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Soccer Story

Soccer Story

Free football from corporate overlords in this pixel RPG.

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There's a real sense of football fever going around right now. The World Cup is ongoing and teams are starting to be eliminated from the quad-annual tournament, and living in the UK at a time where we have a genuinely competitive team that could make a run in the knockout bracket means that everyone, everywhere up and down the country is tuning in to follow the Three Lions as they continue their campaign. And this also means that due to this fever, football is everywhere you look, even in video games and not just FIFA for that matter.

PanicBarn has decided to capitalise on the moment by debuting its pixel RPG, Soccer Story, a game that takes place in a fictional world where football has been outlawed and is now controlled by corporate overlords. The idea is to use the powers of a magic football to create a team and then travel the land winning cups all so you can challenge the corporate mega team and ultimately free football from its grim subjugation. And for those wondering, Soccer Story is not a sequel to Sidebar Games' Golf Story, the pair just happen to look and sound very similar.

HQ

Now you might be wondering how exactly you could make an RPG out of a concept like this. Well, the idea is to explore the world, complete various challenges, all to earn tokens that can be used on members of your team to enhance their footballing skills; speed and stamina, strength for tackling, shot accuracy and power, and passing skill. This premise of progression works very well, and as you have more than just your protagonist to keep tabs on there's an element of decision making in how you spend your tokens among the team, as otherwise you will have one Messi-calibre player, and then a bunch of League 2 amateurs backing them up, which we all know is a recipe for disaster. So, you might decide, for example, to boost your striker's shot skill, but use strength tokens on defenders, to be able to better protect your goal. The choice is up to you though, of course.

The narrative is expectedly bizarre and far-fetched. It's hard to really take it seriously, but that does feel like the point of it a lot of the time, which means it's the gameplay where the game has to excel. While I do think there are strengths in the streamlined and tight progression, the actual exploration and football mechanics are less impressive.

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The exploration and world design to start with is very repetitive. Sure, you have a lot of free reign in how you explore and tick off quests, but the majority of quests revolve around checklist activities, i.e. scoring in hidden goals, smashing red targets, dribbling from one point to another, collecting a bunch of items, and so forth. After around an hour of doing these tasks, the charm wears off and it feels like Soccer Story has already revealed its match strategy.

Soccer StorySoccer Story

And this isn't helped by the strange football gameplay mechanics. The running, passing, and tackling all work fine, but it's the shooting that lacks. Especially in the open world. You'll have to use your footy skills to complete tasks, with most revolving around shooting at objects or goals, and as the game's perspective never changes, shots become increasingly frustrating to land with precision, which becomes a problem during timed-activities. There was one instance that caused me a lot of grief, where I was expected to protect swimming children from oncoming sharks by kicking a ball at them. The issue was that the side-perspective made targeting very challenging, and the multitude of sharks at once made for a rage-inducing recipe.

The actual football matches are also a strange dynamic, as they go from being far too hard, to far too easy. As soon as you get a few upgrades for your team, you'll become essentially unstoppable, beating opponents 8-0 on a frequent basis. Add to this the lack of direction in where you need to go, which is often very needlessly specific to unlock the next key narrative dialogue sequence, and if this wasn't enough, then there's the bugs, which makes matters even more challenging. Between crashes and challenges not completing, to players getting stuck during football matches, and more, it can be very off-putting.

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Soccer StorySoccer Story

Which is a shame because there are some interesting and entertaining elements to be found in Soccer Story. The idea is a unique one, the way that football has been incorporated into exploration has potential, the world design is vibrant and crammed with activities, and the progression creates a degree of connection with your team. The problem is that there's just too much holding this game back for these areas to shine, and that's a shame as there is literally no better time than the present for a game like this to arrive and take the world by storm.

05 Gamereactor UK
5 / 10
+
Vibrant world. Football mechanics show potential. Progression is well integrated.
-
Buggy. Quest design is far too repetitive. Storyline quickly falls to the wayside.
overall score
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Soccer Story

REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

Free football from corporate overlords in this pixel RPG.



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