Football, Tactics & Glory

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Management
Publisher: Toplitz Productions
Developer: Raylight
Release Date: Jan. 22, 2020

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Switch Review - 'Soccer, Tactics & Glory'

by Andreas Salmen on Feb. 18, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Soccer, Tactics & Glory is a football management game for strategy lovers that reinvents the basics of the football management genre making it appealing to everyone, not just hardcore football management aficionados.

When conceptualizing and developing a game idea, one should have an audience in mind: casual players, hardcore gamers, or fans of a certain sport. It's possible to please more than one group, but there's always the risk of satisfying neither. Soccer, Tactics & Glory is such a game, which is apparent from its naming alone, as it's currently also available under the name Football, Tactics & Glory, depending on where you live. It has a lot of exciting potential and fun ideas, but it struggles to find a compelling, cohesive balance that makes sense for the audience. There may still be something here for you if you're looking for a very casual management and tactics experience in the soccer world.

ST&G was originally released on Steam in the summer of 2018, and it has now made its way to the PS4, Switch and Xbox One. The elevator pitch for the game would be the marriage of light sports management aspects, basic RPG systems, and turn-based gameplay in the world of soccer. It may be difficult to imagine without seeing it, but it works surprisingly well as a concept. Most management games like to overwhelm players with stats, tables, and micromanagement — all of which alienate more casual players. It's usually a passive business: managing a team, watching them play, and hoping you have set them up for success. ST&G turns the actual matches into turn-based battles akin to titles like XCOM. While it is an intriguing idea, it doesn't necessarily turn out as well as it could or should have.

Starting our first solo career, we have to choose a team to manage. ST&G is unlicensed, but it goes a long way to alleviate that. The game offers a surprisingly in-depth character editor that enables us to create teams and players from scratch. It's as feature-rich as needed to replicate most things one could dream of from the actual soccer world. Fans have the tools to re-create real clubs and players; otherwise, there is a team for all major clubs in the world, with altered but pretty accurate naming and logo designs. A clear disadvantage of the Switch version is that the PC version supports mods to load in fully licensed data in a short amount of time. If that's important to you, the PC version would be a better fit.

Once a team selection is made, we get to work as the manager of the team. Starting out in the amateur league, we want to climb the ranks and leagues until we've built a world-class team. For the most part, we take a game at a time until we have earned the experience, glory and money required to grow our players into world-class athletes who can compete with the best. As such, we may scout the leagues for better players, assign training to our players to improve their skills, and edit our formation for the next matchup. That is the bulk of the actual management, and it leaves a bit of a sour aftertaste. I appreciate not having to dive into a bottomless pit of stats and decisions with outcomes I can hardly judge or understand, but ST&G goes a bit too far to the other extreme. I can still make minor decisions about which area a player should train in or how they develop within a limited skill tree, but there isn't too much impact I can make from the management end.

The same goes for the rest of the game. Tactics are limited to changing the formation, mostly in relation to the next team you're facing. Facility upgrades are simple purchasing decisions, and the transfer market is little more than that. There is no in-depth scouting or anything of the kind. Instead, there's the ability to acquire player lists that can be purchased. I would've liked more granular control of scouting aspects, simplified player contract negotiations, more outside events that significantly alter the way a season plays out, and more control about how my players train. There's none of that here, so the management part of the game feels pretty flat and shallow most of the time. I would've loved the game to lean slightly more into that while still keeping it simple, so my impact on the team would've felt greater, both on and off the pitch.

On the pitch, ST&G basically boils down to a turn-based soccer game. Both teams take turns to play, each time has three actions, and the timer advances the game clock with every action. There are 30 actions per half-time and 60 in total, so each team has roughly five turns of three actions per half. During each action, we can move exactly one player, regardless of whether we pass, run, shoot, tackle, or use a special skill. That may seem limited, but since the field is 10x7 tiles long, going across the field is relatively easy and quick.

