Last August, during Gamescom, I saw Lords of Football for the first time. I confess I went to the presentation mainly to meet Gianluca Vialli. I'm a Juventus supporter, and I couldn't miss the opportunity to meet one of the idols of my childhood. However, alongside the pleasure of taking a picture with Vialli, I found an entertaining video game dedicated to football.
Of course, in the few minutes of a presentation we can't understand all the pros and cons of the game. But I left the room with a positive feeling. Football Manager and The Sims are two excellent games, and the idea of combining two such different concepts seemed interesting.
With these positive memories in my head, I started to play the final version of the game. Fortunately, the concept that fascinated me at Gamescom has remained unchanged. This is a game that combines some aspects of the simulation and management genres, all within a framework that reminds me of some God games. More than The Sims and Football Manager, in fact, the game reminds me of the old Black or White.
Lords of Football asks us to be God. A god-coach, but also a magnanimous or vindictive god. In addition to coaching the players by giving them certain tasks on the training ground, we must in fact cure their physical or mental conditions through various therapy sessions. We must give them the right amount of spare time, allowing them to roam the city at nightfall. And finally, we must return them to the right path if their passions turn into vices. We can decide whether to punish or treat them, to the detriment of their mental or physical health.
Each player has a personal card that includes several physical characteristics classified with a score from 1 to 100. The numbers may vary depending on the status of the player: an untrained midfielder may show a series of red numbers next to their attributes. In this case, it is appropriate to start some specific training sessions. Conversely, a well-nurtured player can even get higher scores than his standard, with green-colored figures denoting his additional fitness.
In addition to the physical attributes, the player card also shows the state of his health, his behavioural characteristics and, above all, his needs. At this point the game becomes very close to the old The Sims 2: each player must have some fun. He needs to drink, eat, dance, and so on. To meet his needs, come nightfall the player can be sent to a few specific locations of the city, which are able to satisfy his human needs but may, as mentioned, cause them to develop an addiction.
Aside from being the "god" of the players, the coach has no major commitments. You may decide the tactics to use during a match through a very intuitive menu, and you may even ask the Chairman to buy and sell players. In the game, however, there isn't too much to worry about with the economic aspects of football. There is no budget, there are no sponsors, no contracts to sign or resign: in short, the managerial aspects of Lords of Football are cut to the bone.
At the end of each day, there is a match. Here Lords of Football is transformed in a radical manner. At this point you can passively follow the game, skip it by clicking on "simulate" or use a function that allows you to literally draw tactics on the field. With a few taps of the mouse you can tell the player in possession of the ball to pass to another player. Then, you can ask for a sprint and even for a shot at a precise point of the goal.
This system gives enormous advantages to the player who, with their on-field directions, can determine the outcome of a game. At the same time, however, the real-time tactics consume an energy bar and, consequently, you cannot always use them, and sometimes you are forced to let the players act on their own will.
As you may have noticed, there's a lot of irons in the fire. Overall, the combination of all these elements creates a varied game, with so many good ideas present. The problem of Lords of Football, though, is that it does not excel in any of the aspects that characterise it. The training sessions are simple and little in the way of customisation. The days are too short, and the fact that it is mandatory to play one game per day makes it impossible to understand the true development of your players. The needs of the characters are few and not very original. It is all too easy to maintain the balance of your team. The games are too easy when you use the tactics in real-time. In short, after a few hours of gameplay you start to do the same operations in a mechanical way, turning the fun into boredom.
And it's a shame, because from a technical standpoint the game is very good. Sure, there isn't the bombastic graphics of FIFA or PES, but overall the presentation is good, the music is appropriate and the few voice acting is very nice.
Lords of Football is a half-successful game. If only it had been a bit more complex, with more personalised workouts, a more detailed tutorial, longer days and, above all, with a clear timetable of your commitments (without the annoying mechanics that force you to always play a game at the end of the day), it would've become an excellent video game.
To be an indie title dedicated to football simulation, Lords of Football is certainly an example to imitate. I hope that the guys at Geniaware will take this game as a starting point to create a deeper sequel, where we will really immerse ourselves in the experience of this sport, transforming us into a "Lord of Football".