The Old Republic Going F2P

BioWare announced recently that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be going free to play this Fall. Those playing for free will be able to experience everything that the game has to offer with very few limitations, while subscribers will enjoy additional content and a special currency used for redeeming premium items. Here’s a blurb from the official TOS site regarding the upcoming change. Continue reading

Advertisements

Star Wars: The Old Republic Video Impressions

I decided to pass on writing another article regarding my impressions with this game to instead bring you my thoughts in video form. In the following videos I basically just show a few basic things, make comparisons to World of Warcraft, and struggle to locate a turn in point for a quest.

Rift: Planes of Telara (Review)

Because I already talked extensively about Rift in another post, I’ll combine this review with things I said in the other post. So, if you read my Rift impressions, that will explain will there may be a bit of Deja Vu in my review. With that out of the way, let’s get things started.

“We’re not in Azeroth anymore.”

The above line is the incredibly ballsy slogan that Trion Worlds has adopted for their new MMORPG called Rift: Planes of Telara. Trion Worlds is incredibly brave to use a tagline such as that. Rift has just launched and they are already going in for the kill by directly aiming to defeat Blizzard’s competition devouring title World of Warcraft. For the uneducated, WoW has destroyed every other MMORPG’s chances of becoming the ‘next big thing’ ever since it came out at the end of 2004. Trion Worlds, however, might be onto something here. WoW is at it’s weakest point ever. Despite still going strong, there is a lot of discontent spreading through the ranks of WoW’s casual and non-raiding playerbases. The most recent expansion, despite giving the entire game world an attractive overhaul, was actually surprisingly skimpy on 80-85 content for anyone who does not raid and quite a few people have expressed discontent with WoW due to this. Trion Worlds is hoping to lure the unhappy WoW players to Rift, and they may very well do that!

Rift’s install only takes a few minutes, and the patching process is a breeze since all of it is managed in Rift’s client window. The client also contains a repair tool, so you won’t have to go digging through the game’s folders to find such a thing. This is all very convenient, and I found the client to be very efficient and far handier than the competition’s clients.

Click to enlarge.

When I started the game up, I was instantly mesmerized by the opening cinematic. It wasn’t trying to be epic and grand like the WoW opening movies by throwing each and every race and class combination in your face, and it didn’t really explain a lot at all as far as story goes. The opening to Rift just shows a Guardian (Rift’s supposed Alliance faction) duking it out against two Defiant (Rift’s Horde faction), followed by the opening of a Life Rift which unleashes a monster that easily overpowers the two Defiant. The stealthy Guardian gets the upper hand on the monster and manages to slay it, only to see several other rifts opening all throughout the sky. That is the opening in a nut shell, and it does a good job of establishing what the game is about, which is rifts (of course) and the conflict between Guardians and Defiant.

After the cinematic, you get to choose which shard (server) you want to play on. There’s PvE, PvP, RP PvE, and RP PvP. I don’t think I need to explain what each kind of server is, so I’ll just go on to say that there are quite a lot of servers to select from. I settled on Estrael, an RP PvE server. As soon as you choose your shard, it’s time to make a character.

The first decision you have to make when creating a character is which faction you want to play as. The Guardians are promoted as the good guys while the Defiant are pushed as bad guys. However, I learned from playing that the line between good and evil is a little blurred and neither faction is truly good or evil, just like the Alliance and Horde from World of Warcraft before the previous Wrath of the Lich King expansion (when everything was fine and dandy between the factions). Guardians are your typical religious folk who feel that they are in the right and always try to do what they think is best. Dwarves, High Elves, and Mathosians (Humans) comprise the Guardians faction. The Defiant are a bit darker looking and are pretty big on technological advances and such. Their races are the Bahmi, Eth, and Kelari. Those three names may seem intimidating due to being completely unfamiliar to everyone, but know that all three races are very human-like in appearance. The Eth are basically humans, while the Bahmi and Kelari just have bluish skin hues and a few facial features that differ from the more humanoid Eths.

Click to enlarge.

Which race you choose will determine what your initial racial powers are. For example, Mathosians can increase their speed slightly for several seconds and High Elves can fly – though the flight ability is extremely limited.

