Review: Space Leagues19 Jun 2018 0
Review: Space Leagues
Released 23 Mar 2018
Many years ago, there was a bit of a trend for computer game companies to include a novella with their latest big release. Whether the main reason for this was to enrich player immersion or to help justify the ridiculously large boxes popular at the time is a moot point. Space Leagues may not include an actual novella, but it does have a very wordy background story. If you opt for the long version, then you may want to settle back with tea and biscuits. There is a shorter version, or you can just stick with my even more abridged account - Evil is decimating the universe, which leads to surviving galaxies setting up space leagues to ensure the development of superior combat strategies.
Space Leagues is a fantasy sports management game, in which the sport involves bashing the bejesus out of the opposing team. The first team to eliminate all of the opposition players by draining their health bars to zero is declared the winner. If both teams still have active players when time runs out, then the match is declared a draw. There are four leagues, each with ten teams, who, during the course of a season, will play each other twice. The team that finishes top in each of the lower leagues is promoted, whilst the bottom-placed team is relegated.
Each team is made up of a group of oddball characters, from giant tics to steam-powered golems and pretty much everything in-between. There are over 120 unique characters in the game, which are rated in terms of strength, speed, charisma, intellect and toughness. Before each match, you select five players and allocate their roles. Smashers charge recklessly into battle using their brute force to dish out powerful melee attacks. Strikers attack with speed and cunning, freely roaming the battlefield to identify vulnerable targets. Charmers are the equivalent of magic sponge wielding physios, using healing spells to rejuvenate battered teammates. Blasters use their superior intellect to avoid direct combat whilst peppering the arena with fireballs. Finally, thumpers use their massive constitution to absorb damage, protecting weaker members of their team from attack.
Matches are initially very confusing affairs, being closer to a barroom brawl than a sporting event. The unanimated player graphics are very basic with the action being viewed from above. This means that in spite of player names and the use of coloured auras to identify opposing players, the action tends to merge into a confusing mass scrum. Eventually, you will be able to recognise your established players and have a little more idea whether or not you are winning. After a few games, you may even be able to pick up a few tactical hints. You may realise, for instance, that your blaster is getting thwacked early on because you don’t have a good enough thumper to protect her.
After the match, the otherresults in your league will be displayed. You will then be presented with a drama to resolve. It seems that your team is always bitching about something or someone, and your assistant doesn’t help, tossing in his own snarky comments to further fan the flames of unrest. In one situation, a player was complaining about a minor injury, or “boo-boo” as he insisted on calling it. Do I give him a dressing-down for being a wimp? Keep calm and tell them to toughen up? Sympathise and buy them a lollipop? If I’m too harsh his morale might dip, but although a lollipop may cheer him up, there is a big risk that the rest of the team are either going to lose respect for their sucker of a manager or begin queuing to discuss their ailments and favourite sweeties. These situations are full of humour and how you interact with their demands will impact on the individual’s morale and that of the team as a whole. Well this is the theory - no matter how mean I tried to be there did not seem to be a discernible impact upon team performance. Unfortunately, much like Murder She Wrote reruns, you will soon see the same dramas playing out again and again. Even the funniest ones begin to grate when you have to sit through them for the tenth time.
You also have a financial budget, which will provide you with the funds to buy new players and offer established ones new contracts. Your scout does his best to uncover promising stars of the future, although, he is never actually gushing in his praise. You will usually have a choice of three new recruits and only a rough idea of their overall ability. Getting a new player to join isn’t always that simple. You make them an offer and then follow their thought process as they mull over the offer. Some ambitious types will weigh up the chances of actually winning a trophy, others could just be thinking that they are badly in need of a comfort break. This all sounds quite involved until you realise that it is made redundant by a glaring oversight. A squad of just five players never suffer injuries and these players will improve as soon as they start winning games. Have more players in your squad and injuries will occur, causing experience points to be spread among a larger pool of players. So, stick with five established players and apart from renewing contracts, there is nothing else to worry about.
Space Leagues sets the scene well, being full of humour and quirky characters. Together with the Danny Elfman style soundtrack there is definitely a Nightmare Before Christmas influence. The interactions between the players and management are definitely the game’s highlight, but even these become stale after a short time. The biggest problem is that the strategic elements do not have enough depth to maintain interest. The lack of a squad overview screen means that team selection requires way too much flicking back and forth. You cannot scout the opposition, so you end up going into games blind, meaning that nine times out of ten the best strategy is to ditch any ideas of finesse and just stick to a team made up of smashers and strikers. Grind out a couple of seasons in the lower division to improve your players and your team will begin to rise through the leagues with relative ease. Sadly, by this you point, you will probably be ready to move on to something more rewarding.