Publisher: Fish Eagle
Rating: RP (PEGI) / U (ESRB)
Football is a strange creature. It’s the most popular sport in the world in every respect, having the most participants and viewers. On the other hand it is one of the most controversial things you will ever encounter. Popularly known as being full of prima donnas only barely kept in check by their managers. Having spent my time as the manager of the Barnsley Dogs I’m going to tell you what I think about my latest job as the Lord of Football.
To be quite honest I didn’t know what to expect when coming in. Would this be The Sims with a few games of footy thrown in, or Football Manager with volatile player personalities delved into a little more deeply? It turns out that it’s more football than Sims, not having much in the terms of controlling every little aspect of players lives, but also not giving you full control of all club management.
This does mean it’s a little more realistic than other management games. You don’t get to decide things like the exact players to buy and sell, nor the development of club assets like the grounds, facilities and stadium. Your purview as manager only extends to the tactical, training and selecton of your squad and also the man-management of the players themselves. Inevitably though, you answer to the chairman and everything depends on results.
When starting you’re able to select your team from the top two divisions of five countries: England, Spain, France, Italy and Germany. Of course, due to what are probably outrageous licensing fees, none of the clubs or players are properly named. This can lead to an amusing scenario where you see the El Classico between the Barcelona Marvels and the Madrid Kings where the top scorer is called El Mago. Everybody knows which teams they are really and who the players are meant to be. None of that really bothers me, but if it is a problem then the team selected can be renamed and the kit changed.
The game is divided into two sections, pre-match and match. Pe-match is by far the largest and it takes up the vast majority of time. This is also seperated into two further portions, Day and Night. During the day you have the club to manage. The core part of this is arranging the training offered at the facilities and which players will do what. You do this by first allocating a section of your pitch, gym or elsewhere to a specific area of training – passing, aerial, spot-kicks and so on – and then picking up and dropping the player on that section.
There are methods of selecting groups of players for allocating through a sort of selection tool. This tool allows you to display a players role in the squad (Goalkeeper, Defender, Midfielder or Attacker), their ability most in need of training to even their preferred social activity and if they are currently addicted to something. What I will say though is that I found this method incredibly unintuitive – selecting half the bloody team when I only wanted to select half my strikers and getting frustrated as a result. I can’t completely blame Geniaware for this though as my own personal ham-handedness and unwillingness to read or watch a tutorial will be a factor.
Outside of training are another number of aspects to your role as manager. The main office is your key administrative building. This is where you can indicate to your chairman what sort of players you’re looking for in the next transfer window and who you’re happy to let go of. In addition the main office is where you can find out your position in competitions, your fixture list and also how close you are to meeting any challenges set. These challenges are the way for you to extend and improve your clubs fixed assets like the gym, pitch, physio and such. A challenge can be as simple as keeping twenty clean sheets or scoring fifty goals. The only downside to this is that there is no monetary value put on anything. From what I can tell, finances are simply ignored.
This extends across to the players as well. I’ve yet to see a player unhappy about his contract or anything money related. I suppose in some clubs the manager never gets to even voice an opinion on details like a players contract, but it just feels strange not having that information available, even as an intangible figure. It’s especially strange that the players never voice an opinion on it. What the players do have though are a number of vices, each of them more susceptible to a particular one based on their preferred after-hours activity.
After training it’s time for a social life. You can drop your players on specific social activities from going gambling to simply going out on the pull or leave them to their own devices. The only problem with this is, as they are known for in the real world, footballers are an impulsive and somewhat petulant bunch. Allow them to indulge too much & get too relaxed and they don’t want to train, you then have to drop them in the clinic to help get them over their addictions. Leisure time and training time aren’t just limited to the specific times of the day as well, meaning you can cancel training altogether if you so please and give them the day off, or keep them training at night and keeping them away from a social life which does make them very unhappy.
Everything you’ve done to train your men and keep them happy will pay off when it comes to match day. During the match you have very limited control over your men. Your tactics will determine the basic way they will play, but their abilities will be the key factor. You do get to make a few calls if you see a tactical opportunity. There is a sort of energy bar that refills itself. If you have the energy to do so, you can pause the game and select any one of your players and give them a command to fulfill. A full energy bar will give you three or four commands so it’s best to use them wisely. The bar isn’t slow at filling up, but it takes long enough for a chance to be lost. The limited control of your men, your formation and tactical decisions, your training regime to even the subs you decide to make – all of them seem to make a difference and it is a good feeling when you become competitive.
What I do especially like about LoF is the visual aspect. While not exactly of the same detail as The Sims it still looks good and has a nice charm to it. Being able to get up close on your players training or even just the surrounding town can also draw you in and makes it a little more personal than the distance of Football Manager. The only downside is that the town feels rather lifeless. While there are people around, everything and everybody depends on your players to have some fun. Another issue is that if you pay attention to the crowd and random people, it’s very noticeable that people have a large number of identical siblings.
Their lives, your choices. That’s the slogan shown at the end of every session of Lords of Football. This is sort of true. While it definitely is their lives, albeit seemingly a simplistic interpretation of a footballer, you only have limited choices. Of course this is a first, I’ve never really encountered anything that tries to tackle this aspect of the beautiful game.
Is it perfect? Of course not. It’s strange to jump from Football Manager to this, expecting more control but not getting it. It’s not even the most detailed of Sims games. It feels like a bit of a satire on the interpretation of footballers a lot of the time. At the core though, it is a good game and it’s interesting and fun to play, even if due to the low number of leagues it is limited once you are the strongest team.