Crossout would probably be a great game if it wasn’t free to play

Microsoft loves reward programs. Every day I log in to earn my Microsoft Reward Points that I can use to buy random things, mostly Xbox things. I paid for my current year of Xbox Live using Microsoft Points. There’s an offshoot of MS Points called Xbox Live Rewards. Every month they offer “Missions” to undertake in order to earn points. One of their recurring missions is “Freedom Rewards” where you earn points by playing (or buying stuff for) Free-To-Play games. This month I decided to try to earn those points. I have to play 3 different Free-To-Play games for 5 hours each. If I do I’ll earn 1000 points which is like $1. So more a ‘thing to do’ than a ‘way to get rich.’

Anyway that’s what brought me to Crossout. It’s a Free-To-Play game on PC/Xbox/PS4 that centers around building armed cars and then fighting in them. The car building stuff reminds me of Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts a little bit. You start with a frame and a cabin then add wheels, fenders, paneling, bumpers, weapons (or course) and stuff like radar or extra engines. Of course you have to have the parts to build with, and you need to earn/buy those parts, so everyone might have a different box of parts to build from.

Building is kind of fiddly with a controller but is probably really fun on PC with a mouse. I mean, it’s fun on console aside from sometimes feeling like you’re fighting the UI. You have a power limit that is based on the cabin (plus some parts add power) and then things like weapons drain power. Armor adds weight. At the start of the game you’re basically driving cars/trucks but later you can get tracks, legs and even hover-engines. Everything you add to your car adds to its points value, and when you match-make into a round you’re supposed to be grouped with cars of a similar points value to keep things reasonably fair.

Once your car is built (and there are pre-made blueprints that will auto-build something if you don’t want to bother) you’re off to battle. There are ‘patrol’ missions that are you and other players vs AI, but the rewards for those are pretty meager from what I’ve seen. The meat of the game is in PvP battles which are usually “take over the enemy base or kill everyone” fights. There’s no respawning but a match only lasts a few minutes.

As you dish out and take damage, trying to drive and aim at the same time, parts fly all over the place. It is possible, and even advisable, to shoot out the tires of an enemy, or shoot the machine guns off their car. Ramming works, too. The combat is fun mayhem. Empty enough bullets into the cabin of an enemy and they’ll blow up. Later on you get flamethrowers and buzz-saws and all kinds of crazy looking stuff.

It’s a game I might have played well past the 5 hours I needed to tick off a checkbox on Xbox Live Rewards aside from one thing: the Free-To-Play aspect really holds it back. Progress is super slow at the start. You can earn a handful of common parts (which are rated like MMO loot: common, uncommon, rare, exotic, etc) but there’s no obvious way to move up to better gear outside of a LOT of grinding for common parts to sell for pennies (the marketplace is player-driven) in order to finally amass enough gold to buy what you want, or from opening your real-world wallet to purchase a Starter Pack. OK in fairness I should qualify that: if there’s a better way to climb up into a better tier of parts, I haven’t found it yet.

Well, in theory you CAN craft stuff but to do that you have to pay in-game cash to rent a workbench, and you need copper which you only earn from “Raids.” Raids are a special type of PvE mission that costs Fuel to enter. 20 Fuel per Raid. You get 100 Fuel per day. Of course you can buy more with real money. Each Raid you do gives you a few units of Copper, at least at low levels. Maybe it gets better later. Point being, you need to do a lot of Raids to get the Copper to craft, and you need to sell a lot of junk to rent the workbench. Or you can open your wallet to buy these resources, of course.

So now I’m forced to decide if I want to spent money on the game, or just move on. I think I’m going to move on. I’ve enjoyed my time so far but I can see where the thrill of the combat will start to fade, and the matches are all the same. There aren’t many maps to fight on, at least that I’ve seen. Maybe more unlock later. But I just feel like every path is blocked by the lack of some resource that I could in-theory earn by playing a LOT, or that I could spend real money to buy. They’re clearly trying to frustrate you enough to get you to spend.

I dunno, I just keep thinking “If I could pay $60 and get a full game to play, I would love this.” but it just feels to nickle & dimey to me. Heck if I knew a 1-time purchase of a $20 Starter Pack would kick-start me into the better goodies, I might even do that. But I just fear I’ll spend $20 today and next week will have to spend another $20 to keep going.

Still, for a game that costs nothing to get started in, it’s a great time for a few hours until you start yearning for fancier gear. No harm in giving it a download and trying it out.