The words ‘free-to-play’ are often received as more of a sting in gamers minds, than they are a benefit. For the UK at least, the ‘freemium’ model — wherein you pay for more content or perks in-game — has had a notable lack of market interest. However, in a lot of countries outside of tea and crumpet land, paying for in-game content through a free-to-play model is seen to be quite beneficial, and, dare I say it, normal.
Once I was invited to play a handful of upcoming Windows MMO games based on a freemium model, I was apprehensive to say the least. Not just because I’m not a PC gamer, but mostly because I’ve never been a fan of free-to-play. To me, the business model makes me feel like I’m not playing a game that contains the whole package. Sure it’s free for the most part, but for the past twenty years of my gaming life I’ve grown up on a concept where I actually buy a game with all the content inside it. Though, with games such as Destiny and other titles with expansive DLC, that is indeed changing.
Forgetting the F2P aspect, the only other thing that had alarm bells ringing in my head was the fact that I had never even heard of the publisher, my.com. Take one look at their website and you’ll be greeted by the option of looking at a messenger app, email app and then, at the very end, games. But once I noticed that the likes of Project Cars’ dev Slightly Mad Studios were involved, alongside the likes of Obsidian Entertainment, my interest peaked. Throughout my two and a half hour playthrough session, I managed to get hands-on with World of Speed, Armoured Warfare and Skyforge. Each title will have its own preview, being tapered over the next week.
World of Speed (Slightly Mad Studios)
My first session came in the form of Slightly Mad Studios’ World of Speed. Since they’re best known for the now delayed, but stunning crowd funded title, Project Cars, it’s no surprise that they’ve come onboard my.com’s wish list to help create a fun racing experience. However, in comparison to their ultra-detailed, realistic racing sim, World of Speed offers arcade-style, action-based gameplay.
With the goal of letting you race in popular city locations across the globe — London, Moscow or San Francisco to name a few — WoS offers fast-paced gameplay that can be picked up easily by almost anyone. For my demo I had a selection of four cars to choose from, before heading into a 2 v 2 competitive match. Ranging from the classic Mini, Ford Focus, Subaru or Dodge Challenger, each car had their respective pros and cons. But whereas in most other racing titles where you aim for first place, in World of Speed it revolves more around completing a set of objectives, in a similar vein to Sony’s Driveclub.
During each race you’ll be tasked with completing up to four challenges, meaning that cooperation is key when you’re in a team. For my first race I chose the Classic ‘British’ Mini and was set alongside the games’ Lead Producer Pete Morrish. No pressure, then. Out of the four objectives given, I decided to focus on Drafting one of my two opponents for a set amount of time, which I had partly completed by the end. I found that the game was easy to pickup and provided nippy, no-nonsense gameplay – particularly since I chose the agile Mini. Other tasks across my two races included causing my competition to spin-out four times, drifting and earning 400 points, or achieving five clean sectors of the course without crashing. Completing these successfully will boost your Drive Score and will help you unlock more cars and tracks in the process.
When I asked about how the ability to pay for content would mix up its gameplay, Pete was keen to point out that WoS is not pay-to-win. If you want to spend money to get better cars quicker, then go ahead. Doing so will then place you in a unique matchmaking system and pit you against players with a similar set of cars. I suspect you could see it as paying for more stylish or adrenaline fuelled races at a quicker rate, opposed to spending your precious time unlocking content. Go beyond that and there will be a large social aspect with the Ariel Playground being introduced after launch, helping people connect and set up their own teams. Once in a team, you’ll then be able to create your own logo (from a number of templates at your disposal), in order to work together and build your Driver Score, letting other people distinguish your group for their accomplishments. I was told to expect an estimated fifty to sixty vehicles available to unlock at launch, with a variety of different models spanning different periods.
I enjoyed my brief time with World of Speed, but worry that it might find it hard to maintain an audience through its objective-orientated gameplay. If you’re looking for a racing game to put time into without having to spend any money, WoS may provide a fun experience with friends for when you want to pass time. For me, however, I’ll be in my room playing their more realistic racing sim, Project Cars, when it releases early next year. In the meantime, lookout for World of Speed at the end of 2014 exclusively on Windows.