After choosing your race, you’re asked to pick a class. There’s cleric, mage, rogue, and warrior. Each should be pretty self-explanatory so I won’t really explain them, but I will say that you shouldn’t be discouraged by there only being four classes. In a way, there are actually dozens of classes, because each of the four classes has several sub-classes that you can mix and match. For example, some things that clerics can choose are druid, inquisitor, and warden. Warriors can classify themselves as beastmasters, paladins, warlords, and so forth. Each main class has eight of these sub-classes, so there’s plenty of variety and I’ll talk about that a little more shortly.

After choosing your race and class, you get to customize your appearance. After playing some MMOs such as APB and Champions Online, I felt a little let down with the customization but only because those two games had vast customization options. Rift still beats other MMORPGs such as WoW with ease. Here’s a list of things that you can customize in Rift.

  • Eyes (Colour, Rotation, Size)
  • Face Shape
  • Facial Features
  • Hair (Colour, Highlights, Style)
  • Height
  • Makeup/Tattoos
  • Mouth Size
  • Nose Size
  • Skin Colour

There are a few options that are specific to certain races and genders, as well. You can change the size of Elf ears, and male Dwarves have several different beard options. It’s not the best customization ever, but it’s still pretty decent and, as I said, beats games like WoW pretty easily.

Click to enlarge.

After making your character, you are then whisked away to a tutorial zone. Each faction starts in their own unique zones, with Guardians starting out in the ruins of Mathosia while Defiant characters get to play in a zone that depicts a destroyed Telara in the future. Until you take on your first soul (essentially a sub-class), you have no abilities and are essentially as useful to anyone as a level 1 NPC with poor stats. After the first quest NPC gives you a soul, you get a few skills to play with.

After getting your first soul, you’re prompted to go outside where you receive your first real quest that will feel very familiar to many WoW players. Kill X number of Y mobs. It’s pretty simple and I found that Rift was prompting me to kill less mobs for quests than WoW does. The following quests were all standard fare, such as disabling certain structures, collecting quest items from defeated mobs, and so forth. It wasn’t long before I was allowed to choose a second soul, so I went with the druid soul. This turned my water-flinging healer into’ Well, a water-flinging healer with a fairy companion that healed me, and I could defend myself with a wall of thorns that soaked up damage. The wall of thorns skill acts just like a priest spell that we all know from World of Warcraft, and that’s Power Word: Shield.

I gained a few levels during this time, and I found myself to be around level 3 or 4 when I became a hybrid druid-warden. When you level up, you are given a few points that you can distribute in skill trees. This is exactly like WoW’s talent points and talent trees.

It wasn’t long after getting my second soul that the game finally threw a little variety into the quests. I was asked to mount a horse and return it to an NPC while another quest giver at the same location wanted me to decimate undead forces using catapults littered throughout an expansive battlefield. It was nice to have a little more variety, but I still didn’t find the actual quests to be incredibly enjoyable or anything. I just felt like I was going through mandatory tasks that I had to endure if I wanted to level up.

At the end of the tutorial zone, you get to team up with other players to form a raid group to take down, quite literally, a king. I’m not sure of the lore behind the guy, but he was a minion of the game’s central bad guy, Regulos the Destructor. For the curious, Regulos is a nasty dragon who basically just wants to muck everything up.

Click to enlarge.

After taking down the evil king, I was suddenly in a new zone’ Twenty years into the future! The zone I was plunked into was Silverwood, home of the High Elves. It appeared to be under siege from goblins and a heck of a lot of fiery creatures. The quest variety didn’t really improve, but Silverwood was certainly a much more appealing location than the tutorial zone, and Rift’s beautiful graphics engine really showed itself when I ventured into the forests. Shadows from the trees above were really impressive to see as they danced across my character’s face and body realistically. I ended up exploring the areas I was sent to in Silverwood a bit, really liking the look of the world.

The zone contains, predictably, a lot of trees. There’s also some nice lakes and ponds, and the coastline is very pretty as well. I found the zone to feel much more organic than any location in World of Warcraft or, heck, any other MMORPG that I’ve ever played. Rift really succeeds in making it’s zones look pleasing to the eye, so I think just about everyone will at least enjoy the visuals.

