“[Y]ou are Rocco Galliano, the Marseillaise new manager of Calchester Assembled Football Club. […] Chances that you can make it through a full season are slim. Corruption, crime, drugs and romance are all paths that you may take – for better or worse. This is the only football game where you may lose the championship and win the game!”
Video games about sports are often focused on the gameplay and over polished. It’s all about the juicy game experience in the end. Even sports management games follow this scheme, as you will be immersed in crunching the numbers and optimizing the stats of your players. The beautifully designed “Football Drama” breaks this pattern by mixing mysterious storytelling with the traditional mechanics.
As Rocco Galliano we not only have to choose which training session the football players have to go through before the next match or which strategy they should follow in the match, but we also have maybe life-changing decisions to make. Rocco’s relationships to other characters will change by that and so will his Karma and Kaos. Sometimes you might even get a special item or an event, that might change the storyline, will occur.
There are many things to discover and at the same time there are many things to completely miss in a single playthrough. If you take a ‘wrong’ option, there is for example the chance that you won’t find out more details about Rocco’s affair with Monica, the wife of the Russian team owner Boris. Same goes for the drugs or the corruption storyline. That can be frustrating if you desire to know more about the world of “Football Drama”, but it’s also an interesting and quite consequent concept choice. In a way, it’s a perfect mirror of life itself: Whenever you make a decision for something, you also make a decision against something else.
“Football Drama” is in general a quite philosophical game. It will tell you thoughts about the nature of football, the connection between the sport and the theatre, how the body affects the soul, ethics as well as the question of free will in a sense. All these topics get combined with mystical prophecies of a speaking book, Rocco’s chats with his lady cat, press conferences and of course football.
This is the biggest strength, but also the main weakness of “Football Drama”, as it makes it hard to figure out who exactly the target group of the game is. For the fans of fast-paced sports games the interweaving with a multilayered narration and all its enigmatic cutscenes could occur to be confusing or even boring. But the lovers of narrative focused games might find the football matches too repetitive, too obstructive to keep up a good storytelling pace.
And to be honest, maybe both groups are right: It needs a special mindset to fully enjoy “Football Drama”, as you shouldn’t let your own expectations guide you. Maybe it’s not for you, but the question you must ask yourself should be: Do you want to miss the opportunity that it actually was made for a person like you? Allow yourself to be surprised as some things are simply out of your own control, not just on the football field.