Petulant footballers aren’t necessarily a new thing. We’ve all perused red-top stories about sex scandals, drunken debauchery and Ashley Cole nearly swerving his car off the road because Arsenal only offered him a weekly wage of £55,000 instead of £60,000 when renegotiating his contract.
However, in the video game realm we rarely see this play out. Sure, Football Manager does integrate some elements of dealing with childish behaviour from your squad, but not in the same way that Italian developer Geniaware has attempted to with their effort, Lords of Football. Sold on the premise that it’s a life simulation game along with a managerial title, Lords of Football tries to mesh two polar opposite genres and create something special. They haven’t. This is more Lionel Blair than Lionel Messi.
The beautiful game has never been presented like this before. Gamers don’t just assume the role of gaffer – they’re babysitter, tactician, PR man and so much more. From the outset, players choose a team from one of the top two leagues in five different countries and, although there are no licensed clubs or players, kits, badges and player names can be edited to your liking. It’s not ideal, but it’s a decent workaround that Geniaware have produced given that they don’t have the same luxuries as their counterparts.
Harkening back to the days of Black & White and Populous, Lords of Football is both a managerial sim and, effectively, a God game. Gameplay is split into two sections: training/socialising and match day. The earlier is the more ambitious, yet disappointing, of the two. Set across a landscape which features a main office, clinic, small and main pitch, running track and more, at first glance, one could be easily fooled into thinking that there’s a lot on offer here.
The training/socialising aspect is split into day & night, and during office hours you are basically running the football club. However, it never goes quite far enough. The transfer market, for example, is horribly designed because there is no function to just bid on players. Instead, you must detail some attributes you’re looking for in a random prospect and wait for a list of compatible strikers, defenders et al. That would be a fine addition to the more traditional structure in football games, but as the only option, it fails miserably.
During training hours, the pitch can be sectioned off into quadrants catered to advance passing ability, set-pieces and every other drill you can think of. As you progress through the game, the President of the club will upgrade the facilities at your disposal if you achieve certain goals that he asks of your squad. These aforementioned facilities are paramount to your success as a top-flight manager as soon as your group of lads start painting the town red.
Once the sun sets and you’ve called time on the day’s work, players have a whole host of distractions that can affect their playing ability, or even their mental state. Discos, pubs, restaurants, fan clubs and even a local radio station are all part of what makes Lords of Football what it is. Your team are a fickle bunch of human beings and need to be mollycoddled in order to bring out the best in them. Some of your players will prefer to spend the night dancing, others will be sex-crazed deviants, whilst some just like a quiet dinner, and in order to please them you must place them in situations that fit their interests.
Too much partying and players will become addicted to their vice and will have no interest in training. It may be an interesting concept, but the execution is feeble. At the beginning of a new day, notifications will pop up on-screen informing you of players that would rather eat ham sandwiches or plough through a few adult beverages, rather than attend training. The answer? Drag them in to the clinic and it’ll sort itself out. You can also punish players in various, humiliating ways, but it all feels lacking. Sadly, there’s no true interaction here and alternative ways of dealing with players are not explored enough.
But, this is a football game and it must be said that match days follow a more common format. Aspiring coaches can set up the formation and mentality of their first 11 within the mediocre tactical editor that isn’t all that robust, but does enough to get by. Once it’s time for kick off, Lords of Football shows itself for what it truly is – a poor imitation. There are two options before a ball is kicked: simulate the match and be given an instant result with the click of a button, or play a plodding, slow, ugly match where your influence is damn near non-existent.
As your team try and grind out victory, managers can shout instructions from the sidelines. One of the many problems here is that play has to be stopped, players highlighted, and orders given before you resume. It’s a painfully slow process, where once you’ve given commands – more often than not – the players will either attempt the pass far too late, or they’ll dance to the beat of their own drum and decide what the best move is, without taking into account your wishes. There is a counter-attack and defend command that can be issued on-the-fly that works much better, but any desired move that’s a bit more complex is a pointless exercise.
On the audio side of things, there is a certain charm to the music. On first listen, it’s chirpy and upbeat but will soon become just as repetitive as the gameplay and the same goes for the irritating drone that’s meant to replicate crowd noise during matches . On top of all that, Lords of Football is not cutting edge in terms of visuals. Crass character models, peculiar animations and a match engines that may as well be something plucked from a late 90’s EA Sports title, the sheen is missing on this one.
VERDICT: It’s difficult to figure out who this game is marketed toward, because Lords of Football tries to pluck elements from very different genres and become all things to all men, yet fails on almost every count. For God games, there’s far better out there. For management sims, there’s far better out there. Geniaware can be commended for thinking of an original idea that could have some legs if it was more refined, but they certainly can’t be patted on the back for reinventing a genre with this title.
AWFUL. Ugly, lazy, and unpleasant, if we’ve scored a game so low then it has serious issues. A 3/10 game will suffer from a combination of uninspired, lacklustre design, unfixed bugs and poor presentation.