While I was running around performing various mundane tasks for the quest givers, a few rifts opened up. Rifts were promoted as one of the game’s main selling points, which should be obvious considering the fact that the game is called Rift. Anyway, rifts are NOT scripted events and can happen anywhere and at any moment. When a rift opens, several mobs will spill out into the world and, if they are not dealt with swiftly, they’ll take over the surrounding terrain and even try to invade nearby settlements. I noticed that whenever a rift opens (you’ll know because they show up on the zone map), every single player nearby stops what they are doing and converges on the rift. It’s really cool to see everyone take part in closing the rifts. There’s a lot of teamwork from what I’ve observed and rift closers really do help each other out tremendously. Every single player I observed who was low on health would receive generous heals from other players who were also under attack. Anyway, there are several waves of mobs to defeat before a final big ‘boss’ appears out of the rift. When you defeat the boss mob, the rift closes and you receive a generous amount of money as well as planarite.

Planarite is sort of like Rift’s special currency. It can be used to purchase gear, items, and various upgrades from planar goods vendors. While a bit of farming is required to purchase some of the items that these vendors offer, it never feels at all tedious like grinds can in other MMORPGs. Due to the cooperative nature of rifts, it truly is hard not to enjoy them.

Trade skills are pretty much what you’d expect to see in an MMORPG that wishes to beat World of Warcraft. Butchering, foraging, and a few item crafting trades are a few of what you should expect to see. Crafting items is very simple and, though I hate to bring up World of Warcraft again, Rift’s trade skills work in the exact same way. Gather a few materials from resource nodes (such as ore or plants) and make whatever items are available to you based on the designs/recipes you have learned.

Click to enlarge.

Invasions are another random event similar to rifts, only they are not confined to single areas on the map. Invasions are mobile forces that are usually made up of mobs that spew from rifts or tough NPCs from the opposing faction. Defeating invasions will also grant you planarite and other goodies while large scale invasions, which are actually huge zone-wide events, will grant players with a huge wealth of rewards. If a zone-wide invasion occurs, which you will be made aware of by a notice on your screen, it is definitely best to take part in it no matter what your level is.

The world of Telara is very nice looking, and player characters have a decent amount of variety. Rift has had a very stable launch and the game is already very polished. In time, I can definitely see Rift being a fantastic MMORPG, but a few things need to be refined, such as the Guardians’ tutorial zone which was a little dull. The graphics really are fantastic for an MMORPG, and I can’t stress that enough. Zones such as Silverwood are a real treat to check out as the trees overhead cast realistic shadows on the ground. There are also many different looking areas in Rift’s zones. In Silverwood you will find meadows, deep forests, marshlands, beaches, and even hedge mazes. There’s a sort of variety here that other MMORPGs have never managed to include in their initial releases.

The game’s soundtrack can be a little hit or miss. I find the music in the tutorial zones to be absolutely dreadful, but after getting into the main game itself and exploring the world of Telara, I found the music to be surprisingly pleasant. It’s not as catchy or memorable as tunes in other MMORPGs, but it gets the job done and sounds more than adequate. I can’t say the same for the game’s voice acting however. A few races have good voice actors (the High Elves being the most notable example), but some scripted story sequences are voiced so badly that it is almost cringeworthy.

In conclusion, Rift is good. It probably isn’t a WoW killer just yet, but the future is definitely bright. With enough support from players, this game can definitely become an MMORPG that could, in theory, tangle with WoW. For the sake of having something fresh on the market, I hope that Rift succeeds. The ingame rifts that open, which are completely random and spontaneous, bring something very cool to the game and I love how everyone teams up to take down the rifts before they become big threats.

If you’re looking for a new MMORPG to play or are feeling bored with the one you’re playing now, Rift may very well be worth checking out.

Pros
+ Beautiful graphics for an MMORPG.
+ Extremely open-ended character development.
+ Open quests and PvP are great alternatives to standard questing.

Cons
– Invasions can take over quest hubs and leave low level questers unable to progress for lengthy periods of time.
– Lore has lots of potential but is not fully realized or fleshed out well.
– Burned out players of LotRO or WoW may be quickly bored of Rift due to similar play mechanics.

