For the last few years now, MLB The Show’s Diamond Dynasty mode has cemented itself as the cream of the crop when it comes to the ubiquitous card-collecting modes that, whether we like it or not, are now an integral part of all sports video games. The biggest way that DD has been able to set itself apart from all of the others is by rewarding those who are willing to put in the time to grind rather than having a credit card be a prerequisite if you want to compete with the top teams. This Diamond Dynasty mode review will dig into plenty of elements beyond that fact, but it’s important to note from the start that this element remains intact.
With that in mind, it’s also easy to say the king stays the king this year. Showcasing even more ways to play using varied lineups, in both single player and multiplayer matches, Diamond Dynasty has evolved into an umbrella under which a plethora of game modes are at your disposal to help you achieve smaller and larger goals that are tangible if you’re only willing to put in the effort. Regardless of how much time you have on your hands and whether you want to compete against the CPU or other people online, there’s always an option in Diamond Dynasty to satisfy your baseball cravings. And in a time of uncertainty where real-life baseball has been put on hold and large swaths of us have been quarantined in our homes, it’s no stretch to say that it’s something we need more than ever this year.
The biggest new addition to Diamond Dynasty in MLB The Show 20 is Showdown, a single-player mode that works something like a combination between Battle Royale and Moments. At the outset, you’re tasked with drafting a base squad that can gradually be improved upon by completing a series of challenges out on the field. If you aren’t successful in completing some of these challenges, it won’t necessarily end your journey but it does mean that you’ll lose the valuable opportunity to improve your squad via players and perks. This becomes a greater problem when you eventually come up against challenges that will actually put an end to your entry if you don’t succeed at them because your team could be at a severe disadvantage if you enter them lacking upgrades.
The ultimate goal is to get to a Final Showdown that will have you square off against a formidable pitcher like Max Scherzer to complete a challenge. The game mode allows you at any time to skip all of the preceding challenges and get right to the Final Showdown but, of course, this will then be harder to complete if you haven’t bolstered your team with the better players and perks along the way.
The ultimate rewards for completing the Final Showdown will depend on which type of Showdown you happen to be playing. As of now, there’s one that will earn you a whopping 70 program stars towards the 1st Inning Program that’s available to grind at launch, but you can also play Showdowns that will help you to complete Team Affinity programs if there’s a certain team or perhaps a player from a team that you’re targeting. Regardless of which kind of Showdown you choose, it’s an innovative concept for a mode that’s challenging in how it forces you to use some strategy in building your lineup, and employing your assortment of perks while also keeping things fresh and fun by by exposing you to some new cards that are not a part of your regular collection.
A popular mode among people who like their baseball played in smaller portions (and not as popular among those easily frustrated), Moments are back in MLB The Show 20. However, there are not quite as many as them at launch as there was last year. For one thing, the 1st Inning Program does not have the assortment of moments that the inning programs typically contained last year. They’ve seemingly been replaced entirely by the new Showdown mode that, to be fair, functions like a series of Moments.
For the time being then at least, the only true Moments to be found are introductory ones that are designed to show how they work exactly (and help you acquire an 83 gold George Brett card), a set for the always controversial Created Players, another for Team Affinity programs (one for each team), and finally a group for Evolution players. (By the way, if you want Stubs and XP, knocking out those Team Affinity moments will get you a nice little haul.)
The catch is that in order to complete the Evolution moments, you have to first obtain the necessary starting card for each player in your XP rewards. This wouldn’t be quite so bad if those cards weren’t only available at every 100 levels of XP. So while you can get the first one pretty easily at bronze level 10 and play its accompanying moments, it’ll be a long while before you’re able to get the next one at silver level 10 or the one after that at gold level 10.
All fans of the board game Risk! will be happy to know that Conquest makes a triumphant return in MLB The Show 20, with three separate maps that can be completed at launch. The single-player mode has you playing (and simulating) 3-inning games against the CPU while trying to take over territories and ultimately strongholds from rival teams.
Of the three maps currently available, the easiest to do is a small one where you only have to beat the Nationals and Cubs in order to obtain a silver Tim Tebow card that is surprisingly effective (who knew Tebow had that kind of power?). A larger map can be conquered in order to earn 30 valuable program stars towards the 1st Inning Program, and the biggest map with all the MLB teams across North America on it will take the longest to tackle but will reward you with a diamond Willie Mays card for your efforts.
Ranked Seasons & Battle Royale
There aren’t really any ground-breaking online modes within Diamond Dynasty this year, but then again, there wasn’t really anything wrong with the few options the game had last year for those who prefer to compete against others instead of the CPU. There is a tab for PS4 Tournaments but it’s little more than a tease at this point as there aren’t currently any events listed there, so it’s hard to get a sense of how exactly they will work until further notice.
