Grab your Rubik’s Cube and your Wham! cassettes — Realm of the Mad God is going to feel like a frenetic blast from the past. A friend of mine spotted it in the Steam catalog (or “catalogue” for our Canadian friends) and said I should review it. Since I take requests, I agreed to check it out. Plus, it’s free. And I know how much you guys love free.
Oh wait, that’s me. I love free!
Realm of the Mad God is an MMO (massively-multiplayer online game) so you can play it with your friends — and about a gazillion other people. You can chat and you can group. You can even make a guild. All of these features are nice, however, I guarantee you won’t be doing much chatting. In fact, you’ll be lucky to find a half second to loot. Realm of the Mad God is a shooter. It’s fast-paced and, if you want to survive, you won’t stop moving.
The best way for me to describe this game is this – if an Atari 2600 and EverQuest got together, Realm of the Mad God would be the product of their union.
You start out as a level 1 wizard. (Of course I named my character “Dorktastic.” I’m surprised that you’re surprised.) There are no other class choices to start. From there, you shoot and adventure your way up.
If you can.
There are plenty of random creatures of varying difficulty running around the large maps, and they shoot a lot of projectiles. Hence the need to keep moving. And if that wasn’t difficult enough, the map has obstacles that you can actually get stuck on. Realm of the Mad God doesn’t make it easy; this isn’t like other video games where you run through trees and buildings like a ghost.
And then there’s the death penalty. If you die, you’ll go right back to where you started at level 1 with newbie gear. It doesn’t matter if you die at level 5 or 50. You can be level 1 in no time flat. The game intends to kill you a lot. In fact, in a recent welcome message from the game developers to all the new Steam players, they said:
Please note that you will be dead soon. And it will hurt.
Is it weird that I got a little excited by that?
The game does provide you with a quick escape route. If you find yourself in hot water and need to evacuate, there is a small white button above your health bar that you can click and instantly be teleported away from danger and into a safe zone called “The Nexus.”
If you miss your chance to evac, you’re back in Noobville, population: you.
Should you manage to level up, other classes will become available. Once your wizard makes level 5, the priest class is opened. If you get a priest to level 5, two more classes are opened. And so it goes, with the requirements getting more difficult as you progress.
There are no traditional quests in the game, but you won’t miss them. The action is fast and furious so you won’t have time to think about it. Killing bosses is the rough equivalent to completing quests and these varied encounters appear all over the map. Small indicators will appear on the edge of your screen, pointing you to the nearest one so you can seek and destroy.
Or be destroyed.
You’ll also come across random dungeons that you can enter. (They’re supposed to look like little brown caves, but they really look like little brown turds.) Inside the dungeons are more quest-like bosses.
What I like the most is that this game rewards grouping. This is done loosely and simply by proximity. Killing monsters while having other players in your immediate area will add a big experience bonus, and the more players, the better. But even if you find yourself out on your own, you’ll be so occupied with running around, fighting random monsters, and getting neat new loot that you won’t care either way. This is a terrific little game that I especially like to play in short bursts of about 20 minutes or so. (The quick evacuation really lends to that play style, as I can get in and out of an area in an instant.)
As long as you aren’t sent into a rabid foaming rage after dying and being sent back to level 1, I recommend this game. It’s fun, it’s fast, and, despite the misleading, 1980′s graphics, it’s a challenge. But if you aren’t a skilled gamer, don’t be discouraged by that; the difficulty level can be modified by hanging out in different areas. Take it easy by the ocean or head into the deep wilderness. Or somewhere in between. It’s totally up to you.
Stay tuned for more! Next week I will unveil the February Sci-Fi Pinups! In March, I’m hosting another epic showdown between two hotly-contested science fiction hunks. Subscribe to my site via RSS. The link is on the sidebar.