Final Score

9.3/10

Rift vs World of Warcraft Comparison Video

After posting my impressions of Rift a few days ago, I thought afterwards that it would be a pretty cool idea to actually make a video and compare Rift to WoW.

The end product is below and I hope that it will help those bored/tired WoW players who are on the fence about trying Rift to come to a conclusion.

To check out my previous impressions, click here.

Rift vs World of Warcraft Comparison Video (Part 1)



Rift vs World of Warcraft Comparison Video (Part 2)

Rift Impressions (Levels 1-10)

“We’re not in Azeroth anymore.”

The above line is the incredibly ballsy slogan that Trion Worlds has adopted for their new MMORPG called Rift: Planes of Telara. Trion Worlds is incredibly brave to use a tagline such as that. Rift has just launched and they are already going in for the kill by directly aiming to defeat Blizzard’s competition devouring title World of Warcraft. For the uneducated, WoW has destroyed every other MMORPG’s chances of becoming the “next big thing” ever since it came out at the end of 2004. Trion Worlds, however, might be onto something here. WoW is at it’s weakest point ever. Despite still going strong, there is a lot of discontent spreading through the ranks of WoW’s casual and non-raiding playerbases. The most recent expansion, despite giving the entire game world an attractive overhaul, was actually surprisingly skimpy on 80-85 content for anyone who does not raid.

It has become evident that Blizzard is solely out for money now as they are charging players the same old amount for less new content than before, and then there’s how Blizzard overcharges it’s players for every service there is. While the subscription fee is the industry norm, the cost of character renames and recustomizations (changing their appearances) can cost from $15 to about $25. Transferring characters between realms (servers) runs at about $30. Compared to the competition, this is pretty insane. A complete rename in another MMORPG, Champions Online, will run you at about $6. And recustomizations? Completely free. You’re allowed to change how you look whenever you want ingame, and yet WoW players happily charge an arm and a leg for the same service? Bizarre!

I’m getting off track, though. As I was saying, World of Warcraft is becoming less and less spectacular, and the “same ol’ prices” for new content and services is starting to look a little unjustified considering how much money Blizzard makes off of WoW these days. The company’s profit off of WoW is so immense that it is, literally, incredibly laughable. Trion Worlds knows that unhappy WoW players can easily be persuaded to jump ship by offering something that is essentially the same as what they know and love, only better looking and with more dynamic world events. Yes, Rift is a complete and total WoW rip off. The core design of the game isn’t quite as good, but the end product surpasses WoW by far in my opinion. The only advantage WoW has? Better controls and better music, and that is all. Really!

So, if you’re a WoW player who isn’t feeling very entranced by the “Walmart of MMORPGs” anymore then read on. I’m a former WoW player myself. I played for six years, but I severed my ties to the game at the start of January this year. I had good times in the game and am not a hater, so know that the impressions I’m about to go over are very honest and sincere.

Now, let’s talk about Rift, the game that wants to defeat World of Warcraft.

Initial Impressions

When I started the game up, I was instantly mesmerized by the opening cinematic. It wasn’t trying to be epic and grand like the WoW opening movies and it didn’t really explain a lot at all. The opening to Rift just showed a Guardian (Rift’s Alliance faction) duking it out against two Defiant (Rift’s Horde faction), followed by the opening of a rift which unleashes a monster that easily overpowers the two Defiant. The stealthy Guardian gets the upper hand on the monster and manages to slay it, only to see dozens of rifts opening all throughout the sky. That is the opening in a nut shell, and it does a good job of establishing what the game is about. Rifts.

After the cinematic, you get to choose which shard (server) you want to play on. There’s PvE, PvP, RP PvE, and RP PvP. I don’t think I need to explain what each kind of server is, so I’ll just go on to say that there are quite a lot of servers to select from. I settled on Estrael, an RP PvE server. As soon as you choose your shard, it’s time to make a character.

