PlayStation Home has not been in the spotlight for quite some time now, but this year's reboot at least brought about a small surge in popularity. Developer Lockwood have leveraged that surge by creating a rather awesome free-to-play RPG for PS Home - Mercia: Fractured Realms.
Once you enter the Mercia space and start to play the game, you will soon realise that this is no simple mini-game - there's a lot of depth on display here. You play as your main avatar from Home doing quests for fame which can involve killing certain amount of animals for deities or perhaps gathering lost souls. As your fame levels up, you gain access to new equipment from the stores (though other equipment items can be purchased with real money). Thankfully, the rewards you get from doing quests and selling items dropped from monsters makes spending real money on equipment upgrades seem rather pointless. While completing quests won't give you tons of gold per se, frequent item drops keep things balanced.
As you progress through the game, you will start unlocking magic. Spells can be equipped in several different ways, allowing you to set elements like cure and fire to defensive or offensive slots. Depending on the slot you choose, the hidden bonus effects of spells become apparent. Once the magic has been equipped, you can even power up the effect to cause more damage to the enemy or heal yourself more. Mana recharges over time, but you can purchase mana potions and health potions to aid you when in need. Unfortunately, the melee system seems very clunky by comparison and takes time to get used too. A decent sword or mace it makes it more enjoyable, though I found greater success with a bow.
Aesthetically, the game is very beautiful with excellent lighting effects and a pretty good draw distance. Still, gameplay itself is very linear, so even though you can see all these beautiful areas in the background, you cannot access them. However, the soundtrack is pretty amazing. The orchestral score made me feel like an incredibly powerful warrior marching my way into battle.
Quests do seem to get very repetitive after a while, as they are mostly either fetch or kill quests. That said, enemies are quite varied, ranging from beetles to giant lizards, and every beast has a particular weakness. Every time an enemy is killed, the XP is shared with everyone in the same room, along with the loot. No more loot-stealers and whiners!
My time with Mercia: Fractured Realms left me wanting more, and I'm excited to see Sony embrace the free-to-play RPG model through its innovative PS Home playground. Head into Home and check out this game now - you won't regret it.