So, Sonic Frontiers gameplay has finally been unveiled, thanks to two videos this week that outlined two key concepts; exploration of the open world, and advanced combat techniques. Now that we’d had a chance to digest and absorb all the information, our gut reaction is… we didn’t… hate it?
While Sonic Team seemed to have stumbled a little bit with its exploration video back on Wednesday, the community appeared to rally a little bit behind the game again with today’s combat reveal. There’s a bit more of a positive buzz around the upcoming platforming game now, and while it’s still up in the air as to exactly what direction SEGA wants to take Sonic with this title, our team of expert Sonic influencers are in agreement that the right approach here is to be cautiously optimistic.
Here are the impressions of the Sonic Stadium team, share your thoughts on the week’s reveals in the comments section below.
After watching both the exploration and the combat gameplay video, I am left a little puzzled as to what kind of fan Sonic Team is wanting to target with Frontiers.
It seems to want to be a game that goes back to the heart/root of Sonic gameplay, but there doesn’t seem to be any recognisable scenery, gimmicks or physics-based play at all. Classic fans looking for something like momentum-based world traversal won’t be impressed with having to constantly use infinite grind rails and speed boost rings to get around.
With an open world, it is clearly trying to satisfy Unleashed fans who enjoy simply running from point to point, but at this early stage the overworld feels sparse and it’s difficult to imagine those particular fans wanting to stop in order to complete a puzzle for minutes at a time.
Despite developer talk of wanting to reinvent the action, it appears like we’re looking at Sonic Forces-style movement and abilities – with combat enhanced to take advantage of one-two punch combos and special attacks. That might scratch the itch for Forces (or Werehog) fans, but much like the puzzles I’m not sure if fans will generally want to spend their time punching a bubble robot sixteen times over to unlock a gate. Chances are many players will want to run right past these guys.
That’s not to say I’m feeling too down on the game as it stands – there are some interesting ideas in here. It’s about time Sonic explored an open world and used his abilities to unlock more areas/zones and collectibles. I like the multiple ways a player can traverse the same area in the overworld, with rewards for trying out new pathways. And if Sonic’s abilities can be upgraded in a way that enemies can be dealt with in only one or two hits, then maybe using the cool-looking mid-air dash attack and projectile moves won’t feel too much like a chore.
I have no doubt that there is way, way more to see than just this tiny morsel of gameplay, so as always I am going to reserve complete judgement until the final game is out and in my hands. Having said that, some of my concerns about Sonic Frontiers are unlikely to be addressed between now and release because I expect they may be conceptual in nature.
For years now I’ve been hoping that Sonic Team would finally pick up design learnings from Sonic Mania (or even the upcoming Origins) and build a 3D environment that draws on the iconic art style that 90s Sonic games are known for, while integrating momentum-based physics play. It doesn’t seem like Frontiers will be that game, sadly, so I will maybe have to wait another five years for that.
All in all, for all the talk of drawing from past games, it’s looking more like the game that Sonic Team is aiming to mimic the most here is Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, with its platform-combat style approach. Let’s hope, with more reveals to come, it can make more of a success of that pitch than Big Red Button did.
I have been coming at Sonic Frontiers from a place of trepidation since its premise was unveiled last year. “An open world Sonic game, huh,” I thought to myself, “that sounds like a fun idea that could go terribly, horribly wrong.” Three game play videos later and I’m feeling…somewhat more optimistic?
On one hand, its not the complete retooling of Sonic’s moveset that I was hoping for. Rather than a brand new moveset tailor made for Sonic’s first open world experience, Frontiers seems to have instead retooled the moves Sonic’s had since Unleashed. The boost, stomp, and classic homing attack are all here, with Lost World-esque parkour also thrown in to the mix for the very first time.
In addition to that, the landscape we’ve been shown looks kind of…plane. There are no loop-de-loops or any of the other sorts of wild, fantastical geography Sonic is normally associated with. Instead, it’s all more grounded, which is certainly not how I ever imagined an open world Sonic game to be. On top of that, the game seems to have a focus on puzzles, which mostly look pretty easy and basic.
But…I’d be lying if I said it didn’t look fun. The boost games are among Sonic’s best after all, so having that moveset adapted to an open world isn’t exactly an awful thing. The game is also loaded with all the classic 3D Sonic traversal options, like springs, grind rails, and wallrunning segments. Putting aside how we’ve seen the game played, the world simply looks like a fun place to explore, and I’m itching to check out all the stuff the player zoomed by in the demo. And easy puzzles that only took a few moments to solve are probably a better fit for Sonic than longer, more involved puzzles.
