Disclaimer: This game was given to the reviewer via a review code. We report this for the reason of having full transparency in this review. This fact will not influence the reviewer’s opinion of the game in any way.
Snow is a game I had seen a while back, and one that immediately caught my attention. The idea of the game is simple. A massive multiplayer online snowboarding/skiing game. Though the idea of the game is simple, the execution however is a different matter. Having so many people on the same free-roam mountain is a big undertaking, but if developed correctly the game could be wonderful. Add to this that Snow is free-to-play (soon) and it sounds almost like a recipe too good to be true.
There are certainly a fair few things that could go wrong with Snow; the number of players on at one time, the majority of the content being locked behind a pay wall, an overall underwhelming experience/immersion. But is this the case? I had been wondering that question myself for a while now, and now we get to find out.
I had to do this category a little bit different to my normal way. With a game like Snow it’s not enough to just talk about the gameplay; immersion is everything. We’ll get onto the gameplay a little later as for me it’s the level of immersion that has made me enjoy playing this game so much. My one major worry with Snow was that I would feel like I lack control of my character, or that the game would place overly high emphasis on tricks like the games of my youth did (Sled Storm anyone?). However, this is not an issue at all. I have felt in control of my character throughout my entire time playing the game. When I move my joystick by 3 degrees to miss that very fast approaching tree, I know my character will move and I will avoid it. Unless you’re playing an event in which you have to rack up points, tricks are not a major focus of the game. Your score is very nicely tucked into the bottom left corner of your screen; almost out of sight, but enough as if to say “Hey man, you know you CAN do tricks if you wanna? No biggy though”.
Now, when I said I have felt in control of my character the entire time I have been playing I wasn’t lying. This includes when I do try to perform tricks. The trick system is very easy. Left stick is rotate, R1 and L1 are your grabs (accompanied by a direction on the right stick), and L2 and R2 are your side flip buttons. At first you will do some nice 180s. Then a 180 Nose Grab. Then, you’ll get cocky. You’ll realise that you can side flip, while rotating, while grabbing. Then your character will learn the hard way this is never a good idea.
Whenever you begin a flip, or any rotation of any kind, you character builds a momentum of sorts. You can’t just slam your thumb up on the left stick and expect to pull a perfect landing front flip. If you do that your character will almost definitely end up face first in the snow. It’s best to let go of the stick roughly 75% of the way through the flip. Let your character do the rest of the work. Their momentum will continue to flip them forward, but do keep your thumb near the left stick. Just in case you know?
It’s little details like this that have made me feel so immersed in this game. The game’s learning curve is as steeps as the mountains you play on, but as you begin to understand the game’s mechanics you will understand how to play. You will begin landing those double front flips with a grab. Then you’ll try side flipping at the same time and won’t land it. Yet you’ll persevere. You’ll land one eventually. The game forces you to learn. It makes you feel like an amateur snowboarder/skier and that is what a good winter sports game should do.
I can’t talk about immersion without discussing the one feature of the game that can instantly ruin the game’s immersion for me; it’s ragdoll physics. For a game that places so much emphasis on immersing the player in this wintery world, I was so disappointed to see ragdoll physics. Now, don’t get me wrong. They are funny as hell. I have literally been crying with laughter playing this game, watching my character go shooting across the map because I ran into a rock (or a fence as shown in the GIF below). That isn’t how it should be though. It is funny to watch, but it really ruins the entire feel that Snow is going for. Those 5 seconds you spend watching your character flail around break the immersion the game created, which is a shame really. I can’t help but feel that simply tumbling along may have been a better choice. That being said, this game is in beta still so things may change.
The single player is split mainly into two styles; free-roam and events. The free-roam is fairly standard and does exactly what it says on the tin. It allows you to pick a mountain, then a spawn point on one of the sides of the mountain. There is nothing more fun that just tearing down a mountain and thinking “I’m gunna go off the path, because why not?”. You discover shortcuts and, probably most importantly, climb your way up that freestyle learning curve. This, combined with the challenges the game provides, make for a fun enough experience that playing alone doesn’t become too boring too quickly.
The second half of the single player is the events. The events consist of a number of options; Time Trial, Descent, Slopestyle, Big Air, Free Ride, Freestyle and Rail Jam. Mainly I use these events for learning the game mechanics for experimenting with new trick combos. My personal favourite is Free Ride, which tasks you with making your way down the mountain as fast as you can while also earning as many points as you can.
When you boot up the game you’ll only have the one mountain in each event. Mountains can be bought with in game currency, which can be earned in game by levelling up your character by completing events. This in-game money can also be used to buy cosmetic goods for you character, changing their appearance. There is a wide array of cosmetic goods to choose some, including some items linked to professional winter sport athletes such as Tanner Hall and Russ Henshaw. Being a free-to-play game, the in-game currency is of course available to buy from your respective store for real money. However, it is possible (although admittedly slower) to buy everything in-game item using earned currency.
The multiplayer is the second, but admittedly final, area I feel that the game falls short. As of writing this review, the multiplayer only consists of Free Roam with others. That being said the game is in beta like I said before so hopefully this will change. I personally want to compete against friends, or host a private server and turn off the anti-collision so that I can cause havoc. We’ll have to see what happens.
In the multiplayer free-roam, you can spawn at a set location or you can choose to spawn on a player, which is rather disorientating at first. When you spawn you spawn almost inside the player you choose, which will throw you off the first few times. Once you get past the strange spawns, the multiplayer free-roam is enjoyable.
Graphics are a funny issue with snow. By itself Snow is a perfectly normal looking game. It doesn’t look awful, but at the same time it isn’t jawdropping. The game does look great, and you can tell that a lot of time has been put into making the game look as good as possible. Things on the game look good, but you can’t help but feel that there is a bit of room for improvement. I am putting this one down to the fact the game is indie, and again still in beta.
The audio on the game is great. The menus feature some nice chilled music, but I will admit I feel that the music while out on the mountains could do with some improving. Not technically, because the music itself sounds fine. I would like more choice. I would love nothing more than tearing down a mountain, flipping/grabbing and looking all badass while some badass metal plays in the background. I’m talking like Pantera style, but not Pantera because that’s copyright and so it would be expensive to obtain a licence for. You on the other hand might want some heavy hitting dubstep for when you heavily hit that tree you thought you were set to avoid. I feel that a jukebox option would suit the actual time on the mountain much better. Organise tracks into pre-determined playlists (tracks grouped by genre) and let me pick one in the menu. Then the audio in the game, for me personally, would be amazing.
Snow is a great game. It’s a well made, free-to-play winter sport experience that does a very good job of hooking the player in and making them feel like an actual snowboarder (or skier). Sure the game has it’s flaws, but what game doesn’t? These flaws can be overlooked, and given that the game isn’t completed developed yet I’m sure that the only is up for Snow and Poppermost Productions. Assuming that the multiplayer experience is deepened, and (for me personally) the ragdoll physics are removed.
Snow is a great game that immerses the player into the world of winter sports. That being said, there are some improvements that I feel need to be made. The multiplayer experience needs deepening, but with the game still in beta this is something we may see come about. This with a broadened soundtrack would mean Snow would be a difficult game to beat in the world of winter sport video games.