In World Series Superstars (WSS) you are trying to build a beastly team that can shame both the AI and your Facebook buddies. To create this team, you must attract fans and acquire coins by winning games and utilizing your friends.
At the beginning of this venture, it's more or less about grinding things out. You get a bunch of low-level cards and have to just try to get by. As you level up and gain coins after posting wins against minor league teams -- the minor league teams are all real, but of course the players are not -- the first element of strategy comes into play. You have to decide whether to save up coins for players so it's easier to win, or use your coins to go for cheaper things like stadium upgrades or practice points.
You will slowly amass coins, which can be used to buy player packs.
Practice points keep the players on your team fresh -- players wear down as they play games, so you need these points to boost them back up to their peak rating level. These points are relatively cheap to earn, so you can focus on just keeping your bad players competing to the best of their abilities, or you can let them wear down and use your coins to buy more players to increase the depth of your team. The latter is a viable option because you can swap out players and pitchers after every game, so you can choose to let players wear down completely because they are all equally awful (for the most part) at the start of things.
Stadium upgrades are important because they increase the amount of fans that can come to the games, and thus, the amount of coins they can give to your franchise. In other words, these fans did not come to see your team win, they came to check out the newly constructed luxury boxes (clearly you have really passionate fans).
The nice part about all of this is that the game does a really good job of rewarding you no matter what angle you choose to take. After each game, win or lose, you will get some coins, XP and fans. Speaking of XP, it is useful because it is how you increase your level. You want to increase your level because that is how you unlock the better player packs, as well as certain stadium upgrades. Plus, you get some extra bonuses each time you level up.
Practice points can be as important to your team as you want them to be.
In short, building your team is definitely a slow burn, but over the long haul, it's rewarding creating a team. I can look back now and think about how at one point I had Luis Cruz at shortstop, but now I have a vintage, limited-edition Alex Rodriguez circa his Seattle days manning the SS position.
While no one will get this game mixed up with a hardcore text sim like Out of the Park Baseball, the game does give you some varying management options and strategies to apply to your team.
There is a minor-league schedule and a MLB schedule to battle through. However, you will need to build certain stadium upgrades or reach a particular level to play the MLB teams. So at the start of things, it's really all about battling through games against various minor-league affiliates. The most important thing to understand here is that you must win the game to proceed to the next one.
When you play games, you should quickly notice that "tickets" are your lifeblood. You have a certain amount of tickets, and they do run out as you play games, so you will most likely need to buy them or ask friends for more at some point.
As you win games, you will accrue more fans, which will help out your revenue stream.
On the field, the management options are relatively light. Still, if you compare what's here to the other Superstars games (Madden and FIFA), the game is actually really deep.
You can choose to simulate a game, an inning or an at-bat. You can also micro-manage certain things like bunting for a hit or pitching around a batter. In other words, you can do as little or as much as you want during a game. I find that I have a bit more success if I really manage each at bat, but again, you won't suffer if you just simulate games.
This is where all your games will play out.
The weakest element of the in-game action has to be the animations. It's not so much the graphical fidelity, but rather the oddities that play out on the field. For example, if the bases are loaded and you hit into a double play, the double play does not play out like it probably should. For example the second baseman might have a routine double-play ball hit at him, but instead of touching second base or throwing the ball to the shortstop, he will throw the ball to first base and then the first baseman might throw it to third base or home plate to get the second out. You still end up getting the two outs, it just does not look like any sort of normal double play. In addition, little things like every pitcher throwing left handed just cause me to be pulled out of the experience a bit.
Game Changers are the last thing to take into consideration while managing games. These Game Changers remove chance from the equation and ensure that you will hit a home run or induce a double play during any at bat you want. These do cost money, so you will either receive them as gifts or have to buy them with coins or real cash. (I have a staunch will-not-use policy when it comes to Game Changers.)
Since this is a free-to-play game, you can also purchase upgrades with Playfish Cash (see: real money). If you decide to go this route, you can obviously improve your team more quickly, but in no way is it mandatory.
Regardless of how you choose to purchase items in the game, you do have to buy anything and everything with some form of currency. Tickets, stadium upgrades, player packs and so on all cost something. For the record, I tried to pay the game in leftover lasagna, but the game rejected it like a clerk rejects a customer who tries to pay for a banana with a credit card.
I earn coins so I can hopefully get a pack of cards that includes a limited-edition player.
One final note is that as your team gets better, you may at some point reach your roster limit. At this point, you can choose to sell players to acquire some extra coins. It would be cool if you could make trades with friends or something like that, but as of now there is no option to do so.
The social part of this game feels like one part Mario Kart and one part Animal Crossing.
I think most people at one point or another played against a "ghost" version of a friend's best time on Rainbow Road in Mario Kart. In this game, you do something similar. You never actually "play" your friend, but you do play your friend's team, which is controlled by the AI.
As far as the Animal Crossing similarities go, the comparisons thankfully have nothing to do with overhead or debt. While it might be cool to have to manage the assets of your team, it would probably be stressful if you went all Frank McCourt -- and even more stressful if Tom Nook had to break your e-legs to make sure you knew he expected payment.
...So yeah, "gifting" is the actual reason the game reminds me a bit of Animal Crossing. It's exciting unwrapping those presents and getting the goods hidden inside. You can also send messages to your friends to either request something or just stick it to them when you beat their teams.
Ask friends for tickets so you can continue to play games to level up.
The Predictor is a new element that was recently added to WSS. This is just another element that adds to the social aspect of the game. Essentially how it works is that the game offers up one real MLB game each day. If you select the team that ends up winning the game, you receive some rewards. Beyond that, you can also gain an extra bonus in WSS if you own the pitcher that is starting in the real MLB game on that day.
Choose the winning team in real MLB games and win extra bonuses in the process.
WSS becomes infinitely more easy and fun if you have a bunch of friends playing the games. You can compete against their "ghosts" on the leaderboards, and you can also beg them for gifts. The game is still fun if you play on your own, but it just does not have quite the same appeal in the long run.
As someone who tends to avoid Facebook, this game has me coming back to it on a daily basis to tweak, change and improve my squad. The game also taps into my love for baseball cards, much like the Ultimate Team modes in EA's more traditional sports games. There's also not a day that goes by where I don't think about changing up my lineup or starting rotation to give my team a new look.
From my perspective, the weakest portion of the game is the lack of stat tracking. There is no box score at the end of the game, so you have no idea if a player is underachieving or overachieving over the course of his career. Also, there are no career or season stats. I don't feel like these things should be considered "hardcore" or out of place in this type of title. If you use any player, those stats would create a certain love or hate for any player on your team. However, the nice thing is that since this game is always receiving updates, there's always a chance something like that will be added in time.
Simply put, when I have a couple minutes -- or just want to pretend I don't have any work to do for a few moments -- I load up this game and see how my squad, the Flame Outs, is doing. It's not something I sit down and play for hours on end, but over the course of a day I check in for a couple minutes here and a couple minutes there. On this platform, that's probably the best compliment I can give to the game.