The Average Gamer

Lords of Football Preview

gamescom 2012 is all over and we’ve finally recovered from a hectic week of gaming, sausages and, of course, beer. Excessive amounts of beer. So many tiny beers. If only there was some kind of Lord of Journalism to forcibly drop me at the rehab clinic so I’d be ready for the next day’s round of previews…

Yup, that’s the sort of thing you’ll be doing in Lords of Football, a new single-player “lifestyle football simulation game” in the words of Development Director Sean Griffiths. I think it looks bloody brilliant.

It boils down to this: The Sims meets Championship Manager. But not in that “It’s a bit Sims-ish with the town and yeah, there’s a bit of football management in there too” kind of way. The team at Geniaware are far more ambitious than that. This game can be played like The Sims. AND it can be played like Championship Manager.

There are differences, of course. You’re not out to buy nice furniture for your players’ homes and club management activities like player trades are very simplistic. The focus is very much on managing your players’ lives.

In The Clubhouse

Let’s start with the football. Your job is to guide the team to the top of the Premier League and win the European Cup. Screw it up by being relegated from the second division (yes, there are only two) and you lose.

Geniaware have included five of the biggest European footballing nations to choose from: England, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Your country will affect the weather cycles and the architectural style of your home city. There are no licences to provide actual Premier League kits and player likenesses but you can customise your player names and create your own kit, should that be your fantasy. Whatever kit you design, if you’re popular, you’ll find the fans in the stands wearing scarves and shirts to match your kit.

You can have up to 30 players in your club. Each player has two(-ish) sets of stats: the classic footballing stats like dribbling, free kicks, positioning and so on; and the Sims-like personality stats – current mood, training condition, alcohol addiction and more.

When it’s time to trade, you won’t actually be buying and selling players yourself. Instead, you send your agents out searching for specific technical skills and they’ll bring the players back to you.

On The Pitch

During the day, you’ll train your players by splitting the pitch into skills training zones to raise their technical ability and dropping them in. There are also indoor training zones, like a gym for the players who are a little more sensitive to the cold and get grumpy when you train them outdoors. The animation detail is incredible here – every player is there running back and forth to practice whatever you’ve told him to… unless, of course, he’s battling with an addiction.

Come match day and everything changes. The game switches into match mode and now you can set up custom formations, set up attacking styles and generally do all that sexy football management stuff. Once you’re happy with your strategy, hit the magic button and the game plays itself.

Again, it’s fully animated so you can watch your players run around the pitch. Even better, instead of screaming at the screen you can pause the match and give direct orders, telling an individual player where and how hard to kick the ball. Pick the wrong location and it’s entirely possible to drive one of your players offside as he tries to pick up your crappy pass. Of course, if this bores you, you can simply skip the lot and have it spit out the result.

The game is filled with challenges, like maintaining a clean sheet for 10 matches in a row. Each of these will unlock a new feature; perhaps a running track to better train your team’s stamina, or a Brazilian Party will become available in one of the town’s venues. Hopefully not the local spa.

After Dark

When it’s night, your players finish up their training and head out on the town. You could leave them to it but that would be a terrible idea. With bars and restaurants holding wine tasting and disco parties all over the town, there’s all sorts of trouble they can get up to. The personality stats screen will show you if a player is veering dangerously into addiction territory or maybe isn’t having enough fun.

Each venue has a number of themed nights that you can unlock. Should you have a group of players who have maybe been training too hard and not getting enough love, that’s great. Time to set up a speed dating event! Hit the button on one of your town’s restaurants and watch the waiters shuffle all the chairs into rows, ready for your players to meet Mrs Right. Or at least, Mrs Right Now.

Picking Up The Pieces

With 30 players and dozens of stats to track, it’s inevitable that one or two of your more determined players will slip through the cracks and succumb to an addiction. This could get so bad that they’re not able to make the next match, so there are ways to deal with it: punishment or treatment. Punishment is for the urgent cases – the match is tomorrow and your guy is clearly incapable.

Drop the offending drunk into the acupuncture clinic and your kindly doctors will torture him into submission. Sure, he’ll resent you for it and he’ll lose some points off his technical skills but at least he’ll show up for the match. The safer way is to put your guy in rehab to talk through his problems. It’s slower but your player will remain fighting fit.

Lords of Football has been in development for four years and they’ve produced an incredibly detailed game on every level. There’s no release date as the Geniaware are in discussions with publishers but they are hoping to have the PC version out by the end of 2012 with console and Mac versions in the pipeline. From what I’ve seen, any publisher would be mad not to pick it up.

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