Didn’t I tell you!? For those who read my review of ‘The Punic Wars’ you’ll be aware of my observation that every game these days wants to be an RPG and that it won’t be long until we have Madden the RPG. Well, call me Nostradamus, because whilst ‘Shot-Online’ is not Madden the RPG it does want to be Golf the RPG. ‘Shot-Online’ is a very peculiar game indeed, if the mix of RPG and Golf didn’t suggest this game’s eccentricity then perhaps you’ll get the point when I tell you that it’s also presented in Anime style! Yes there are cute Japanese girls in school uniforms to gawk at. As if this wasn’t enough it’s also a massive multiplayer online game! Interested yet? I thought you might be, because if Golf meets RPG meets Anime doesn’t raise a few eyebrows, then what will?

‘Shot-Online’ might be peculiar but it’s also very familiar. Anyone who has played a golf game before will be familiar with the three-click mode of play, you press the mouse once to start the swing, twice to set the power and a third time to hit the ball. Simple as that! Mouse at the ready and having selected a character to play with, complete with truly peculiar names such as Belzebuit, Elda, Wotan, Zygmunt or Shaoring and you’re ready to play. The game is divided between the courses and the world, which is like the central thoroughfare with all the shops and access ways to the various courses. You manoeuvre around the world with simple mouse clicks or you can use the supplied shortcuts or golf carts. Upon selecting a course, which are differentiated by difficulty, you’re then moved onto the lobby where you choose either to join/create a game or simply observe another game in gallery mode.

The gameplay is simple and straightforward, though I wish they’d supply the yard-range information of the clubs, putting can be particularly frustrating if you’re unaware of how far a 50% swing will move your ball; 10 yards I was eventually informed after building up a quadruple bogey. Many players complained about the inconsistency of the physics and I did find this to be a problem particularly when it came to adding spin to the ball or allowing for the wind. There are the usual variety of gameplay modes available, including my personal favourite; skins. To play the latter you are required to put up or shut up, as you have to risk your own currency to play. You earn NG, the currency of Shot-Online, for a variety of things, playing well, an accurate shot, a birdie and so on. NG is then used to buy items for your character, such as golf balls or clothing or it can be used to pay green fees, yes you have to pay NG to play certain courses but I wouldn’t worry as it’s relatively cheap and you earn a bucket-load of NG even if you’re crap. Aside from NG you can also earn experience, which is used to upgrade your character’s stats: power, stamina, impact and skill. These adjustable stats along with your level of fatigue impact on your game. As you progress through the game, gaining experience and NG, the hope is that you’ll ascend through the levels and improve your handicap.

More MMO than MMORPG! Not much of an RPG really is it? Well so far it’s not really living up to its billing of being a golf RPG. For the final version there will be quests included but I was unable to acquire any more information on this at present so we shall just have to wait and see. The MMO bit is certainly under control; there is an already generously sized ‘Shot-Online’ community out there with whom you can communicate via text. As multiplayer games go this a pleasant world to inhabit.

The graphics are reasonably good for a MMORPG but pretty poor for a golf game, so depending on which camp you hail from you’ll either be indifferent or unimpressed. There is quite a bit of pop-up in the game, unforgivable in this day and age but the game is colourful and vibrant. The currently available courses are rather one-dimensional, the textures are nice but the course modelling lacks substance. The character models, at this point in development, are naff, or to put it in another slightly less colloquial way, are dull, even the cute Japanese school girl uniform loses appeal pretty quick. Given the charm and character of the cartoon splash screens that appear throughout the game, it’s a real shame that they didn’t go all out for the Anime look by making the in-game characters match their Anime counterparts; I think this would be much more unique and appealing and really make ‘Shot-Online’ stand out.

As it stands this game looks like keeping a foot in each camp of the simulation versus ‘arcade’ debate. Had this gone for the Mario Golf style route I think its appeal would be greater. Having talked to the other players online the main consensus was good, most wanted to see improvements such as greater information on the stats, more club options and more consistent physics but on the positives they all seemed to enjoy the easy-going and fun-focused gameplay. Anyway we still await a completed version of ‘Shot-Online’ so there is still time but I think it’s additions rather than overhauls that we’ll be getting, the game will essentially remain the same, just with more courses, items and the mysterious RPG quests.

The best thing about this game though is that you can all go and play it for yourselves; the beta version is fully available free-of-charge for the moment. Futures plans are still undecided but it seems likely that a monthly charge will be introduced at some point, whether we’re prepared to pay this, well we’ll just have to wait and see what the final release is like.