And the combat…this is the first time combat in a Sonic game has ever looked genuinely fun. There are loads of combat options, different enemies requiring different tactics, and this is clearly the deepest Sonic combat has ever gotten. This is also the first time Sonic’s combat in the games has ever been depicted as having real power behind it. The titan battles look especially impressive, both in terms of scale and game play!
Ultimately…my feelings have gone from “this could be a disaster” to “this could be Sonic Forces-esque mediocrity.” The first game play preview certainly had its slow bits. I get why people think the game looks boring. Really, what I need to see is the game’s overall game play loop. We’re being shown a bunch of things out of context, when whats most important to the game is the interplay between all these different systems. How does it feel to run through this environment, explore, solve puzzles, and fight the various enemies all together? How does each activity flow to the next? Until I see that, I cannot make any bigger judgements. I can at least say its no Sonic 2006, though.
I’m loving what I’m seeing so far! There are a few graphical issues, like draw distance pop-in stuff, but nothing that really ruins the game for me. The gameplay is very ambitious, something I think Sonic has needed for a while now. Overall, I’m really hyped and can’t wait to see more!
I didn’t know what to expect from the broad concept of “Sonic Open World,” but from what I’ve seen, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Sonic himself is still very much in the moveset style of Unleashed/Colors/Generations/Forces, but removing the directed A-to-B path and filling the world with a bunch of tiny moment-to-moment challenges is very much my jam.
Frontiers looks to have the three core elements you need in an open world game: a satisfying way to get around, lots of corners and alcoves to explore, and a variety of things to do at any given moment. I noticed plenty more paths and points of interest that the player in the video didn’t go see, and when the focus did need to be a bit more directed, well, the comedic number of grind rails are certainly an effective way to get that done!
It’s not an aesthetic that immediately excites me, but it’s still pleasant and interesting when you transition from sprinting through a field to a forest to a creek to a waterfall. It’s the kind of thing that isn’t… eyecatching in the same way Sonic Generations or Lost World were, but I can at least understand the choice. It’s sustainable over many hours of play, and it sets a tone.
I still have quite a lot of unanswered questions about the mechanics, but I’m certainly interested enough to see where they ultimately go with this new direction. I’m not ready to plop $60 down on the game right this second from the 15-ish minutes of unannotated footage, but I absolutely want to see more.
I’ll admit, the exploration aspect didn’t sell me on the game initially. It felt like they just dropped Sonic and some assets onto a completely different game. That said, the combat has sold me on the game all on its own. None of the enemies are one-hit pushovers, and Sonic has a huge variety of abilities and ways of taking them out.
Whether it’s that zig-zag air dash, his tornado from Sonic Heroes, or my favorite, the air blades, Sonic is given a wide variety of strategies and ways of taking them out. I love it! The animation and pop-in still needs some work, but the foundation of what Sonic Frontiers is becoming has gotten me hyped.
Expectations have been high for the opening salvo of the Sonic Frontiers gameplay reveals via IGN. Fingers have been crossed that we would have been treated to an overflowing cornucopia of facets and features that would get the average Sonic fan salivating; after all, the function of these teasers should be to drive anticipation for a launch that fans have been waiting 5 years for.
So far, we have received two rather underwhelming demonstrations of mechanics that appear unfinished, in a sprawling landscape devoid of features; more importantly, with an absence of elements that are intrinsically Sonic, excepting the odd ramp or spring.
More fundamentally, there seems to be a lack of motivation or direction to this game play (to date the IGN footage has had little narration). Had this been a tech demo there might have been a more positive response, but this is a sneak preview of a title 6 months from launch. One would hope this might be an artefact of IGN’s drip-feeding of information across June and the best is yet to come, but in all honesty, I have a bad feeling this is not the case (I would be delighted to be proven wrong).
Like the lazy kid who didn’t do his homework, SEGA have looked over the shoulders of their classmates, replicating their tower ascent challenges and alien puzzles, to create something they can hand in for a passable grade.
The frustration here (as has been the case for too long now) is that Sonic is a franchise that has at its core some of the most recognisable aspects in all of video game history, from aesthetics to sound, and yet SEGA seem reluctant to expand upon this; instead we are once again seeing a reinvention of the wheel, in the hopes that gold will be struck with the next triple-A game brought to the table.
In a year where it feels like a release of a tie-in title around the release date of the Sonic movie would have been such an easy win, and with no sign of a Sonic Mania follow-up, you have got to wonder what the strategy is here.
That’s what our team thinks about the game! What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below!