The first decision you have to make when creating a character is which faction you want to play as. The Guardians are promoted as the good guys while the Defiant are pushed as bad guys. However, I learned from playing that the line between good and evil is a little blurred and neither faction is truly good or evil, just like the Alliance and Horde from World of Warcraft before the previous Wrath of the Lich King expansion (when everything was fine and dandy between the factions). Guardians are your typical religious folk who feel that they are in the right and always try to do what they think is best. Dwarves, High Elves, and Mathosians (Humans) comprise the Guardians faction. The Defiant are a bit darker looking and are pretty big on technological advances and such. Their races are the Bahmi, Eth, and Kelari. Those three names may seem intimidating due to being completely unfamiliar to everyone, but know that all three races are very human-like in appearance.

I decided to go with the Guardians because I typically enjoy good guy settings more often, as they always feel more exciting and majestic. I almost went with making a Dwarf, but decided to go with a High Elf instead. After choosing your race, you’re asked to pick a class. There’s cleric, mage, rogue, and warrior. Each should be pretty self-explanatory so I won’t really explain them, but I will say that you shouldn’t be discouraged by there only being four classes. In a way, there are actually DOZENS of classes, because each of the four classes has several sub-classes that you can mix and match. For example, some things that clerics can choose are druid, inquisitor, and warden. Warriors can classify themselves as beastmasters, paladins, warlords, and so forth. Each main class has eight of these sub-classes, so there’s plenty of variety and I’ll talk about that a little more shortly.

After choosing your race and class, you get to customize your appearance. After playing some MMOs such as APB and Champions Online, I felt a little let down with the customization but only because those two games had INSANE customization options. Rift still beats other MMORPGs such as WoW with ease. Here’s a list of things that you can customize in Rift.

  • Eyes (Colour, Rotation, Size)
  • Face Shape
  • Facial Features
  • Hair (Colour, Highlights, Style)
  • Height
  • Makeup/Tattoos
  • Mouth Size
  • Nose Size
  • Skin Colour

There are a few options that are specific to certain races and genders, as well. You can change the size of Elf ears, and male Dwarves have several different beard options.

It’s not the best customization ever, but it’s still pretty decent and, as I said, beats WoW pretty easily. The character I ultimately created in the end is a female High Elf cleric named Celianne. Let’s take a look at her, shall we?

So after making your character, you are plopped in a sort of Cathedral-like stronghold where you are assigned your first soul. Souls are the sub-classes I talked about. Until you take on your first soul, you have no abilities and are essentially as useful to anyone as a level 1 NPC with poor stats. After the first quest NPC gives you a soul, you get a few skills to play with. For Celianne, I went with the “warden” soul, which serves as a sort of water-based super healer. Becoming a warden allowed Celianne to shoot blasts of water as well as use a few healing spells.

After getting your first soul, you’re prompted to go outside where you receive your first real quest that will feel very familiar to many WoW players. Kill X number of Y mobs. It’s pretty simple and I found that Rift was prompting me to kill less mobs for quests than WoW does. The mobs I had to kill were sort of zombie-like ghosts of what I think were deceased warriors. This fit with the tutorial zone, which was essentially the Mathosian kingdom after being overrun by invading undead baddies. The following quests were all standard fare, such as disabling certain structures, collecting quest items from defeated mobs, and so forth. It wasn’t long before I was allowed to choose a second soul, so I went with the druid soul. This turned my water-flinging healer into… Well, a water-flinging healer with a fairy companion that healed me, and I could defend myself with a wall of thorns that soaked up damage. The wall of thorns skill acts just like a priest spell that we all know from World of Warcraft, and that’s Power Word: Shield.

I gained a few levels during this time, and I found myself to be around level 3 or 4 when I became a hybrid druid-warden. When you level up, you are given a few points that you can distribute in skill trees. This is exactly like WoW’s talent points and talent trees.

It wasn’t long after getting my second soul that the game finally threw a little variety into the quests. I was asked to mount a horse and return it to an NPC while another quest giver at the same location wanted me to decimate undead forces using catapults littered throughout an expansive battlefield. It was nice to have a little more variety, but I still didn’t find the actual quests to be incredibly enjoyable or anything. I just felt like I was going through mandatory tasks that I had to endure if I wanted to level up.

At the end of the tutorial zone, you get to team up with other players to form a raid group to take down, quite literally, a king. I’m not sure of the lore behind the guy, but he was a minion of the game’s central bad guy, Regulos the Destructor. For the curious, Regulos is a nasty dragon who basically just wants to muck everything up.

