RPG Nostalgia: The Realm


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by Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Remember when Sierra ruled the PC world? At least, that’s how it seemed to me in the nineties. Most of the my favorite games were from Roberta Williams (King’s Quest & Laura Bow), and when I was in high school and finally ventured past the white picket fences of AOL, I discovered Acrophobia, and my very first MMORPG… The Realm.

It was one of the first of its kind, beating Ultima Online‘s launch by about a year, but I suspect it was kind of overshadowed after that since you don’t really hear much about it in the history of the genre. The graphics were great for 1996, very cartoon-like, similar to King’s Quest VII. The gameplay was easy and intuitive, combat turn-based, and role-playing actually pretty common. Even from the way that you moved, going east/west/south/north from any given screen, it was basically a graphical MUD. (Random trivia: You could buy dye to change the color of your clothes, which I always thought would be a great improvement to World of Warcraft, where half the characters walk around looking like they were dressed by blind circus clowns.)

Of course, here’s the interesting thing: it’s still around! Twelve years later, the number of accounts has dropped from about 25,000 at its peak to about 3,000, but there are still 100-200 players online at a given time during peak hours. Now run by Norseman Games, the Realm Online website boasts “Dial-Up Friendly” and “Basic System Requirements.” Well, I would hope so, for a 12-year-old game! Of course, that means I can play it on my laptop with no problem (something I can’t say for the newer MMORPGs).

Feeling nostalgic, I signed up for a seven-day free trial, downloaded the game, and played it for a while. It’s exactly as I remember it, if a bit emptier. I’m a little surprised that there haven’t been any improvements made at all, but I suppose that just adds to the “classic” feel. Of course, after that free trial, an account is $6.99 a month. Which, in my opinion, is a bit steep for nostalgia. It might be half the price of WoW or City of Heroes, but it’s also less than half the game.

Still, for those who have dial-up, or less powerful computers, or an even bigger sense of nostalgia than I, The Realm might actually be the perfect MMORPG.





7 Responses to RPG Nostalgia: The Realm

  1. I remember playing the Realm, I also remember on holidays GM’s would just drop items around the world. On easter we found eggs, Christmas there were presents, just like winter vail. Oh and they had player housing also (Hint WoW) you had a chest in your house to store things and (if I remember correctly) you could stand complete suits of armor and prize trophies in your room.

  2. I remember playing the Realm, I also remember on holidays GM’s would just drop items around the world. On easter we found eggs, Christmas there were presents, just like winter vail. Oh and they had player housing also (Hint WoW) you had a chest in your house to store things and (if I remember correctly) you could stand complete suits of armor and prize trophies in your room.

  3. I remember The Realm well. It was my favorite game growing up and got me into the MMO scene. While I don't MMO any more, I think the most fun I ever had was in The Realm. It was way ahead for it's time. Things like the player housing, dyes, and player-made custom enchanted armor are still not supported in many modern games.

    Fun fact: Norseman Games was actually started and is currently run by a former player. When Codemasters (who acquired it from Sierra) were going to shut The Realm down in ~2001'ish, a player started a company and bought it off of them to keep it alive.
    — THAT's devotion.

  4. I revisit The Realm Online every few years, if only for nostalgic reasons. I have to agree though, $6.99 is far too steep for an MMO which only has 2,00 players on at most "peak times." They should go to F2P, and offer rare items for RL cash–I bet some of the die-hards would pay $5 cash for a "GWC!"

    Bonus points to anyone who remembers what a "GWC" is!