Because Apparently No One Learned From Battlefront Ii
Wow. You know, when I installed Disney Speedstorm, I figured I’d get exactly what Steam suggests: Disney’s take on Nickelodeon Kart Racers. It’s worked well for Nick, spanning two well-received games with tight mechanics, and refreshingly no-frills nonsense. You get the fanservice and some wild courses, then call it a day. No pay-to-win nonsense, no lootboxes.
That was too simple for Disney and Gameloft, I guess. Speedstorm boasts less content than the competition, along with less nostalgic art direction, and even a more complicated control scheme. You’d think these would be why I’d have to write a negative first impression of Speedstorm. Or maybe I’d go on about the absolutely atrocious soundtrack that butchers classic themes from Mulan and Hercules into EDM. Boy, I’d love to just be able to crack some jokes about all that and call it a day.
Heck, I’d even enjoy citing the game’s few promising elements, such as its jump system with rail grinding straight out of Ratchet and Clank. Or, how the different character classes get unique powers in addition to each hero having their own special move.
Instead, I’m here to talk about something that I can’t even be snarky about: a progression system clearly built from the ground up to encourage pay-to-win monetization.
Speedstorm-Ing Into Your Wallet
Now, I’m not talking about your garden variety free-to-play monetization here. You know what I mean: some cosmetic skins, maybe an experience point booster. Reasonable ways for players to give back to a game they’ve had fun with and receive an extra bonus in return.
No, if anything, Speedstorm’s beta lacking these facets makes it all the more clear where the priority is: making you grind so much that unlocking anything you want will only occur when Speedstorm so desires. The rest of the time, it’s about dragging the experience out as long as it can.
The initial single-player campaign track specifically teaches you the multiple layers of grinding you have to do. Certain events will only take heroes to a particular level. Your hero’s special ability doesn’t even unlock until you collect enough “shards” of that particular hero to get them to Two-Star status. Which is separate from leveling them up with other items. Because that’s not confusing in the slightest.
There are also pit crew members you have to unlock by getting shards, but not every set’s “collection” can be bought as its own lootbox. For the biggest lootbox, you have to transfer one currency into another to unlock an even bigger lootbox with a wider set of potential outcomes than the one you want.
Does this sound like something a child will understand, let alone most adults? And these aspects are key to actually being able to play the game. I had to learn these aspects of Speedstorm long before just getting into races.
A Whole New World (Of Grinding)
It’s like someone looked at Call of Duty and thought it was being too subtle. At least there, you’re unlocking options, not objectively better performance. To make matters worse, there are four different kinds of currency that are not explained well. The UI makes it exceptionally easy to drag out opening lootboxes with pre-canned animations that can only be skipped by spamming the Enter key – the same key that confirms further purchases.
The in-game store currently has most lootboxes down to a fraction of the intended price, and at the very least isn’t taking real-world money at this exact second. However, even with a lower price point, there’s a clear emphasis on grinding and min-maxing your currency. If these were purely fluff on the side, that’d be one thing, but the second you step into multiplayer or a challenge above your current level, it’s obvious. You either grind, or you might as well not bother at all.
You can and will unlock objectively better performance stats and power-up abilities. Your pit crews offer further permanent enhancements to your stats so long as they’re equipped. There is a clear benefit in online play for those who maxed out Mickey, the starting character, versus trying a freshly unlocked driver like Meg or Elizabeth.
I can at least get the need to gate some single-player content behind a little grinding or busywork to make it last, but multiplayer shouldn’t be affected by grinding. Let the character classes be unique, sure. Encourage skillful play, absolutely. Pay to win shouldn’t be a major concern.
Please Just Be a Normal Free-To-Play Game Like Everyone Else
I get it. Gameloft typically make games exclusively for mobile, and on mobile, constant little purchases and cycles are expected. Which isn’t ideal, but that’s what Gameloft’s developers are used to. Live service titles have to get money from somewhere. But it’s particularly hard to see Disney walking into this mistake again after Star Wars: Battlefront II generated enough controversy that some countries outlawed or heavily regulated lootboxes entirely.
Of all companies not looking for a potential PR nightmare, you’d think it’d be Disney. Yet here they are, releasing what feels like a casino in the guise of a kart racer. Maybe the closed beta was a way to test the waters – see if PC gamers would tolerate this sort of monetization. If so, hopefully the message is made clear.
We don’t need more games with more pointless, tedious lootboxes. Especially not ones where the grind becomes a fractal of multiple kinds of grinding. This isn’t a massive game like Warframe with a decade of updates layering on top of one another. This game isn’t even finished yet, and it feels like half the experience is math homework.
Fans, and kids especially deserve better than this.
Every other fault with the game would be at least tolerable were it not for this ridiculous progression system. I sincerely hope Disney and Gameloft get some sense and streamline the experience before release. As it stands – keep your kids as far away from Disney Speedstorm as you can. There are hundreds of better games on the market. They might not have Mickey Mouse, but they also don’t have lootboxes or the worst version of “I’ll Make A Man (Out of You)” that you’ll ever hear.