All players have four vital stats: accuracy for shooting, control to keep the ball, defense to gain the ball, and passing. Most movements will depend on these numbers, but perhaps not in the expected way. Like a classic tabletop RPG, every action that requires skill causes a completely random dice roll that is based on the required stats. Balanced RPGs often resort to a healthy amount of randomness (a general dice throw modified by player skills), ST&G takes the number range of your player and generates a random number from it. If my player with a control of 15 is tackled by a guy with a control of 5, the game generates a random number in the range of 1-15 and 1-5, respectively, to compare them and decide the outcome. It certainly isn't unfair, but that means even highly skilled players can be outdone by randomness. It's frustrating and can decrease the fun you'll have with the game.

While all player actions are evaluated that way, the overall flow of the matches is usually quick and fun. When starting out, our players aren't as skilled, so it takes some time and patience to get to the good stuff. Games can be a scramble early on, as players will botch most attempts at ranged loft passes, tackles or shots. Over time, the uncontested actions work with more consistency, so you can get some tactical gameplay going.

The title covers a variety of real-life actions, such as corner kicks, free kicks and penalty shots. The same goes for simplified tactics, such as crossing in the ball, so a central player can attempt to head it into the goal. These may be tough to pull off early on, but before long, they do become viable tactics. On top of that, there are special skills that players can learn over time that can give their team an edge, especially as the team's quality increases and gives you access to a range of special actions, such as cannon shots and the ability to out-dribble opponents. It adds another special tactical component, so if you successfully play the ball across a tile of an opponent with your last move, you can gain a fourth move on your turn to net the ball.

There are a few more nuances, such as energy that players have to regenerate between games, so older players may need more time to rest than younger players. The weather also has an impact on energy consumption, the likeliness of fouls or the success rate of passes. All of these elements are transparent, and we are always aware of what influences players at any point in time.

In summary, it's not a bad system and there's a lot of potential, but it doesn't quite come together. On the positive side, the actual games and seasons are quick to play. The turn-based idea feels ingenious but feels underwhelming in the early stages, as players are barely able to hold a ball long enough or take it where it needs to go. This is somewhat alleviated later on, but the short game times sometimes don't leave room for elaborate plans or strategies. Much of what makes good soccer games great is the very early goal, the back and forth, or the last-minute gasp for the tying score, none of which happens very often due to the slow and deliberate gameplay of a turn-based title. It's a very good proof of concept that never really came together to realize its potential, especially given the lackluster management side.

The rest of the game and presentation is all right. The menus are clean and fine to navigate, with some minor exceptions. There are very thorough manuals, and decent sound effects and music. Graphics are clearly not a focus, so be prepared for blocky and somewhat blurry visuals on the pitch, paired with basic and skippable in-game cut scenes. There is nothing to write home about here, and nothing gets in the way of actually playing it.

There's also not much here in terms of Switch-exclusive functionality. A game like this thrives on the PC, as it is designed with mouse input in mind, so the controller will always feel like a less natural way to control these types of games. I would've loved to see touch-screen controls, which would've made the game more natural to control. The lack of such a system isn't too surprising, since this seems to be a direct port of the PC version with little alteration. At one point, the Switch version even asks you to rate the game on Steam.

As the sum of its parts, Soccer, Tactics & Glory is pretty disappointing, especially since the Switch version retails for $40. Given what is offered, anything above $20 doesn't feel fair, especially since the PC version costs $25 and supports mods. If you're a casual player who likes to get lost but not overly bogged down with micromanagement or elaborate gameplay systems, this is certainly a decent title to potentially sink hours into. The issue is that the title doesn't seem to have a clear picture of what it wants to be. The turn-based battles are too random and short-lived to be exciting, and the management portion is severely underdeveloped. With some more development to work out the kinks and perhaps a price drop, ST&G would be a more well-rounded and decent foray into the world of soccer video games.

Score: 5.9/10

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