After taking down the evil king, I was suddenly in a new zone… Twenty years into the future! The zone I was plunked into was Silverwood, home of the High Elves. It appeared to be under siege from goblins and a heck of a lot of fiery creatures. The quest variety didn’t really improve, but Silverwood was certainly a much more appealing location than the tutorial zone, and Rift’s beautiful graphics engine really showed itself when I ventured into the forests. Shadows from the trees above were really impressive to see as they danced across Celianne’s face and body realistically. I ended up exploring the areas I was sent to in Silverwood a bit, really liking the look of the world.

Here’s a picture of Celianne cruising around Silverwood on her awesome two-headed turtle that I received from buying the digital collector’s edition off Steam.

The zone contains, predictably, a lot of trees. There’s also some nice lakes and ponds, and the coastline is very pretty as well. I found the zone to feel much more organic than any location in World of Warcraft or, heck, any other MMORPG that I’ve ever played. Rift really succeeds in making it’s zones look pleasing to the eye, so I think just about everyone will at least enjoy the visuals.

While I was running around performing various mundane tasks for the quest givers, a few rifts opened up. Rifts were promoted as one of the game’s main selling points, which should be obvious considering the fact that the game is called Rift. Anyway, rifts are NOT scripted events and can happen anywhere and at any moment. When a rift opens, several mobs will spill out into the world and, if they are not dealt with swiftly, they’ll take over the surrounding terrain and even try to invade nearby settlements. I noticed that whenever a rift opens (you’ll know because they show up on the zone map), every single player nearby stops what they are doing and converges on the rift. It’s really cool to see everyone take part in closing the rifts. There’s a lot of teamwork from what I’ve observed and rift closers really do help each other out tremendously. Every single player I observed who was low on health would receive generous heals from other players who were also under attack. Anyway, there are several waves of mobs to defeat before a final big “boss” appears out of the rift. When you defeat the boss mob, the rift closes and you receive a generous amount of money as well as planarite, which can be used as it’s own sort of currency to obtain special gear and items from specific vendors.

After closing a few more rifts, I decided to give the game a rest at level 10 since I had other things that I had to do. As a whole, what I experienced smelled strongly of familiarity. Rift does a lot of things like WoW. In fact, it shamelessly copies WoW in so many ways that anyone who has played Blizzard’s behemoth will feel right at home here and won’t need any tutorials. Combat pets, vanity companions, and mounts all function the same as they did in WoW. Your backpack and additional bags, ingame currency, and action bars function the same as well. The menus are distinctly their own however, which is good. Even the character sheet screen does enough of a job to distance itself from WoW that players won’t feel like they’re just playing a prettier version of the Blizzard MMORPG.

So, after ten levels, what is Rift like? It’s certainly enjoyable and I am having a positive experience with the game. The visual presentation and controls remind me of a cross between Dragon Age and Guild Wars while the actual core gameplay is pretty much a carbon copy of WoW but with a few worthy additions (you can dye your gear and such).

The world of Telara is very nice looking, and player characters have a decent amount of variety. Rift has had a very stable launch and the game is already very polished. In time, I can definitely see Rift being a fantastic MMORPG, but a few things need to be refined, such as the Guardians’ tutorial zone which was a little dull. The graphics really are fantastic for an MMORPG, and I can’t stress that enough. The ingame soundtrack isn’t too great, though. After playing for about three hours in total, I shut the game music off because it ranged from being unspectacular to borderline cringe-worthy. The menus have good music, though. I’ll turn the music back on when I hit new locations, but I can definitely say that the tunes you’ll hear in the tutorial zone and Silverwood won’t wow you at all.

In conclusion, Rift is good. It probably isn’t a WoW killer just yet, but the future is definitely bright. With enough support from players, this game can definitely become an MMORPG that could, in theory, tangle with WoW. For the sake of having something fresh on the market, I hope that Rift succeeds. The ingame rifts that open, which are completely random and spontaneous, bring something very cool to the game and I love how everyone teams up to take down the rifts before they become big threats.

Just to make things a little clearer to some people, I’ll make three comparisons just to paint a picture.

