Fantasy football is for sissies. In fact, according to Italian football legend, Gianluca Vialli, the tactical side of management represents far less than just 25 per cent of the job and both he and Geniaware are going to show you why with the latest and most original soccer sim to date.
Based as much around what goes on off the pitch as on it, Lords of Football throws gamers into the jacket and tie of a modern day gaffer with all of the man management thrown in on top. The upshot is an intriguing mixture of the SIMS meets Football Manager but with neither the intense micro-management of the former nor the heavy menus of the latter to deter the more casual gamer, as Vialli explained when Pocket-lint went in for a sneak preview of the soon to launch title.
“I think this is as close to the real thing as you can get. Managing a football club involves many, many activities. It’s not just about signing players. You need to deal with psychology, and keep them happy, and make sure that they get on with each other, and the press, and the fans, and the chairman and also their private lives.”
While Lords of Football still allows the user to physically train players with a choice of drills both to create and drag 'n drop them into, and select tactics to a reasonable degree; it’s what’s referred to as “the night phase” that separates it from your run of the mill title.
“Nowadays you know that what they do with their private lives effects the way they play. So as a manager you want to be able to try to control that as well.”
You can choose to take the footballers out to the pub, the nightclub, a strip bar, out to dinner with their families or just force them to stay at home instead, and all of this is part of walking a tricky line between keeping morale high and ensuring that the individuals of your squad don’t start picking up habits that might ruin their game. In fact, tendencies to develop addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling and the like are skewed depending upon whether its Spain, Germany or England that’s the backdrop to your career. Funnily enough, there are no real player names used and no prizes for guessing that it’s booze that turns out to be the primary vice in English players.
The game starts as you take over the role of the boss of a team in the bottom division with stadium and training facility to match and, naturally, it’s your job to take your motley crew from zeros to heroes and, if you’re good enough, up to the highest heights of European glory. You never get to sign any of the players. That’s all up to the chairman and, if you want to get rid of the trouble makers or pick yourself up a new hot shot, then the only way to convince the owner to do that is by completing a number of match-based challenges - ‘win me the next three games and you’ll get what you want’ etc.
It’s a similar situation with the fans if you’re looking to get them on your side, and you’ve also plenty of right answers to choose at press conferences if you want the media to give you a fair ride. Fail to appease the right people at the right time and you’ll get the sack. Game over. Start again.
For those more interested in the strict footballing side of things, you do get to patrol the technical area of the 6-minute matches shouting from the sidelines to instant effect.
“I knew about other games on the market and I felt that there was a gap to fill,” says Vialli who decided to add financial backing to the project which was started over three years ago.
“There are great games out there. They all focus on certain aspects but none of them are the complete picture. This one shows you everything. And it’s easy to play. Good for all; the hardcore gamer, football fans but also non-gamers too.”
Lords of Football was supposed to be ready at around this time but the beginning of the 2011/12 has come and gone and there's still no word on its arrival. Fingers crossed, we'll be seeing it in time for Christmas.
You can follow the developments of Lords of Football on the game's blog.