Genre: Sports MMO
Free to play Golf MMO game
Ready to play now? Click the image!
If you’d have told me twelve months ago, before I started paying more attention to the MMO scene, that there was such a thing as a Golf MMO, I’d have laughed and laughed. Perhaps it’s just my impression of the sport, but it has never seemed like sort of game in which you can get together with strangers and just have a good time, no, in fact it seems like the sort of game where people give you strange looks if you dare to walk within 100 metres of where they’re “golf-ing.” I’ve also nearly been hit more than once by people not nearly as good as they think they are, so perhaps I’m just a little bit biased. Still, now I’ve been seen more MMOs, I know that developers can turn absolutely anything into a massively multiplayer experience and sometimes, just sometimes, they’ll even do a good job of it. Is GolfStar one of those times?
Joining the Club
There are a number (five is a number) of base players to choose from – attractive women, young men, middle-aged fat people – the choices are endless. From there you can change the haircut, although not by a huge amount, and the face, although, again, not by a huge amount. You’re left with a character that looks mostly like the character you chose to base it off and nothing like the unique, fun creation you’d have liked to be able to make. You can further alter your character by dressing him up but that’ll come later (with a lot of playing). For the most part though, you’ll be disappointed with the lack of customizability from GolfStar. As soon as you’ve finished making your character (it’ll be the most entertaining seven seconds of your life), you’ll be places into the first tutorial to learn the ropes.
Golfstar Gameplay Video
The controls for GolfStar are fairly good, on the whole. You can look down the course using tab (or the right mouse button), control your aim with the direction buttons and shoot using the space button. It’s about as simple as you can hope for from a sports game because it’s not only easy to learn, but easy to remember as well. When you’ve got down to the green, it’s similarly easy to control. Simply line it up (the square grid on the ground tells you in which direction the ball will roll), choose the power and fire it up. The hardest bit is learning how to actually pot the ball, a skill that’ll, I’m hoping, come with practise. Within minutes you are equipped with the skills needed to compete in the wider multiplayer game, a time not even generally achieved by other, more common MMORPGs, in which tutorials can take weeks.
After you’ve finished the tutorial you’ll be dropped into the lobby from which you can access the stores, practise areas and other people that make this from a sports game to a sports MMO. From here you’ll buy new clothing (if you really want to), meet new friends and organise games. You’ll also be able to get quests, which will earn you experience, skill points and, ultimately, a better game. It might seem like limiting your skills in the early parts of the game, getting better as you level, could be counter-productive to enjoying it, but actually I feel they’ve balanced the game quite well and I never felt especially handicapped by being a beginner. The early quests have you going through the inventory, learning about skills (which can help you cheat your way around obstacles) and hitting the driving range to work on distance and power.
My biggest surprise, and it’s rare to be surprised this way, is just how ready people are to play. Perhaps it’s because I’m a beginner and they’re looking for easy wins, perhaps they’re just really friendly, but I’ve never received as many invites from people who just want to have a nice long game with potential friends than in GolfStar. Within seconds of joining the lobby, you’ll receive multiple invites and you can be in a full game within seconds. The only downside, and I use the word downside very loosely, is that a lot of the people you play with are German and don’t seem too keen on speaking English, so the language barrier can be difficult at times, but that’s hardly a fault with the game and, it’s hardly really a fault at all. Still, getting a game of virtual golf with real people has never been easier, and it probably even beats the efforts from EA.
Golfstar looks sharp
The graphics, for what it’s worth, are decent. The lobby is fairly static; the only things moving are other people. It reminds me of a less interesting, less stylized Habbo Hotel, and it doesn’t quite manage to pull it off. For a starting point to the more important bit of the game – the golf itself – it’s fine, but it doesn’t really rise above that. Then you get to the courses and you can see that all the effort has gone into making the game itself all the more visually entertaining. While I still wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s a beautiful game, the colours are rich, the courses varied and, I suppose, the whole thing is just very nice. Musically it’s a bit better and there are some catchy tunes that are played repeatedly, so you’ll be able to hum it before long, but they’re still decent and suitable to the game, something that other MMOs sometimes don’t get quite right.
Levels and Skills
Oddly enough, the worst thing about this game, in my opinion, is its attempts to be an MMO with the inclusion of levels and skills. Like I wrote earlier, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with there being levels, I never feel handicapped and I suppose, in some odd way, it reflects life to a certain extent. To be a real life GolfStar you need to grind and practise. It just seems unnecessary in a golf game and adds a feature that seems tacked onto an otherwise competent golf game. This is extended with the inclusion of skills which, if used at the right time, can give you an advantage. Again, using them isn’t going to make you amazing, but it isn’t some I felt was handled in such a way that it became a key component of the game, and it just complicates, rather than entertains.
The controls are mostly good (there’s an occasional issue with actually hitting the ball, but you get it in the end) and the game as a whole is decent, something different enough and well delivered enough that MMOs gamers everywhere should give it a go (if they’re at all interested in a game of golf, that is). Is there enough to keep you playing time and time again? Actually: yes. There are lots of people playing and they’re always going to give you a slightly different game – you’ll just have to work your way through some of those quests to get your skills up.
On the whole, I’m impressed, and it might be a good way to start playing with friends not keen on the Dungeons and Dragons nature of the MMO scene as a whole.