System requirements: Windows XP, 800 MHz Pentium III, 256 MB RAM, ATI Radeon 7500/Nvidia GeForce 2 or better graphics card, 1 GB hard-drive space
ESRB rating: Not rated
Release date: May 3, 2011
Today Realms Online, a new free-to-play MMORPG, opens its doors to the general public. The F2P MMO market is already over-saturated with games, but publisher GameSamba hopes Realms Online will stand out because of the ways it’s different from other games. I spent some time with it before the servers went live, and here are my impressions.
I want to start by providing a little background on Realms Online. Previously known as Regnum Online, the game has been active for a few years in countries such as Spain and Germany. Realms is the American version of the game, featuring English text and American servers. With the US release comes a new engine, better graphics, and an overall updated look. All forthcoming updates of the game will be based on feedback from players in the US.
Regnum Online is a popular MMO in the countries where it’s already available, and GameSamba believes that popularity will continue with the American release. One reason for this belief is the odd number of factions. Realms has three opposing factions (Alsius, Ignis and Syrtis) that are constantly at war with each other. Having three factions makes it very difficult for one side to be overpowered, because the remaining two factions can unite against a common enemy. Customization is another area where GameSamba hopes Realms Online will shine for American audiences. There are three base classes (warrior, archer and mage) that can be customized to create warlocks, barbarians and more. Your character can re-spec at any time, which allows you to try out different customizations for different situations.
PVP is the main focus of Realms Online. There are quests you can do by yourself, but the majority of the game is PVP-based. You gain experience by PVP-ing, questing, and contributing in wars against other factions. The world map is triangular, with a big open area in the center for combat. Each faction has forts and a castle that can be conquered if not protected. Successful invasions grant bonuses to the winning faction in the form of a wish that is granted. These wishes are chosen by the people who win the invasion, and can include wishing for experience bonuses or for a curse against an opposing realm. The game is F2P, but you can use real money to purchase Ximerin, which is in-game currency that can be used for costumes and custom mounts.
In my time with the game, I did several solo quests and battled other players for the honor of my realm. The solo quests are all pretty standard fare: fetch quests, kill quests, etc. New towns present you with new quests, and you can go on and on until you reach the level cap. While I didn’t find the single-player aspect very exciting, the PVP was actually pretty fun. While on a tour of the game, we decided to attack an opposing realm’s fort in an attempt to conquer it. Before I could tell what was happening, there were dozens of other players fighting to defend their fort. We were getting clobbered until more members of our realm arrived and an all-out war broke out. It was hectic, and at times it was difficult to tell who was hitting whom, but being in the middle of a big war like that was actually a lot of fun. Graphically, the game is nothing special. It doesn’t look bad, but it certainly lacks the polish of some of your bigger, more expensive MMOs. The Ximerin currency can be used to buy costumes and mounts, but it’s not designed to give players any advantage. To keep the game fair, everything that can be bought using real money is purely to enhance your character’s looks.
Realms Online is fun enough to try it out, but unless you’re really into PVP, you probably won’t stick with it. Having three opposing factions keeps things interesting, but the lackluster single-player aspect and the dated visuals will be a turnoff for some people. The game will be available for Windows, Mac and Linux, and because of its low minimum requirements, it can run on just about any computer that’s been released in the last several years.