Whether you like it or not, card collecting modes in sports games are here to stay. In 2017, all of the major games vied for valuable playing time with variations on these modes, and naturally some fared better than others. EA’s Ultimate Teams (FIFA 18, Madden 18 and NHL 18) all relied too heavily on microtransactions while NBA 2K’s MyTeam seemed to take a backseat to the more lucrative Run The Neighborhood career mode. But the game doing it best in 2017 was the one released earliest in the year: MLB The Show 17 and its increasingly rewarding Diamond Dynasty.
On the surface, Diamond Dynasty didn’t at first glance appear to be all that different from the other games’ similar modes, but how it ultimately separated itself from the pack is by zigging where the others opted to zag. For starters, Diamond Dynasty offered no alternative currency other than stubs, meaning that there were no cash-grab packs in the store that you had to use real money to purchase. In addition, the objectives you needed to reach in order to obtain better cards were always straightforward and challenging rather than convoluted and tedious. Perhaps best of all, a seemingly endless collection of programs and missions that allowed for a strategic element where you could be striving towards several different goals at the same time added an angle to the experience that other sports games simply couldn’t match.
The fact that rewards could be attained across a number of different enjoyable modes also allowed for players to choose how they wanted to grind towards their dream team. Don’t like playing against people online? No problem, you could always tackle Conquest, Team Epics or even accumulate stats towards completing a Legend program. Don’t like playing against the CPU? They had you covered, as you could go toe-to-toe against flesh-and-blood opponents in Ranked Seasons, Battle Royale or any of the popular Events that were held periodically throughout the year. There was even the chance with some of these modes to play shorter games, generally 3 or 6 inning affairs, successfully reducing what can often be a time-consuming affair into a more manageable commitment.
But it would have all meant nothing if the content wasn’t anything special but. Fortunately for MLB The Show 17 and its players, the game did not disappoint on this front. Take cover boy Ken Griffey Jr. for instance, whose career trajectory you could trace from his glory days in Seattle all the way to his short stint with the White Sox by collecting his various cards and completing the necessary objectives with them. And it was completing those objectives that made finally getting the cards all the more satisfying, as players devoted many hours to playing games all so they could eventually have an opportunity to start players like Felix Hernandez in his prime. As it stands, it’s hard for me to think of a better achievement I had in a sports game this year than grinding out the necessary wins in an event in order to add a peak Jacoby Ellsbury to my squad.
In many ways, MLB The Show 17’s Diamond Dynasty was as much a success for what it did do as what it didn’t do. For providing a mode that was complex and deep enough to have us still playing it today and yet accessible enough to keep microtransactions from becoming too prevalent, Diamond Dynasty is the card-collecting mode to beat in 2018.