Ranked Seasons and Battle Royale remain the bedrock of Diamond Dynasty’s online play. The former is where you put the squad that you’ve built through various means to the real test against other players in full 9-inning games. As you win games, you’ll be able to ascend the ranks from the initial sub-100 levels of Spring Training all the way to the elite 900-plus heights of World Series and earn rewards along the way. It’s not uncommon for the initial games at the Spring Training level to be HR contests thanks to them being played on lower difficulties complete with lower pitch speeds, but things start to be a little more competitive as you scale to higher levels of play where the difficulty gradually increases.
Battle Royale remains an ideal mode for those who don’t really have the time to devote to 9 innings and would instead prefer a speedy 3-inning affair. Its draft format also gives people the opportunity to strategically decide what kind of strengths and, perhaps even more crucially, weaknesses you want from your team while also allowing you to try out some highly coveted cards that you might not otherwise get a chance to use without shelling out some serious Stubs. If you’re good enough to string together some wins without losing twice, you’ll earn better rewards for your hot streak.
Both modes have been made a little bit more interesting because your starting pitcher is no longer a random selection. Instead, you now make the call yourself, but fatigue will play a key role in your decision. As it stands, the fatigue is such that you can probably get by with just two or three good starters, but here’s hoping they patch that in the future to force people to use their entire rotation.
Events & Custom Leagues
It’s a little early still to tell where Events will go throughout the cycle of MLB The Show 20, but the one thing that appears clear from the outset is that rewards will work a little differently than last year. The first event, titled The Show Goes On, tasks you with accumulating wins in 3-inning games with a squad rated 85 OVR or under. The rewards function more like those in the inning programs or XP progression, as increasingly better ones unlock as you rack up those wins, with new rewards all the way up to as many 100 wins in events before April 2. While it initially seems as if this will have it take longer to get the premium rewards, at least there are lesser rewards that you can get so you don’t feel like you’ve wasted your time if you can’t get to the bigger ones.
Even though Custom Leagues are entirely separate from Diamond Dynasty, it’s worth mentioning that this new mode does allow you to organize entire leagues around your squads. This should be an exciting way to compete against others, especially since you can set an overall maximum for squads within the league, and you’ll be able to immediately add newly unlocked cards to your lineup, even in the middle of a season.
Programs & XP Reward Path
By and large, there doesn’t appear to be many major disparities in how the programs and XP work in Diamond Dynasty when compared to last year except, of course, that the rewards themselves are going to be a little different throughout. It’s especially appreciated how often both program and XP path rewards provide you with some sort of choice in card rewards, thus ensuring at least a little bit of variety in the lineups you’ll face among your opponents. There’s no shortage of packs that you’ll earn no matter how you prefer to play the game, and it should come as no surprise that everyone’s bound to experience varying degrees of pack luck that runs the spectrum from “nothing but silvers and bronzes” to “oh my god, I got Mike Trout!” As someone who rarely gets anything good in packs, I must say that I feel pretty fortunate to have at least found a 91 OVR diamond Jeff Bagwell in a regular pack.
Team Affinity rewards follow neatly along the same lines as program and XP rewards with plenty of ways to unlock packs and valued cards. By completing missions, collections and moments to accumulate points, you’ll unlock better and better rewards from any team in the MLB. You can earn the most points, however, by playing as a specific team in an improved March to October mode that has you playing out key moments from throughout a season while trying to lead them to a pennant race. It’s this kind of canny integration of modes that really highlights the ingenuity on display in the way Diamond Dynasty is arranged.
It’s a little hard to imagine what someone might think would even be lacking in Diamond Dynasty when considering how much it has to offer at this point. It’s possible that perhaps there could be a little more clarity in how some of the rewards feed into other rewards from a purely presentation standpoint, but it’s still considerably less confusing than trying to figure out all the different sets and types of currency that something like Madden Ultimate Team offers.
The mode has done an admirable job of trying to appease absolutely everyone who would care to try the mode, with plenty of ways to play for both online and offline players alike, especially with the addition of Showdown mode to give offline players more to do besides Conquest and Moments. Similarly, the introduction of Custom Leagues involving Diamond Dynasty teams provides online players with a new avenue to compete, and the promise of upcoming tournaments only further ups the ante.
It may be early in the year still and there are plenty of competitors for the crown to come, but for a game that already had the best card-collecting mode in 2019, there’s plenty of reasons here that make me believe Diamond Dynasty will keep MLB The Show 20 ahead of the pack this year as well.