half your total health, and already in the level 5 to 9 range half you health is significantly more than 500 points. Thus there is a nasty temptation to heal your way through the dungeon with real money potions, which are more effective, and save you your virtual gold. Even nastier, the weapons you can buy for real money are useable already at level 1, and are better than any even high-level weapon you can find in the game or craft yourself. But I'm still using a crafted hammer for my brawler, because buying a better hammer for $2.50 would just make my blacksmithing job obsolete.
Subscribers, aka "members", have more different dungeons available in Free Realms, and more different combat professions, like wizard or medic. Thus if you don't want to pay a lot of gold or money for healing potions, but you are a member, you could try to find a group with a tank, a healer, and a damage dealer. I haven't tried that yet, and am not sure how good grouping would work. No idea how aggro control would work in Free Realms, I didn't see any "taunt" skills yet. Every job only starts with two abilities, and only gets new abilities every 5 levels, so there isn't a whole lot of skills to choose from.
So up to now, combat in Free Realms, playing solo as a brawler, is a mixed bag. Some of the dungeons were very well done, but the balance of the main quest chain isn't great. And with many side quests and dungeons only available for subscribers, and the best weapons and potions only available for cash, some people will dislike the blatant grab for money.