[Review] Football, Tactics & Glory – Nintendo Switch

Written by Stephen Hunter
  • Developer: Raylight games, Creoteam
  • Publisher: Toplitz Productions
  • Release Date: 22/01/2020
  • Price: $39.99 / £35.99
  • Review code provided by Toplitz Productions

FOOTBALL MEETS TRPG

Football games in recent years have become very limited, pretty much down to the choice of three titles. The fully licensed football simulator, FIFA. The underdog football simulator, pro evolution soccer (PES). Or the incredibly deep management simulator, football manager. This new title tries to fit somewhere in between the three, offering more management of your football club than FIFA and PES, but not as much as football manager; whilst also offering the option to play your clubs matches unlike football manager. But the twist here is that you do not play matches in the conventional way we’ve become accustomed to with FIFA and PES. In soccer, tactics & glory, the matches are a top down, turn based, tactical RPG. Colour me intrigued.

A PREMISE IN A FOOTBALL GAME?

That’s right, there is some form of story in this game. You the player, are the next exciting youngster coming through the ranks at the top team in the premier league, and as you’re bursting onto the scene, you are unfortunately stricken with a career ending injury. Fast forward a few years, and you are approached by the chairman of a brand-new football club down in the conference league. He is looking for someone with knowledge of football to take the manager role, grow his club, and take it all the way to the top of the premier league. Whilst it is the kind of premise you would see in a straight to DVD movie, it is still nice to see the effort was made.

OVERWHELMING YET UNDERWHELMING

So, now that we’re the manager of this new club, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. Running and upgrading the club, whilst managing and playing matches. The game does a fantastic job with its tutorials, teaching everything in small, easy to understand, bitesize chunks. That applies to both the initially overwhelming TRPG style matches, and the club management side. The minor downside is there is a lot of reading, but I feel pretty confident that anybody interested in this game, and spends the time to read through these tutorials will be able to understand this game and its mechanics with ease. 

Matches are presented on a 7×10 grid, and you never actually start from the kick-off spot. Instead it shows the kick-off through a mini cut scene, and then the match starts with both teams in their formation. Whilst it may sound odd, I think this actually works better for the tactical approach these matches take. For starters, you can only make three actions per turn. I feel this is the perfect amount to balance the game, and later in the game when you unlock certain skills, executing these skills can gain you an extra action, but these skills are exclusive to certain players, giving depth to your decisions and how to execute them best. Starting from the kick off spot with only three actions would make the game feel very slow and somewhat tedious. But now that we know we have a grid, three actions per turn, and skills; how exactly do the matches work? It actually borrows a lot from most TRPG’s in terms of you have a bunch of different stats, and values to those stats, that are then matched up with your opponent’s stats. So typically, you would see the players attack value, versus the oppositions defence value for example. In this game we have: accuracy, passing, defence, and control.

Learning which stats effect which values, and what goes your opponent’s stats is a little confusing at first (though the tutorial does a fantastic explanation) and you’ll initially find yourself fumbling through matches, and feeling accomplished as you making just the right amount of actions to break through the team and score. The problem I found is that once you understand what you’re doing, there’s actually a lack of depth, and a little too much reliance on luck, so later on when you’re up against the better teams with your poor players, there’s almost zero chance of you winning.

This is regardless to how good of a player you are. The reason for this, is how it randomly generates a number from yours and your opponent’s stats. For example, if your accuracy is fifty, and the goalkeepers defence is forty, the game will randomly generate a number between one and that top value number. So, although I have a much better stat, there’s still a fair chance I could lose out. I do understand the developers’ logic behind this, but it takes the strategy side out of the game and replaces it with pot luck. But in their defence when starting a new game, you have the option to change the RNG type to ‘expected’, this makes the random number generated start from 30% of the max value, instead of one. Whilst it sounds like using easy mode, it honestly makes the game feel a lot better and helps bring the strategic thinking back to the forefront.

CLUB CRITICISM

Outside the matches we have the club itself. I honestly expected a little more on this side, but to me it’s reminiscent of earlier FIFA titles, where we can upgrade the stadium, scouts, and coaching staff, along with tweak the team line up and player positions etc; along with buy and sell players on the transfer market. The issue is how it executes this side of things. To begin with, the team selection side gives you the ability to move players around within their position, (so midfielders can be moved anywhere around the centre of the pitch, attackers the front end of the pitch etc) but although the game prompts me to do so, I cannot figure out for the life of me how to change the team formation!

Then we have the upgrade issues. The stadium and youth scouts are upgraded with money, a lot of money. The issue is the reward/upgrade for spending so much is so small. I understand they were trying to go with realism in terms of costs, but these miniscule upgrades really feel put in place to drag the game out more than anything else. The coaches however, are not upgraded with money, they are upgraded through glory points. Glory points are earned very slowly as you can only earn them through goal difference (e.g. winning 3-0 would grant you three glory points) or through end of season achievements such as having the top scorer in the league, most assists, etc. With these glory points being so scarce, I wanted a fairer upgrade system.

To explain, all upgrades go up to five stars, and each upgrade will increase the rating by half a star. Just half. Upgrades cost depending on your difficulty setting, range from 7-15 glory points. My biggest problem being that buying one upgrade for any given coach will increase the cost of the next purchase for all of the coaches. If you buy the first upgrade for a goalkeeper coach for example, that same first purchase for a defensive coach, or midfield coach etc, that will now cost you double the glory points. The more you upgrade, the more costly smaller upgrades cost. It feels really unbalanced, and much like earlier, just a way to pad the game length out.

My final criticism is the transfer market. You have no control over what players will be available in the transfer market, or any ability to search for a type of player. You can upgrade your scouts, which offers better players, but there’s still no control over what type of players will show up. Cost is a big issue as well, with even the poorest of players costing a decent amount. But as I learnt the hard way, buying players is at your own risk. Not long after your first season, you’re very suddenly informed that many of your current players are running out of contract, and renewing these contracts is just as expensive as buying a new player. The overarching criticism here is that there are balancing issues throughout the club side.

THE GOOD GAME

Thankfully not all is bad in this game. I do quite like the levelling system put in place for the players. After every match, all players will gain experience towards both their next level, and learning a new skill. The top three performers will also gain an additional boost of experience points. Seeing players get increased attributes once levelling up, and seeing them acquire new skills, does actually make me quite eager to jump back into a match and see their new found capabilities. Pulling off skills, and making good strategic choices does feel very satisfying when you pull it off, so having higher attributes and new skills only helps that further.

The whole game is very customisable as well. So, whilst it doesn’t have the licenses to use real player names, clubs, crests, kits, and all the rest of it. You can spend as much time as you want customising everything to make it at least feel like a fully licensed game from players faces, to their names, how kits look, club names etc. I do really like that this is included.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Soccer, tactics & glory has all the potential to be a fantastic light pick up and play football game, that slots right into the middle of the big three titles currently dominating the market. But the balancing issues, needless padding, and shallower systems (such as the transfer market) need a lot of tweaking and polish. It is by no means unplayable, and the interesting TRPG style matches are definitely worth checking out, but not for its current price point unfortunately. But there is definitely potential here.

PROS

  • Interesting TRPG style gameplay
  • Good levelling system
  • Very customisable

CONS

  • Unbalanced and padded upgrade system
  • Shallow transfer market system
  • Over reliance on luck

Verdict
An interesting take on a football game, with good potential. But needs more thought and polish throughout.
2.5/5

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