I’ve always had a small interest in baseball. Not enough of one to actually follow results, but I do enjoy a good baseball video game. It’s been a while since I actually played one though, and Out of the Park Baseball ’19 released recently. I’m not exactly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of baseball, but the game looked somewhat similar to Football Manager so how hard could it be?
I may not be quite so well versed in the backroom when it comes to baseball, but when it comes to playing the sport, I do have some idea on how to win. Fortunately, Out of the Park Baseball ’19 gives players the ability to fully alter how you play the game with each pitch. When you’re at bat, you can tell your batsman to swing away, take a pitch or bunt. You can tell him to do this for three pitches – or as many as it takes for him to get a hit or get struck out – or you can do it for each pitch, depending on how the fielders have positioned themselves. When you have players on the bases as well, you can execute certain plays, like trying to steal bases or a squeeze play. You’ve also got options when your team is fielding – positioning your infield and outfield to take advantage of the batting style of the player at bat. Getting three outs out of three batsmen because you’ve positioned your players well is a fantastic feeling. Of course, just because you’ve positioned your fielders correctly, doesn’t always mean it’ll work out correctly, but that’s the great thing with the sport – sometimes players will go against the grain and do something that you won’t necessarily expect.
Something I didn’t expect with the game is the different difficulty settings. Coming from Football Manager, which pretty much just has a single mode where you sink or swim, I did not expect the variety that is present in Out of the Park Baseball ’19. You can play controlling a single team as general manager, or just the manager if you prefer, and you can control one team from the real world. Or, if you prefer, you can play as a team from any time in the past 140 years. Or, if you’re feeling a bit more imaginative, you can create your own baseball universe, that contains teams from leagues across the world. You can even play as a commissioner who controls everything – player trades, player attributes, anything and everything.
I came to Out of the Park Baseball ’19 thinking that while it’d be tough, I’d still be fine with it, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. There’s a book online that’ll teach you how to play the game, but it’s not ‘light reading’. A lot of it is fairly easy to work out – which players are better than others and all that, but some of the more complicated features are quite tough to figure out. For example, as someone that has no real knowledge of the background details of running a baseball club, I couldn’t figure out why my roster was changing almost every day without my say so. I was just randomly – to my mind – losing some players and acquiring others. I couldn’t figure out why, nor could I work out how to acquire a player who I wanted on my team. While I can understand the need to not dilute the experience too much for hardcore players, the developers should still want to entice new players to the game. Football Manager managed to do this by adding in little help icons with bite sized bits of information to aid players, which I definitely think is the better way of handling tutorials.
The Final Word
I did quite enjoy Out of the Park Baseball ’19, but it was hard going at the start. Not knowing some key backroom functions was pretty annoying, but actual match play was solid, and really fun. If you’ve not played the game before, you’ll probably need to spend a good chunk of time to read the tutorials available online, but if you’re familiar with the game, then it’s a very solid and fun game.