by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
WHAT IS FOOTBALL?
It’s a good question, because let’s face it, football is weird. It is of course a bunch of blokes kicking a ball around a patch of grass, but at some point over the many generations we’ve spent adoring the golden game, we’ve made it into so much more. Now it’s a game filled with crazy salaries, wild eccentricities and dramatic official corruption scandals, and while fans may take this culture for granted at times, to us on the outside, football is a pretty weird incomprehensible thing. This is the idea that Football Drama by Open Lab games attempts to explore, through a satirical re-imagining of the football game.
In Football Drama you play as a new manager guiding a team through the game’s equivalent of the Premier League. On the way to the top you’ll face a variety of challenges, whether overcoming scandal, not getting fired by the head of the wonderful not-even-slightly subtly named THIEFA association, or simply winning the matches. The main way you’ll do this is through decisions, which will affect your karma — generally falling into either class of karmic, or kaos. These two cumulative resources will reflect your playstyle, but most of all they will change the effectiveness of certain cards you play during football matches. All of these decisions will accumulate to give you any one of the games' 24 different endings.
In the game these decisions and branching narratives are interrupted only by the 8 football matches it will take to win the game. The way Football Drama presents its matches is unlike anything you have ever seen in a football game, partly about balancing control and risk, the build-up of strain that risk causes, but then also by playing of cards, and the fantastic mystical quality of the game.
You can play cards with certain karmic alignments at any point in the match, but generally their success is based upon luck — I was told the ancient Chinese text, The Book of Changes, which discusses divination, had a big influence on the game, and you can see this in the tarot-like playing cards. It all relates a match experience which partly expresses a satire about the absurdities/eccentricities of football, but also queries the reality — what makes good football? After centuries of playing the game, we are still trying to get to the bottom of it.
EVERYTHING TO PLAY FOR, AND FOREVER TO PLAY IT IN
I was really impressed by Football Drama — as someone who has very little interest in football games, partly due to their lack of inventiveness/innovation, I was blown away by how far the game goes to change match mechanics in a really interesting way. It also represents both a brilliant concept, channeling the rich literature of football, and a kind of blunt satire which I couldn’t help but find hilarious. I’m not sure how much football game fans will enjoy Football Drama, as the game seems more about puzzling out what football is from an objective point of view/less about playing actual football. I also can’t speak for the games dialogue entirely as I didn’t see all of it. But from what I did see Football Drama is shaping up to be one of the most crazy/interesting sports games I’ve seen in a fair while — a sports game for people who don’t like sports games in many ways. Keep an eye out for it releasing on the 18th of September.