As with most years, in the off season, I like to play a football game to get me through the barren period of no-football. Fortunately, this year, the World Cup is happening, so I haven’t had to wait too long to see some more football being played. Nevertheless, I still fancied playing a new football game, and Balance of Soccer was the one I chose to play.
Two footed tackle
Usually when I review a game, I’ll start with the positives, but I’m going to reverse it for Balance of Soccer. It is an early access game, so I do feel quite harsh by saying exactly how I feel about it, but it definitely isn’t a positive feeling. The game is incredibly clunky, controls are similar to what FIFA used to be like on the PC back in the late 90’s, with a graphical style to match. In fact, I’d say that FIFA ’98 looked far more impressive than Balance of Soccer does. The menus look like they were made in Paint, and the player models are very, very basic. The sound as well is abysmal. There is no out-of-match sound, other than some very jarring bleeps, and in match, the weird bleeps remain, but are joined with around five repetitive and irritating crowd noises.
It isn’t all about presentation though. Some games do have some pretty rubbish graphics and sound, but excel with their mechanics. Balance of Soccer is not one of those games. Instead of fluid, functional football, you have players running around that don’t feel like they’ve ever played football before. Running around feels a little like you’re walking through partially gritted ice. Running forwards, you’ll hurtle down the pitch, almost as if you were an F1 car racing around Silverstone. When you turn, you’ll find yourself hitting a brick wall and not manoeuvring at all like what you’d expect. This makes keeping control of the ball an absolute nightmare, verging on impossible. I just took to running in a straight line and not trying to cut inside at all by the end.
Unfortunately, the negatives don’t end there. Balance of Soccer had some interesting mechanics for passing, shooting, tackling, marking, all of it. I say interesting, and what I meant was utterly baffling. I’d press pass, and make my player face the way I wanted him to play it, and he’d hoof it 30 yards to my striker. Then, when I wanted to play long ball, my player would just tap it in front of him to no-one and lose possession. Shooting as well was a real lottery. At times it seems as though there is a power bar, and others there wasn’t. Not sure what dictates whether or not my striker can smash the ball or not, but it led to some very disappointing attacks, quite fitting of the game as a whole really.
There’s also the mild case of not having a great many actual football rules. I never saw a free kick – though that could be because I never saw a sliding tackle that worked – and throw ins were a thing of beauty. Instead of throwing the ball in when the ball went out, my player just ran onto the pitch with it. Then, when he got about half way inside their half, he stopped, picked the ball up and threw it to himself, before carrying on and actually scoring. I think the opposition were so taken aback by this flagrant violation of the rules, they forgot how to play.
Fair Play Award
I genuinely can’t say much positive about this game. It’s pretty poor, but it does have a couple of modes to it. There’s an arcade mode which is just exhibition matches, and the World Cup 2018. There are even different difficulty levels, match lengths and everything, so you can tailor it to your needs as much as you want. It gives the game a bit more longevity, especially if you’re someone that doesn’t value their time very highly.
The Final Word
It’s early access, but Balance of Soccer feels like a pre-pre-alpha phase of the game. It’s not unplayable, but it is terrible. Riddled with bugs, terrible presentation and mechanics that just don’t work well, if at all. There is a brief, terrible tutorial on how to play the game, but it doesn’t really help at all. The dev does seem to be releasing more and more to it, but there’s such a long way to go with this game, I can see it being abandoned before too long.