Lords of Football Review (PC)
Most previews described Lords of Football as "Football Manager meets The Sims." That’s not entirely accurate. While the graphics and the music will remind you a lot of EA’s popular life simulation game, the rest of Lords of Football is similar to The Sims in only the broadest sense—that you control a bunch of people.
The game’s concept is an interesting one, and one that hasn’t really been explored in other games—New Star Soccer comes closest, in terms of the amount of options you have with a player's life outside of soccer, but in it you’re only in control of your own player. In Lords of Football, you are a manager less concerned with “building” a team by transferring and scouting players, and more with keeping your current squad in good spirits and optimal condition by choosing what activities your players partake in, and punishing them when they step out of line.
The problem with the Sims comparison is that in that game, there are branches of actions and reactions available, whereas in Lords of Football there just isn’t much more to do other than dragging and dropping. Most of the hijinks you see in the promotional videos are merely a result of you putting your players in the right (or wrong) venues, and everything else ensue by themselves. In that sense, maybe a better description of the game may be "Football Manager meets the NMA videos."
Lords of Football has a charming light hearted side to it.
For a non-AAA title, the presentation elements of Lords of Football feel surprisingly polished.
Most of the game takes place in a town with various venues that your players will frequent. During the day, the action centers on the training complex, where your team partakes in various activities like passing drills, physiotherapy, or for the lazier ones, hiding away in the locker rooms. The animations, while not completely life-like, are fairly realistic and smooth.
At night, players hit the town, going to places like restaurants, pubs, and casinos. Each of those places are nicely modeled and are, dare I say, almost Sims-like in terms of quality. What is even more pleasantly surprising is that the game is able to simulate all the members of your squad at different venues, while giving you the ability to zoom in on each of them at any given time, with very little choppiness.
The audio is also well done. As you may have clued in by now, this is not a deadly serious recreation of a soccer manager’s life, and the slightly quirky score compliments the game’s tongue-in-cheek tone.
When you’re not dealing with the town, chances are you’re in a soccer match, watching it unfold. If you decide against skipping the proceedings (which generates an instant result), you will watch the match unfold in the 3D engine. While there’s nothing to complain about in terms of graphics and audio—again, generally quite well done--don’t expect Football Manager levels of nuance in terms of player behavior and match flow.
It also needs to be mentioned that, for obvious reasons, the game is unlicensed (you mean you can’t depict real players as drunks and womanizers?) This means that the game has chosen to go the route of fake team and player names. The good thing is that if you want to inject a little bit of realism into the game, you can customize the names of your team and its players, but unfortunately you can’t do the same for the rest of the league.
At it's core, Lords of Football is a football simulation game that focuses on all aspects of team management.
You have to give developer Geniaware points for actually going through with this. You'd imagine that many people along the way told them the idea is insane—a lighthearted football management game that focuses on dictating how players conduct their lives, instead of the usual tactics and transfers? The fact is that the idea behind Lords of Football is actually rather interesting, but the game falls apart in its execution. There are certain moments in the game when you can tell the amount of potential it contains. Unfortunately, what we have right now only scratches the very surface of it.
Let’s start off with what Lords of Football is not:
- It is not a serious career game: you don’t change jobs, or move to a better one. Once you’re fired, the game’s over.
- It is not a serious, talent-spotting, team-building exercise: The transfer module consists of you specifying the attributes you want in a player.
- It is not a serious tactical simulation: You can change your formations, but don’t expect tactical sliders concerning width, or tempo, or passing style. And to really tear off the guise of reality, you can actually pause the action, mid-match, and dictate to your individual players what moves they should make for that particular play.
- It is not a serious game.
And yet, Lords of Football's lighthearted, comedic tone—players suspending in midair as you decide on where to drop them; others giving a universally understood sign language to the team’s fans—is actually a plus. It’s quite charming and works, in a way, like a wink and a nudge: everybody knows there are real life footy stars who act exactly the way the players do in the game, but no other soccer management game can reproduce it except Lords of Football, and this is your opportunity to deal with them the way they should be dealt with.
It is indeed rather funny if you view the game as a satire of how soccer players behave themselves—overpaid, overdrunk, and oversexed—and initially it’s amusing to see just how many ways you can keep them happy (speed dating, anyone?) or how they can get into trouble. The worse ones may skip training for a drink and a day at the slots, or they just may not feel like exerting themselves and, I swear this happened, start a conga line. Either way, it’s your job to catch them in the act and deal with them. To do so, you’re offered a few options for punishments—most of which are again, quite funny—to lower their various negative attributes. The humor really is the best thing the game has going for it.
As for the rest of Lords of Football, it gets tiresome rather quickly, especially considering its current $30 price tag. The problem boils down to one thing: there's just not much to do as the game progresses.
Sure, your players’ attributes may fluctuate depending on what training you've arranged for them, and there are rewards and upgrades you can unlock by achieving goals set by your club's president. But ultimately, all it does is give you another activity or two that you can drag and drop your players into. There's nothing more after you've decided that a wine tasting at the restaurant is the best activity for a certain player-- you can't make him interact with anybody or with any objects.
For a game that’s all about managing players, it’s also surprising that there is no way for you, the manager, to actually communicate with your squad. Whether it’s a pre-game locker room talk, or a one-on-one session with a player who is going off the rails, the act of communication is conspicuously absent. Instead, the only option you have at your disposal is putting the players in different venues, either to upgrade their skills, fulfill their needs, and if one does go off the rails, rid them of their vices.
So to compare this game to The Sims is a bit of a stretch. Sims have a multitude of ways to fulfill their needs and interact with fellow Sims and objects, whereas in Lords of Football the only choice you have to make, really, is which place to drag your player to. This is the biggest letdown of the game—the lack of interactivity. Spend enough time with the game and it turns into an exercise in people herding, albeit a very good looking one.
Conceptually, I like it, I really do. Purists may disagree, but there is room for something a little more lighthearted in the sports management genre. However, that’s really all there is to Lords of Football at the moment: a good concept, with the occasional moment of hilarity. But is it worth $30? Most likely not.
The game certainly has some things going for it—the humor, the presentation elements, and the idea that managing soccer players’ off-pitch lives may well be a tougher task than their on-pitch play. But the depth isn’t there, and there’s just not enough incentive to play Lords of Football for the long haul. Initially, the game feels interesting and fresh, but by day three, you may very well find yourself asking: Is that all there is to do?
Maybe if a deeper sequel can be had, this could be a franchise that has a future.
Learning Curve: The game is fairly straightforward, and a simple understanding of soccer should suffice. The real difficultly-- especially when you're managing lower league teams--is trying to keep track of all your troublemakers without a pause button.
Visuals: The game's town is simulated in fairly high detail, allowing you to zoom in and out of each venue. No complaints here.
Audio: Nicely scored, crowd atmosphere during matches give the game a nice dose of believability.
Value: The game currently retails for $29.99, and it's just too expensive, even with the nice graphics and audio, for what is a rather shallow gameplay experience. There's just not enough meat on the bone.
Bottom Line: A fun and unique concept for a game, but the experience is ultimately a shallow one.
Score: 4.5 (below average)