I've seen banner ads for Free Realms on the site and have heard the name bandied around some of my younger cousins, but I couldn't really tell from either of those sources what sort of game it really was. When Chris and I arrived at the SOE booth today to look around their games, I quickly became bored with DC Universe Online and wandered over to the demo stations for Free Realms. I met a very friendly lady who was happy to discuss the game with me, and we played together for a considerable amount of time.
I was quite floored with the number of jobs that were available. There's a large number of non-combat professions such as pet trainer and blacksmith as well as combat jobs such as ninja. Only a small selection of jobs are available at first, and it is up to the player to discover how to unlock the rest. This can be as simple as merely talking to a specific NPC, or as elaborate as several hours of questing. Ultimately, the driving principle behind Free Realms is removing "annoying time sink grinding." The developers have done a great job at doing this while keeping a variety of options open to players. If you want to craft, you can craft all day and night without worrying about combat; if you desire nothing more then to beat up monsters, there's that for you as well.
I quickly warped around the world to a different area by calling up the world map and zipping over to a location that someone on the demo had already visited. Elsewhere, there was a town that I wanted to visit where my character had not acquired the necessary warp. My guide pointed out one of my friends was near that location, so I warped to my faerie friend and from there it was less then a minute before I walked into town. More MMOs need to have these sort of modes of transportation; just getting places kills way too much of my play time. Once in town, we changed my character into a combat job and headed into the local dungeon.
Each dungeon can be explored with a party at lower levels or done solo at elevated levels. The dungeon we explored was intended for level 5 and above characters; at 14, I was having no problems handling whatever came my way. I was completely shocked to discover that most dungeons were built to last about 15 minutes -- that seemed so short to me! However, the primary audience is teens, whose time is more limited then an adults, and the time limit makes more sense when taking into consideration the younger audience. Once I was done whaling on crabs to my heart's content, I exited back out and took on the chef job.
My host pointed out a small loading icon in the top left corner; instead of downloading the entire game at once the server pulls down information as it is needed. Nobody had played the chef job yet on that computer. The download took about 10-15 seconds and I was on my way to creating a delicious meal that I could consume later for a neat buff. Overall, the game was a lot more mature then I expected it to be and I'm not opposed to giving it a whirl since it is free. The younger audience doesn't concern me much; I've dealt with equal number of bratty 12 and 22 year olds in my WoW career.