Geniaware’s Lords of Football aims to bring lifestyle and sport together to create a unique take on the football management sim. The game opens up the opportunity to not only manage your team on the pitch, but also after-hours where the focus turns to managing your players’ lives. With that in mind, I delved in to find out if Lords of Football really is a great new take on an old genre, or if it leaves me needing some rehab of my own.
Game: Lords of Football
Publisher: Fish Eagle
There’s no doubt that often in our beloved sport, off-the-pitch shenanigans and never-ending news updates regarding player tweeting habits is often a precursor to a big game. This is the idea behind Lords of Football. It recognises that it’s not only the training that can affect the outcome when match day finally arrives, so it gives you the ability to control those out-of-hours influences.
Your main target is to become the ‘champions of Europe’. Before you begin cracking the whip, though, you’ll be asked to select a team to manage from the choice of six national leagues, all of which are without any form of licensing. This goes from player names all the way through to the way leagues and cups are formulated; I chose the English league that was made of only two tiers and several near-but-not-exactly named teams such as ‘Tottenham Wonders’ and ‘Manchester Reds’.
Thankfully, an editing area allows you to change team names, player names and kits before you start, so there is an ability to adjust a few things to your needs. It makes sense to not have real names due to the nature of the game – Wayne Rooney might take offence if his virtual counterpart is repeatedly getting addicted to speed dating. However, having a full competition lineup and real team names would ultimately enhance the appeal for many, so an even more robust editing suite would have been preferable.
Lords of Football definitely shows its influences; from music to presentation of tutorials and voice overs, it’s all very slick and polished (albeit slightly plastic at times). The Sims will come to mind more than once during kit creation and player man-managing by the way player traits are used and the way the models work. The visually pleasing main hub of the game also draws similarities with an open map area split into two halves: one is your football training camp and the other is the town where the players go to let their hair down.
The crux of the gameplay revolves around stat management. All players have two sets of stats – one set for football related ability such as passing, shooting and dribbling etc. Then there’s the more sim-like stats that act as mood, traits and needs. Throughout the sequence of day-time training, night-time activities and finally the matchday itself, you’ll need to keep your players as balanced and as focused as possible to be successful.
The first part of your day will be based in the clubs facilities boosting your players technical stats by placing them into training zones. With a view of the training pitch, you can add zones that represent different training drills and then drop your players into them. Watching and monitoring players as they train and improve is pretty rewarding – little progress bubbles pop up above their heads when they’re learning things, plus several intuitive menus allow you to see what players need to train the most and how they’re feeling about it.
Along with the training pitches, gyms and physio buildings there’s also your main management office. Here you can check on league standings, challenges and the somewhat light transfer market aspect of the game. Sadly, you won’t be able to find your own talent to bring into the club. To find new players you’ll pick three attributes you’re looking for in a new player and add them to a wish list which gets fulfilled when a player is found on your behalf. Same with selling; placing a tick by a player you no longer want is as far as your involvement with any such dealings will go.
The training area is actually superbly implemented. Watching players do laps of the track whilst dumping my midfield on the small pitch to practice passing was empowering. You’ll even have to take some of the more wimpy players inside if it starts raining, which highlights some of the nice touches Geniaware have added to the simulation side of the game. I would have liked to have seen player selection made easier by allowing you to grab players from the menu, plus constant camera changes mean you’ll be annoyingly zooming in and out frequently. Overall those annoyances won’t detract too much though, because you’ll be kept extremely busy trying to man-manage your squad – they’ve made sure of that, even after hours.
That’s because once training time is over, you’ll hear a rather annoying ‘yeah!’ soundbite to signify that your players are off to indulge themselves in the town’s nightlife. Represented by bars in each player’s menu, you’ll be charged with the job of making sure that their needs are fulfilled. To do this you’ll be able to drop them in pubs, discos, speed-dating events and meet-and-greets to name few. It’s easier said than done. Keeping track of everyone is quite a challenge at times and before you know it, your star striker has drank himself into oblivion and gained an addiction. Balance of players’ needs is key; not too much, not too little.
During training sessions you’ll find players who’ve over indulged the night before unwilling to train. At one point a player started a conga-line instead of the gym work I had assigned him – I had to discipline him, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like him more for it. Placing them in the clinic removes the effects of addiction slowly but at the cost of training boosts, whilst punishing them out on the field is a quick-fix in preparation for the next game, which is where all your hard work prevails.
Pre-match you’ll get to dabble with tactics and lineups before moving onto the game itself. There’s a good selection of tactics to change including formations, attacking mentality and passing styles but nothing that’ll really get your head scratching. The developers have really honed in the footballing side of the gameplay mechanics to keep the game as accessible as possible to everyone, not just hardened football fans. This both helps and negates the game, depending on the kind of experience you’ll want to gain from Lords of Football.
The match-day experience gives you some strategy elements which serves as an interesting idea. There’s nothing special about the animations themselves, but it is fully animated which allows the feature of being able to pause the game, then drag players to make runs or passes – a nice change of pace from simply screaming at the screen in hope the CPU might be listening. Smooth mouse operators won’t necessarily guarantee a win, however. Your teams’ mood and stats still make the final decision as whether that pass or shot was successful or not. You won’t be able to do it all game either; a recharging bar dictates when your managerial ‘influence’ can be applied.
Progression comes in the form of unlocking new training zones and upgrades, night time events for your players to attend and eventually winning the European Cup. On a day to day basis in game, however, there’s not a great deal of variety to be found. Most of the game is based around you assessing a player’s stats or mood, then dropping him into the relevant zone or building. Key features that make football management and lifestyle sims fun are particularly thin on both accounts. So whilst Lords of Football’s premise is an excellent one, you won’t find a whole lot of replay value compared to most simulations.
Back in 1992, I was lucky enough to own a copy of the original Championship Manager. It was thin in content, had no licenses, was written in some stodgy programming language and lacked appeal because of its stat/text based interface. Because of that, if there wasn’t more iterations of Lords of Football it would be a real shame, as there’s literally so much potential and room for growth.
Unfortunately, as this point in time, both the football and lifestyle management are someway off of providing an ample amount of depth to really suck fans of either genre in. There is some joy in the new ideas and the game is lighthearted enough to warrant a purchase for intrigued football fans, but despite an initial spurt of originality and fun, you’ll soon be wishing there was a little more under the hood to keep you coming back for more.