365 D.o.G. - Day 255: Ridge Racer Driftopia
Ridge Racer Driftopia
Ridge Racer: Driftopia is a relatively new free to play racing MMO by Namco Bandai Games, the same people that created the rest of the Ridge Racer series. This game in particular is most similar to the 2012 game Ridge Racer Unbounded and acts as a free to play version of that.
Similar to the retail version of the game, this one has players compete against one another in a series of races and timed challenges. You can play the game with keyboard and mouse as well as an Xbox 360 controller. While I would normally prefer the controller, mine has been acting up the last few days so I was resigned to using the keyboard. The controls themselves are pretty simple with the steering, acceleration, and braking being controlled by the arrow keys. Space was then used for drifting which, as you can tell from the title, is pretty instrumental in the playing of this game. Those are the only controls you really use and will need for the racing. As anyone avid PC racer knows though, using keys for steering can be very awkward when you are unaccustomed to it so it is important to note that any issues that I discuss come from the keyboard control perspective. Considering I was using keys though, the handling of the game seemed fairly good compared to other racing games I have played.
The game is currently in a pre-release phase and thus has only a fractional selection of cars and available tracks. Currently there are about 15 different races and tracks to compete in. One of the primary modes of the game is the Spirit series which is where you race the ghosts or spirits of real player’s cars. When you enter a race, the ghost of the players near your ability on the leader board are put in as your competition. As you move up in the leaderboards, you start getting more and more advanced ghosts to race. The game then saves your records and will allow other players to race against you. When this happens you gain points which can be redeemed for experience, items, etc. As you compete in races, your car gains experience and levels up which in turn increases the car’s stats and unlock new levels.
One of the interesting features of the game is that everything seems to run on a version of a card like system. There are boost and special ability cards that you can equip to the car each round and even the cars themselves are bought in card format. Basically, if you choose to pay real money and buy a pack, you are “dealt” a certain amount of cards with each containing the possibility of common or rare cars based on which pack you purchased. While it seemed to be fairly functional, the system just felt weird for a racing game but to each his own. Along with cars and boosts, another purchase that you are more likely to buy is repair kits. You see, in this game if you flip your car, hit something way to hard or just sustain gradual damage you essentially total the car. In order to use the car again you have to fix it with repair kits. If you do not fix the car before leaving, you lose the ability to use it completely. Each car varies in the amount of kits needed with the base cars using about 2. Luckily, the game gives you 50 to start off with but you can blow through those pretty quickly when you are first learning how the game plays out. Not only that, since you total the car, it means you have to start the race all over again which can also be rather annoying at the beginning. This also means that other players can attempt to make you crash or “frag” you (borrowing FPS terms) which will also take you out of the race. You can earn kits by logging in as well as completing challenges or simply buying them. While I have not played over the long haul in order to get a sense of it, it seems like it would be very easy to run out of repair kits so that could be a long term negative to this game.
It seems like Namco has continued to produce quality additions to the Ridge Racer franchise and I think that Driftopia is pretty good in comparison to most racing MMOs out there. While there are some features and mechanics that are a little weird for a racing game, I think that it is overall solid mechanically and addition, it looks better than most retail racing games do so you can bet it stands out from any other free to play. There is a lot of detail put into the tracks and some very dynamic environments that allow you to take shortcuts provided you do not crash your car in the process. Anyone looking for a new racing game to check out should definitely look into this one as it looks like it will only get better as it gets closer to a “full” release.