Back at the end of 2016, I took a look at Hardwood Rivals, a mobile game available for both iOS and Android. Released by Koality Games, it was a fun go-to game that was great for passing time and had good replay value due to the XP system and having to unlock items for your player. Just about three years to the day, Koality Games has put out another gem, Hoop League Tactics. You can also find this game on iOS and Android.
Created by OS user FlyRice, this mobile offering is a joy to play. The game is free to download but limits you to two full seasons. A $4.99 price tag gives you the premium edition of the game that removes ads, unlocks additional save slots and opens up the full customization suite of features, well worth the very small fee. If you’d rather stick to the free version you can reset the game after the two seasons and start over again. Let’s take a look at this strategy sports mobile gem.
Hoop League Tactics offers a robust set of features for a mobile game. One of the best parts of this game is the customization suite and the depth it gives users. Once you get into it, if you’re a person that’s big on realism and accuracy, you tend to forget that you’re playing a game on your phone. It really is incredible to see the amount of detail and obvious time that FlyRice has put into the product.
Users can either start a season that plays out and is more akin to a franchise mode, play an exhibition game or use the aforementioned customize option. There’s also a pretty straightforward tutorial. Version notes are available right at the main menu along with the options mentioned, so you’ll always know what changes are made to the game.
Controls And Gameplay
Another part of the beauty within Hoop League Tactics is that the user gets to choose between either playing games or sitting back and watching things unfold, acting more as a Masai Ujiri/Nick Nurse combination. This flexibility is awesome and lends itself to the turn-based strategy/tactical gameplay that the game is built around. FlyRice did an excellent job of making controls simplistic right down to the shot bar. It can quickly become easy to master, but shot percentages and defender presence can alter a shot, even if you’re hitting the middle of the shot bar every time.
You also have the option to turn the shot bar off completely, which then leaves your player(s) relying on their shooting ability/ratings and defender presence. Shooting percentages will show above the basket, indicating the likeliness of a shot going in at the current spot based on defender presence and shooter ability. Making consecutive shots with a player will see them catch fire. It all works very well together.
Defensively, you watch the action unfold as your CPU opponent tries to work its magic to break your team down and get buckets. You can speed gameplay up on that side of the ball if you want. You have the option within the pause menu to set defensive pressure for each matchup.
Back on offense, play always starts with the ball in the point guard’s hands, so using screens to get him space is a good way to get an open shot for him or one of your other weapons. The ball handler can dribble anywhere on the court and is not limited to movement points as long you make your offensive move within the 24 second shot clock. The ball handler is the only offensive player that will cause the clock to run — off-ball teammates gain movement points for every second that ticks off the game clock while the ball handler is dribbling instead of running the clock. You do have to be careful of defenders, as dribbling into a contested square allows the defense the opportunity to steal the ball from the ball handler.
Icons on both offense and defense help players to identify different things that impact them on both sides of the ball. A target icon above a player’s head is an indication that he is a good shooter. A fist icon means that a respective player is a good dunker. A defender that has a full colored hand beside him will affect your shot accuracy with a possibility of blocking your shot should you choose to take one. A half colored hand on a defender means that he can’t block your shot, but he will still affect your shot accuracy as he is partially contesting your shot.
At the bottom of the screen, you’ll have player stats that will show up for the respective ball handler. Tapping on this area will toggle between the current game stats, player skills or player attributes. As mentioned before, simplicity with controls and execution all work fluidly together. Despite seeming simple, strategy and tactical awareness really play a larger role on the All-Star difficulty. Rookie and pro levels are also available for players to choose from as they become accustomed to the game and get acclimated to how things work.
Under the “customize” option, you can really change the game as a whole and turn it into an unofficial NBA product, which I did. You initially start the game with eight teams, all fictional in name and players. This is where you can go all in or change what you see fit. You have four areas available to alter:
- League Settings – Here you can adjust having either one or two conferences, as well as the amount of divisions per conference (1-4).
- Edit League – Under this option, you can edit the division(s) and conference(s) including their respective names, you can assign teams to conference(s) or division(s), you can add new teams and you can regenerate the player pool.
- Edit Teams – Under this option, as the name implies, you can edit all of the teams that you’ve made available. Team name, uniform colors, court colors, setting the team’s starting five and editing each player on the team is available to be done here. Player editing is also quite robust, allowing you to edit a player’s profile (name, position, age, experience and durability), appearance (skin color, hair style, facial hair, hair color, accessory and accessory color), and attributes (shooting, dunking, dribbling, passing, rebound, stealing and blocking). For player appearance, there are numerous hair style options, which will surprise most people. New styles have also been added in since the game’s initial launch.
- Player Pool – This option allows you to edit all free agents that are available and also allows you to create and edit draft picks. The editing options here fall under the player editor as mentioned above.
The creation suite is really impressive, and improvements have and will be made here with future updates. One key change that I personally suggested to FlyRice that he agreed with and said was in the works will change the way that season mode currently plays out. I won’t divulge more than that, but after playing through quite a bit of my first season, I’ll have no issue starting over with the incoming change as it’ll be key to how I’ll build a squad going forward.
Discord, Updates And Roster Sharing
One neat feature the game also has, directly tying into the customize option, is the ability to join the Hoop League Tactics Discord group right from the customize menu. In the Discord, players discuss the game and have access to FlyRice, as well as other enthusiasts that discuss the game, make suggestions for new potential options, report bugs or glitches, and most importantly share roster creations. This is great to see in a mobile game offering.
The instructions for how to share, download and implement customized rosters is shared constantly in the Discord group and is pretty simple to follow. In order to prepare for this piece, I painstakingly took the time of customizing the initial roster of eight teams and expanding it to be the real NBA, creating the players, teams and courts to match the NBA and its roster at deadline day. I shared my creation on the Discord and received feedback about discrepancies with some player ratings, but it was all constructive and the opinions and feedback were nice to see. It wasn’t toxic as you’d usually see with some AAA titles and their communities.
Continuing on here, the fact that FlyRice is so active within the Discord answering questions, helping new players, taking feedback and making adjustments to the game almost instantaneously is nothing short of amazing. Yes, this is a mobile game and doesn’t command the resources and manpower that a AAA title on consoles would need, but just taking the feedback and criticism from players and then applying them almost immediately is something that could and should be seen and applied by the big players.
FlyRice has and does make updates and changes to the game, which have made it quite the time thief as you try to best figure out how to build your dynasty. A few new features included in the updated version (1.6.2) that I’ve been playing include:
- Added new advanced dribble button to perform step backs and drives
- Added ability to import custom team logos
- Added ability to input hex values for hair color
- Added three new hair styles
Main game features and the game change log can be viewed in-game from initial launch all the way to current version 1.6.2.
It’s clear to me why so many people have already jumped on the Hoop League Tactics train, myself included. It’s a great game with constant and consistent updates, a robust customization suite, and a Discord community that is looking to continue enjoying the product while helping to push it forward. Hoop League Tactics is a fun experience that calls on smart player and roster management, as well as smart plays on the court to deliver championships to your team of choice.
Is Hoop League Tactics a game that you feel draws your interest? Do you see yourself giving it a try or will you pass? Let us know what you think in the comments below.