Do you think you could become an ESport Manager?
Whilst not all that much into sports, I am partial to the occasional sports management game and ESports Manager caught my eye. There’s something quite engaging about looking through player stats, finding team members that will improve your chances of success, and leading a group of individuals to victory. eSports seems like a perfect fit for the genre, with players of different nationalities and skill levels being ready to compete with each other in a digital battlefield, lead by their glorious manager! It seems as though the developers of ESport Manager felt as though they could do this idea justice, and so I gave it a try on Nintendo Switch.
I’ll not beat around the bush here; ESport Manager is not a good game. It seems to utterly miss the point of a sports management game (even an Esport one) and ends up feeling more like a poor version of The Sims. It’s a shame, as there are hints of good ideas here and there, but things are poorly executed and half-baked.
Starting with team creation, you’ll set up a group of five players that will be your constants throughout the campaign. There’s some visual customisation here, as well as the ability to set your names and logos. You’ll also get to decide whether you’re a MOBA team (think DOTA 2 and League of Legends) or FPS (Counter-strike and such) before being dropped into your base, ready to develop your team into a world-conquering colossus.
Sadly though, there’s very little developing to do. All you do in the base is send your players to the gym, kitchen, or bed to ensure their fitness, hunger, and rest meters remain filled. From time to time you may also have enough money to buy new rooms, or add features to current ones. There’s no customisation here though, as each feature and room simply fills a predetermined spot in the building. It’s like The Sims, but with a fraction of the depth.
Of course, this is only one aspect of ESport Manager. The bulk of the game has you setting up your team and strategies for matches against other groups of players. This involves you selecting each of your players weapon/character — depending on whether you’re playing FPS or MOBA — as well as setting perks. You can then decide each players lane, regardless of which game mode you’re in, as well as their level of aggression. From here, the matches play out for themselves, with you able to stop the action and change their settings. The matches continue until glorious victory, or bitter defeat.
There’s very little feedback in these sections. Perhaps I’m not knowledgeable enough about MOBA games — where I spent most of my time here — but whether I won or lost, I couldn’t tell what I’d done right or wrong. Sometimes my setup would steamroll and opponent, but a similarly skilled opponent would destroy me if I left things unchanged. Was it down to perks? Or character choices? Maybe I didn’t have enough posters up in the base. Without information, I couldn’t decide how best to proceed.
Win or lose, you earn experience points, money, and ability points to use back at base. Experience levels your team up and unlocks new perks to buy or upgrade using ability points. Money is used to buy new rooms and features that then earn you more experience points or money. Beyond that, you can choose sponsors that will earn you more cash between matches, or use the social media room to earn you more fans. Once you’ve done that, it’s back for another match, and you continue until you win the league and get promoted, or don’t and start the season again.
I don’t want to seem to down on ESport Manager, but I feel there were so many missed opportunities in terms of gameplay. Why can’t I lay the house out the way I want? Why can I not hire new players to replace weak ones, or set up a training program to enhance them? Why is there so little information about each MOBA character? Couldn’t there be key shortcuts for different aggression levels or preset strategies? There’s so much potential here, but so little of it has been explored.
The weaknesses extend to the UI as well, with the base screen having so many buttons for all the different features. The slightly unresponsive buttons make everything take twice as long as it should, and the complete lack of touch controls on the Switch version doesn’t help matters. There are errors in the text, bizarre AI pathfinding problems, sound effects that are too quiet to hear, and only two maps for each game mode. Everything here feels half-baked in spite of there being a huge scope for a game in this sub-genre.
I’m hoping that someday there will be an excellent eSport management game, as I can see this being quite enjoyable in the right hands if given enough development time. Sadly, ESport Manager just isn’t that game.
ESport Manager is available on Nintendo Switch and Steam.