Football Story, developed by Panic Barn, unabashedly draws inspiration from the hugely successful sports RPG Golf Story. Their similarities are undeniable, but there’s more to each than just athletic differences. While Soccer Story does a good job, it lacks the challenge and comic tone it strives for, and players looking for tedious quests and superficial commentary will be disappointed.
The game started with the proverbial decline of football. The most popular soccer tournament ends with an explosive end, destroying the field and the spirits of the players as an evil soccer corporation called Soccer Inc. takes over the sport. As a result, the player’s journey of renewed love and care for the sport begins, and the game’s problems become more apparent.
The biggest problem sports RPG Soccer Story faces is its core gameplay loop. The story is divided into two main parts : exploring the open world and participating in football matches. However, the open world takes up most of the game time. Along the way, players will collect and complete quests to convince residents to go back and play their favorite sport.
Most of these quests, whether side quests or main quests, involve running from one location to another to find or kick a ball into something. Once done, the player will be told to do the same thing, but in another location. It’s a rinse-and-repeat formula that pollutes not just the finer points of the game, but the main narrative and competitive football.
For brief moments, the RPG has brought some creativity to its puzzle design, such as hitting mushrooms with specific combinations found on billboards around town, but they’re too scattered to justify the sheer amount of mindless content surrounding it . One potential solution to this problem is to reward or incentivize players to continue completing quests with engaging narratives or likable characters. But Football Stories offers only one-dimensional dialogue, with each character taking on a whimsical tone that distorts any possibility of personality in the story.
However, the fusion of pixel 2D and voxel 3D art styles in the open world creates an engaging tone that the story has never had before. It’s a vibrant world divided into different regions, most of which have a different feel to them. Beautiful backgrounds can sometimes ease the growing frustration of repetitive task structures.
Outside of open world exploration is where Football Story shines. There are four main games, each consisting of two or three games. The mechanics of the game are very simple, but the physics of football allow for a sandbox-like atmosphere. After each shot, the ball bends sharply in different directions, and since the field is small, players can take advantage of the game’s flexible physics to score from any point on the field. This detail makes the introduction to the football game refreshing and genuinely entertaining.
There are also unlockable items that can be purchased with coins or completed specific tasks to boost the player’s personal stats. Most upgrades are small improvements that are only really felt when multiple upgrades are stacked onto a single player. However, there isn’t any way to manage or customize your team other than limited upgrades.
After a few hours, the lack of interaction with the team started to add to the tedium of the game. Another small downside is that the actual opponents in each game are easy to beat, and it’s easy to find holes in the AI players and goalkeepers. It only took two or three games to find a way to spam other goalkeepers until scoring a goal every 15 seconds became the norm. As with most elements of the game, the lack of challenge ultimately detracts from the overall experience.
The last major issue facing Soccer Story was frequent bugs and hard crashes. It’s not uncommon for character models to clip around objects, get stuck in doorways, or display out-of-scale text boxes. These are minor annoyances, but the game tends to crash during brief cutscenes. More than once the app would close completely and lose a small amount of progress. It’s not the end of the world, but add it to the monotonous task of finally giving Soccer Inc. complete control of the sport with its purse strings, and it doesn’t sound so bad.
Soccer Story is a valiant attempt at a sports RPG, but it falls prey to a repetitive story and mission structure. Its breezy narrative quickly falls to the side, replaced by annoying bugs. Maybe players can find value in the endless runs and collectible items, but for the most part, its vivid world and nice football physics aren’t enough to make this an enjoyable experience.
Football Story launches on November 29th for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series 8. Game Rant provided the Nintendo Switch code for this review.