By Jimmy Goldstein |
If you've got a lot of time to kill, like a lot of time, Shot-Online will surely eat it up. Not necessarily because it's fun to play, but rather because it takes forever to get through a round. The game fuses a three-click golf system with RPG character building elements in an online environment, free of monthly subscription charges. Offered are a variety of courses both realistic and fantastical, plenty of item upgrades, consumable power ups, tournaments, and a guild system. While it's great to play golf online against people instead of boring computer A.I., Shot-Online has numerous problems.
You start the game as a lowly level one, and are treated to a quick tutorial as you first log in to the game world. The shot system works well, but then again it's nothing really new. Click once to start a swing, click again to set power, then again to set accuracy. Depending on how close you are to the accuracy bar, your shot's trajectory is affected dramatically. Too early or too late a click can either slightly cause a slice or hook, or an embarrassing duff if you're too far off. It's actually a challenging click system that takes a while to get used to, which is a good thing. In addition to the hooks and slices, it's possible to specify where on the ball you want to hit it, causing backspin, topspin, draw, or fade. Again, it's functional, but fairly standard.
Actually hitting the ball takes a lot of guesswork when you first start out, especially since you need to consider lie, weather conditions, and foot angle. The game lets you know where the wind is coming from and where your ball will theoretically land, but it's up to the player to get a feel for their power to judge impact strength. This become more of an issue on greens, where there's very little information regarding how far your putt will travel at a given power level. Instead, a significant amount of guesswork is required to read the imprecise slope displays. Eventually you get a general feel for it, but the slopes never seem to affect the ball consistently.
As your level and statistics increase, properly smacking the ball becomes more of an important affair. For instance, with a low level power statistic, the ball's going to struggle to get near 200 yards on your longest drive, so it's not as big a deal if you're a little off center with your shot. However, if you're driving the ball 300 yards or more every time, it's obviously more of an issue if you're imprecise since you'll be landing 100 or so yards off course. This goes for the other statistics of stamina, impact, and skill. At higher levels, they'll dramatically influence your ability to spin, draw, and fade the ball, meaning you'll have to be more careful.
One annoyance in the game is the fatigue system. In an attempt to mimic golfers getting tired as they play, a fatigue meter builds the longer you're on the course. If it gets too high, it can adversely affect your shots. This isn't much of a problem at first since you level up pretty quickly, which resets the fatigue bar each time. However, if you've actually built up a significant amount of rest you need to either consume an item to get rid of it, or sit on a bench. Fatigue doesn't deplete quickly, either, so you'll need to sit on a bench for upwards of 15 minutes before you're back to normal. It's not exactly fun.
These fatigue restoring benches are located in the game's town area where players spend their hours off the course. Dotting the blocky and sparsely detailed community are NPC vendors offering clubs, clothes, balls, gloves, shoes, a bank, and guild creation. The clothing options are dull, as many pieces look quite similar. It's possible to buy different colored balls for tinted flight streaks on the course, and better clubs with enhanced statistics. It's too bad the graphics weren't better, since the visual differences your purchases makes aren't all that interesting.
Though there is a guild system, it's not very exciting. By joining up, players get portions of their accumulated experience on the course siphoned into the guild. As the guild levels, more and more communication and administrative functions become available. What's confusing is many features you'd assume would be standard, like kicking people out, aren't available until you've leveled the guild a few times. Requiring players to sacrifice their own experience to acquire seemingly basic guild functionality makes leveling more of a hassle than an enjoyable process.