The Mad God needs bringing down a peg or two… you know, if you feel like it.

Realm of the Mad God is a prime example of the slow rise to power certain indie game releases can experience. Originally released as a public open beta way back at the start of 2010, the game’s world, visuals and features have slowly been built up brick by brick based on player feedback, before the game was eventually fully released last year.

Now all that hard work has paid off, as the free-to-play game browser game has earned itself a nomination at the upcoming Independent Games Festival – and we wouldn’t be surprised if it won the Technical Excellence award. It’s a wonderfully creative, open-world beast that says to players, “Hey, get out there, kill some baddies, explore, do what you want!” while also providing a subtle, directional nudge here and there.

Realm of the Mad God

There is a mad god on the loose, and he has unleashed all sorts of nasty enemies all over the world. Armed with a magic staff, or a bow and arrow, or a lengthy sword, or whatever weapon you feel matches your fighting stance, you set out to grab as much treasure as you can and destroy the evil god once and for all.

Everything about Realm of the Mad God is so simple, yet so expansive. You have health points, magic points and an XP bar. As you kill enemies, your level will rise, and you’ll be able to venture further in-land, collecting more powerful items and battling even stronger enemies.

But here’s the thing – you’re not restricted to where you go or how you play. If you want to immediately dive straight into the fray and see how long you can last with the big boys, go right ahead. All the action is real-time and the entire world is open from the get-go, meaning you can head straight for the mad god if you choose (although believe us, you won’t get very far).

Realm of the Mad God

Here’s what really makes Realm of the Mad God tick – everything you do is online, and everyone you meet in the game is a real person. You can’t attack humans, but you can band together and concentrate your attacks on enemies, making team play a seriously good idea. You don’t need to arrange to meet up with friends before you play, however, as random players online will have no qualms with joining forces to level the playing field.

As you kill enemies, you’ll find loot such as potions, armor and weapons to use, and quests will pop up to guide you to lots of lovely XP points. You don’t have to follow these guides, however, and can go where you please. Sometimes dungeons will appear that feature even stronger enemies and the opportunity to level up even further.

Level up enough, and you’ll unlock other character classes. Each class plays completely differently from the others in terms of the items and weapons you can pick up and the quests you’ll be given. It takes many, many hours of play to collect every class, for one main reason – permadeath.

That’s right – get killed, and your character will be no more, meaning you have to start all over again from level one. It’s a scary prospect, but it means that you have to play a little more conserved and actually care about your character rather than going in all staffs blazing.

Realm of the Mad God

What all this amounts to is a wonderfully open-ended experience that gives you enough freedom that you can go gallivanting around doing whatever you desire, but enough direction that you’ll always have something to do. It’s also extremely easy to get into, and grabbing a group of friends to bomb around the world together with is a blast.

Realm of the Mad God does suffer from a couple of ailments, unfortunately. Primarily that, while there is a serious amount of content here, it quickly becomes apparent that it’s all very samey. You’ll always be walking around aimlessly with the shoot button held down, and while enemies all move and act differently, it’s still always a case of circling around them firing until they die.

There’s also the issue of player grabbiness, too, that can only occur in environments like this. The moment loot is dropped, you see every player in the area swoop in like vultures, and there isn’t even a moment to check what has been dropped before it’s all be grabbed. It’s pretty frustrating, although in fairness, there’s not a lot the developers could do about it.

Realm of the Mad God is a great way to fill an evening of gaming with friends, and beyond if you can really get into it. It’s always endearing to watch initial concepts such as this blooming into an end result so satisfying.