Slouching Toward the Next Generation: leveling up in Powerstar Golf

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I’ve equipped my Cyclone FG Pro irons, Superior Shadow wedges, TNT Mighty putter, Pulse Tee-Time balls, and my precious Mass Driver Woods. As I step up to the tee of the 6th hole at the City Park Invitational golf course Astrid Claussen, my severe yet indispensable caddy, takes note of the wind direction. I try and block out the sound of police sirens in the distance and chirping birds in the trees around me. I wait for a train to pass overhead from the elevated tracks of the monorail.

My opponent, one Henry Copperbottom, has just hit a devastating drive. As his ball soars through the air it bursts like a firework scattering five balls across the fairway. His special ability, illusion ball, enables him to keep the ball closest to the pin.

My golfer, Reiko Kobayashi, breaks out her Mass Driver: its green head surrounded by turbo charged pistons. It glows with power, purple lightning pulsing up and down the club. I hit a perfect drive setting up an easy approach to the green. Even Astrid sounds impressed.

After the jump, the best (and only) RPG of this young generation.

Powerstar Golf is a twenty dollar downloadable golf game for the Xbox One. Cartoon graphics and fantastical elements are draped over a pretty sophisticated golf sim. It’s also one hell of an RPG. As you play you earn xp, gain levels, get credits, purchase better gear, and unlock additional courses and events. The current crop of six courses contain a series of events — tournaments, match play, challenges, and special challenges. A resident golfer acts as the boss of each course. Defeat the boss at a specific event and you unlock that character for future use.

Each golfer has five attributes — power, accuracy, strike, spin, putting — and one special ability. Attributes are determined by gear. Your golfer has five gear slots: woods, irons, wedges, putters, and balls. You obtain gear by purchasing packs of cards with credits that you earn in game or purchase with real money. Packs of cards are color coded like an MMO: green for amateur, blue for pro, purple for elite, and orange for extreme. Each pack contains five cards corresponding to the level of the pack, with a chance to get cards from the next higher level. In addition to gear, packs have outfits for your golfers, perks for your caddy, and boosters which act as limited use buffs. Grey colored packs provide three booster cards randomized from green to orange.

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Clubs and balls have names and manufacturers with a style similar to the Borderlands games. Scattered throughout the packs are gear sets with set bonuses and special clubs associated with each golfer. As you unlock golfers their clubs are added into the mix.

Two golfers are available at the start of career mode: Frank Weaver the bulky ex-astronaut and Reiko Kobayashi the renowned Japanese physicist. Each golfer has a unique special ability. Frank’s ability Rocket Launch adds a 10% power buff, and Reiko’s Tesla Field magnetically charges her ball and the pin; land a shot close to the pin’s magnetic field and the ball will be drawn into the hole. These abilities have limited uses per round.

You also get a choice of a companion character in the form of a caddy. The caddy will advise you of wind direction, remind you of power reductions when in the rough or bunker, and point out slopes and bends in the green. Caddies have special abilities and equippable perks.

The golf simulation consists of driving, approach shots, and putting. For drives and approach shots you set a spot and distance on the map (max distance is determined by your power). There is a shot bar at the bottom of the screen. Taking a shot is very similar to the Gears of War reloading minigame. For the approach you can set normal, pitch, or chip shots. You can also adjust where you strike the ball adding top or back spin.

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Putting is the most difficult part of the game. Judging slopes, curves, grades, and hills is a tricky business. The green is covered by a grid which illustrates severity of inclines and slopes. It takes a lot of practice to judge everything properly.

For most single player career events you play against an automated field. During match play you play against that courses’ boss character. You watch as they take their shots, taking turns according to the rules of golf. This is also how rival mode works. Rival mode lets you go up against your friends’ best rounds. You play against your friend’s golfer in match play, watching every shot as they originally took it. Beat their score and you get bonus xp, lose and they get xp. Outside of rival mode you can still compete with your friends through leaderboards. From drive distance, to approach shots, to longest putt all the data is saved from game to game, shot to shot.

The game can be very hard especially when playing a full 18 holes. A total meltdown on the green can ruin a whole round and you don’t get any mulligans. Each course has a unique look and difficulty. The further you advance the tougher the tee and pin placements, the wind becomes more of a factor, and the obstacles increase.

If this were just a run of the mill golf game with cartoon graphics, like golf for the Wii, there would be little to recommend. But combine the character progression, gear chase, unlocks, and other RPG elements with friends list integration and rival mode, and you end up with a great little golf game with what looks to be a lot of legs.

Next time, Sony Vs. Microsoft: and the winner is…

Scott Dobrosielsky lives in Northport, NY with his wife and dog. When not playing online matches of Starcraft he enjoys battling mindworms in Alpha Centauri. He posts to the QT3 forums as Scott Dobros.

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