SNOW – Gamescom Preview
After last year’s Gamescom provided me with a huge helping of free-to-play MMOs to feast on, I have somehow managed to immediately believe that anything described as “free-to-play” must therefore be an MMO. I rather unfortunately discovered this when Poppermost Productions sat me down and asked what I knew about their new winter sports game, and my immediate response was “free-to-play MMO”. I was quickly corrected. This is not an MMO. We can all breathe easy.
So what is SNOW then? It’s a free-to-play, open-world, skiing and snowboarding game, created by three Swedes who felt that snowboarding games such as SSX and Amped failed to accurately portray a sport they all love, and have spent the last year and a half making their own interpretation. Instead of over-the-top tricks and ridiculous, danger-filled mountains, the game is focused on what your everyday skier or snowboarder would experience. Which isn’t to say there aren’t tricks in the game – my guide through the game pulled off more than a few 360s in his presentation, and skied backwards through trees down the mountain, but this is more like the winter equivalent of Skate, in that you’re rewarded for the technical aspect of your riding, rather than the size of your realistically-impossible combo.
Before hitting the slopes, you can kit out your rider in a range of gear, with over a dozen real-life brands, including Red Bull, supplying clothes to the game. The devs have also been working with ski brands to bring their designs to life in the game, so there’s a real air of authenticity to the whole thing. Of course, customisation is the main area that monetisation can be applied to, but even this early on in the development there looked to be a good range of clothes and skis available, so there’ll be plenty on offer for players to shell out on and make their rider look however they like.
When you hit the slopes, you can choose your spawn point from a variety of spots on the mountain, across the four faces of your chosen location. While only one mountain was implemented at the time, it was already clear that Poppermost are making sure that the mountains are huge, with tons of secret routes to hunt down and ski through, as well as plenty of trees, rocks and jumps to keep you occupied as you ride around. One of the things they were keen to show off was the ability to actually stop your rider and move across the mountain, rather than being forced to constantly head downhill, preventing yourself from hitting breakneck speed only by smacking into a tree. With the ability to stop, the team are keen to push exploration of the mountainside by adding in hidden collectibles, which will be randomly placed throughout the mountain so that keen treasure seekers can hunt them down.
It’s not all just trees and rocks though; during a fly-over of the mountain, I was shown man-made structures such as roads, pylons, and even the remains of a castle, which felt a little out of place given the overall serious and realistic tone of the game, but which presented opportunities for cool runs to traverse. It was also suggested that the castle would feature in at least one of the game’s events, giving players challenges to complete in more of a typical sports-game fashion. Competitions will also be open to players; unfortunately neither of these features were available to see in the preview build, but it sounds as though Poppermost have got some good plans laid down.
There will also be multiplayer modes available, so you and your friends can ride the mountains together but, again, details were a little thin on the ground as to exactly how that will work. There are also plans for what was referred to as “socially-competitive gameplay”, where your performance and stats could be shared with your friends as challenges for them to improve – much like the Autolog system that has proven popular in other games. Finally, the team are looking at how to turn your score from your runs into XP, and develop a levelling system so you can truly prove to your friends who is the greatest skier or snowboarder.
While there wasn’t a whole lot to show just yet, it’s obvious that SNOW has a lot of love and attention going into it and, even in these early stages, there’s clear evidence of great potential ahead. Poppermost are hoping to get SNOW onto Steam’s early access system at a later date, but when exactly that will be is currently anyone’s guess.
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