Out of the Park Baseball 14 Review (PC)
By now, it’s pretty simple: you either love Out of the Park Baseball or you haven’t played Out of the Park Baseball.
While that's probably generalizing the situation a bit, as all games have critics or those who are indifferent. However, if you like strategy games and/or baseball, and haven’t tried Out of the Park Baseball, this year's edition of the series is a great time to jump in.
On that same note, If you are a repeat addict, er…user, you’ll find the improvements meaningful enough to give OOTP another summer of your life.
OOTP 14 retains the core characteristics of the series: depth, customization, and realism.
First, this is one of the deepest text sims you’ll find on planet earth. In a “normal” MLB set-up, you’ll have control of everything from scouting, staff, ticket prices, player movement, contracts, and so many other little nuggets. Stats and ratings are nearly as numerous as the players they represent. You can also play in various historical leagues, with either accurate trades or an evolving timeline.
Regarding customization, you are free to play as a commissioner, GM, or manager, limiting or extending your responsibilities accordingly. You can use current, historical, or fictional rosters, and tweak league settings to your personal preference. Make up your own league, if you’d like. Plus, there are a number of add-ons to bring real and created logos into the fold.
Finally, the game strives for realism in all aspects, from the way contracts are created to the way the simulation engine plays out. Random events occur that help make even the most fictional league seem real. I read about a player in my league who faked a back injury to cover up an extra-marital affair. These small touches breathe life into a “universe” that might otherwise feel like a series of spreadsheets.
Most of the additions in OOTP 14 are in service of one of those core elements. The largest area of improvement lies in player generation. OOTP boasts a “completely recoded player origin system,” and so far I like what I’m seeing.
Basically, new players come from one of five categories: US/Canadian/Puerto Rican rookies, international prospects, international free agents, international “discoveries,” and players from independent leagues. Of course, all of these categories are able to be modified; but, as is, I think it more accurately reflects and encompasses real life baseball.
Further, players develop more realistically. Perhaps one of the best additions is a monthly player development report. Basically, it communicates how your players are developing; from veterans who start to lose skills, to rookies who start to hit their potential. This monthly report makes keeping tabs on your prospects a bit easier.
To be honest, I did run into a few “player creation” bugs, such as players who were age “0” when drafted. However, OOTP is constantly updated; community interaction with the developers is as good as any in the industry. I expect this bug has probably already been squashed.
Another reported improvement is the trading engine. In my season, I didn’t see a ton of blockbuster trades; however, I did see a lot of prospect and role-player swapping and again, this can be modified through settings changes.
As for trades I was involved in, it was harder to pry prospects away from the computer—though, I am guilty of hitting the “Make This Work Now!” button a bit too much. I did see that AI teams were willing to part with quality for quality; sometimes I could get that top prospect for a few of my lesser propsects. It also seemed like the computer was more willing to trade talent in service of a salary dump, especially for rebuilding teams. The AI still makes some dumb lopsided trade offers (always to their benefit), but a new “not interested” marker helps to limit these propositions.
There’s a long list of improvements over at ootpdevelopments.com, but many of the changes are under the hood, and may not be immediately noticed. There are some nice graphical improvements and hidden achievements based on how your team performs; for instance I unlocked a 7-win streak badge.
If you have only dabbled in OOTP (especially those limited to OOTP 13), you may be disappointed with the amount of up-front changes. While everything looks a little nicer, there were more interface changes last year; most of the very noticeable changes are either minor, or simply improvements on existing features.
Many of these changes/improvements do make things easier for the uninitiated, such as an organizational depth chart and changes in pitching rotation management. However, the game can still be a bit daunting for new users. Additionally, I’m still not sure that there is a “home screen” that quite captures everything I’d like to see all at once.
This game is as addictive as ever, again based on its customization options, depth, and sense of realism. Those of you who are OOTP “lifers” will appreciate the engine tweaks and improvements to player development.
So far, I’ve enjoyed simulating the 2013 season as a GM, though I’ll eventually start a league as a GM of an expansion team (probably my favorite way to play). I will probably switch things up mid-season and try my hand at managing—a real challenge if you start “realistically” and take an offered job for a single- or double-A team.
I seem to make this comparison year after year, but OOTP 14 is like the Civilization or SimCity franchises, in both level of strategy and ability to make an evening disappear.
Beyond the occasional bug, I don’t have many real criticisms of OOTP 14. There are some parts of the game that do seem untouched and a guided tutorial would help. I’d also really like a customizable home screen; but these are more often “wishes” than true problems with the game. The improvements—especially to the player generation engine—pay off in both the entertainment and realism categories.
So, back to my original statement: OOTP 14 does little to break the trend. If you are a veteran, you’ll love it. If you haven’t played it, it’s well worth spending $40 and multiple hours learning this incredible game if you are into the business of baseball on any level.
Score: 9.0 (All-Time Classic)
Learning Curve: Because of its depth and complexity, prepare to spend a good deal of time learning what to do and how to do it. Returning users will feel right at home.
Control Scheme: For as complex as this game is, its interface is pretty good. Nearly everything is a right-click away, though not everything is where you might expect it to be.
Visuals: Menus are nicer looking, though the in-game engine hasn’t changed much. An all-in-one add on makes setting up a realistic looking MLB game a snap.
Audio: Not really important, and not really changed either. The only sounds are in-game; get ready to hear “No Way!” quite a bit.
Realism: No complaints here. My first simmed season produced few surprises, outside of some key injuries. By the way, the default injury setting seems a bit toned down from last year. Player ratings are as good as ever.