Rift flows like: Guild Wars
Rift looks like: Dragon Age Origins
Rift is structured like: World of Warcraft

I’ll post more thoughts on the game as I play it more but, for now, there’s how I feel. To end this article, here’s a picture of my level 1 Dwarf warrior looking far cooler than he probably should.

Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing (Review)

“Sega combines their historic franchises to deliver an amazing karting experience.”

Racing games have never been terribly kind to Sonic the Hedgehog and friends, despite the fact that Sega has been responsible for some truly memorable entries in the racing genre. Sega and developer Sumo Digital look to make Sonic’s poor run with racing games end with Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. Have they succeeded? You bet your bottom they have.

All-Stars Racing takes the basic kart racer formula that has been popularized by Mario Kart and just runs with it, infusing characters from several different Sega franchises of varying popularity. Sonic the Hedgehog, Virtua Fighter, Super Monkey Ball, Shenmue and House of the Dead are all prominently featured while lesser known Sega stars of the past, such as Opa-Opa from Fantasy Zone, are also represented.

Selecting your character, as well as courses and game modes, are very hassle-free thanks to the game’s easily navigatable menus. Everything that you will be looking for is labelled and onscreen help is provided along the bottom each menu.

As is the case with Mario Kart and other popular Kart racers, All-Stars Racing relies heavily on easy to learn drift-dependent controls and weapon power-ups. Weapons are the typical staple items you will find in other games such as projectiles that home in on the racer in front of you, or stationary obstacles that you can deploy on the track to muck up the racing line of the characters behind yourself. Speed boosts and character specific special attacks are also present. Unfortunately, the specials are usually nothing more than overglorified speed boosts themselves, but they’re usually always interesting to watch anyway.

Drifting is done by holding L2 around corners and nothing more. Unlike in other kart racers, you do not need to wobble the analog stick or do any fancy tricks. As soon as you press L2, your character will be drifting and your boost will be powering up. The longer you hold L2, the higher level your boost will be, and the longer it will last when you let go of the drift button. With drifting being so easy to accomplish in this game, it is no wonder that it plays such an integral part in winning races.

There are quite a few different grand prix cups that you can compete in, numbering far more than a mere a dozen, and they span approximately twenty different courses which are all Sega themed. There are four races per cup, and winning a cup will net you a hefty amount of Sega Miles, the ingame currency used to purchase unlockables.

Aside from the standard cup racing, there’s also time trials, single race, multiplayer (local and online), and missions. The mission mode is pretty straight forward. You select a mission and are given a specific character to use who you must complete a task with. These tasks can be anything from beating someone to the finish line, completing elimination races, or collecting rings. You will receive a performance-based rank at the end of each mission that also determines how many Sega Miles you will rack up. Touching upon Sega Miles, they are used in the Sega Shop to purchase new racers, tracks, and music. To unlock everything, you will have to acquire hundreds of thousands of Sega Miles, and this should keep you very busy!

In terms of graphics, All-Stars Racing gets the job done. While the graphics are mostly just a little above average, there are so many things going on at each track that the graphics appear better than they truly are. This game is very flashy and the trackside of each location you will visit will be bustling with activity. In fact, so much attention to detail was put into the surroundings of each track that there is a bit of slowdown when the action picks up on certain tracks. The FPS will take a visible dip, but it will not harm the racing at all and is only a very minor concern.

Music in All-Stars Racing sounds repetitive at first, but it quickly becomes as catchy as the tunes in other kart racers. Ingame music becomes even more rewarding when you unlock nostalgic music tracks from the shop. Sound effects are what you would expect from a Kart racer, though there are many nostalgic sounds from previous Sega games thrown in to make you smile. Even the cheesy announcer who blurts out the most corny jokes ever should make you grin at least a few times.

In terms of content, this game is packed with things to do. Aside from winning cups, there are dozens of unlockables, time trials to perfect, and exciting multiplayer modes, and these should all guarantee that players have a lot to do in this game for quite some time. With downloadable content confirmed as well, expect this game to have a very long shelf life.

Sega and developer Sumo Digital have done a fantastic job bringing together Sega franchises to form a competent kart racer that not only matches the competition, but may very well beat it. In short, if you’re a fan of kart racers or Sega franchises, then this game is an absolute must own!

Final Score

9/10