Draft Day Sports: Pro Football 2016 Review (PC)
The 2015-16 NFL season ends on Sunday, but that does not mean you have to go without realistic professional football until August. Draft Day Sports: Pro Football is a new text sim that allows you to create a league, fill it with teams and guide one of them to a championship. While the text-sim market is pretty small (but fierce), is DDS: Pro Football good enough to rise above the rest and keep your football itch satisfied until the fall?
As with all games of this nature, DDS: PF can look more like a spreadsheet or accounting program than a traditional sports game. This is not a bad thing as it simply means you will be using your analytical skills more than your thumb skills to play. DDS: PF throws a lot of information at you and allows you to make informed decisions that impact your team.
Nearly everything you might expect to be able to do is included, including free agency, trades, roster management, the draft, in-game strategy, etc. The training schedule is particularly interesting, tasking you with assigning players individual and custom training regimens.
However, there are a few noticeable absences. First, while in a game, you can’t call plays, make substitutions or call timeouts. In a game where your role is primarily GM, these limitations are understandable -- if perhaps not entirely excusable -- even if impacting game outcomes is a standard feature of current text sims.
What makes this design choice more frustrating, however, is that there are not any coaches in the game either. In other words, you sort of function as GM and pseudo-coach. You set game strategy and build custom playbooks, but you can’t call specific plays. Again, I would be fine with the lack of play-calling duties if you could instead hire coaches. As is, this aspect of management seems underdeveloped.
Beyond that complaint, there is a lot to like about DDS: PF. While teams are fictionally named, you can modify them easily enough to look like their real-life counterparts. Players are real, and accurately rated. In my first season sim, Cam Newton led the league in multiple statistical categories and took the Panthers to the conference championship.
That said, the game does base most of its AI decisions on numbers alone, which, while understandable, can lead to some unusual and problematic issues. I was easily able to trade Mark Sanchez for Marcus Mariota. In addition, if asked to auto-adjust rosters and depth charts, you may not agree with the AI decisions.
Again, DDS: PF throws a ton of information at you, and generally, it’s easy to read and digest. However, some things are not as naturally organized as you would expect. For instance, to sign a free agent you don’t go to the Players/Free Agents menu -- there you can only see the list of free agents. Instead, you need to go to My Team/Free Agents. While not a big deal in the long run because you eventually get used to where things are, it does take a bit to figure out where everything is in the game. That being said, the Task Menu does make things simpler by highlighting upcoming events.
In-game, the simulations are straight forward and use animated colored circles to represent players. The animations themselves are fine, except when the ball is passed and they get quite jumpy.
While it’s a bit buried menu-wise, a simple e-mail system and league newspaper are good ways to catch up on the major events unfolding around you. The draft, appropriately enough, is the best looking portion of the game.
Despite the inconsistencies in design choice, this game does offer a lot of choices when it comes to customization and long-term gameplay. Besides the current rosters, a wealth of historical rosters are available to choose from as well. You can also customize the league and playoff structure, and you can even edit players and teams.
While I did not have the ability to join an online league, this would probably be the best way to play and resolve some of the issues that trouble the AI: unbalanced trades, lack of trades in general, depth chart issues, etc. Unfortunately, it might be tough to completely fill a 32-team league.
Draft Day Sports: Pro Football leaves me with mixed feelings. On one hand, it’s another entry into the rather small genre of football sims. It’s perfectly functional and includes nearly all of the elements you would expect. There is an active online community, and the developers seem to interact and listen to users.
On the other, the game does not necessarily do anything to innovate or extend the genre. It does nothing exceptionally well, and the absence of both play calling and coach personalities leaves that part of the game in a strange "watch and wait" limbo state.