Normally, I review games from Wolverine Studios for GM Games. This year, I got a new job, which involved me taking over a second grade classroom for a teacher on maternity leave.
As you could expect, this cut into my time significantly, to the point that I could not write a preview for this year’s game. That was upsetting, but such is life.
Then, well, everything that has happened since happened.
And now, I have all sorts of time on my hands.
The whole point of all of that is to tell you that this is my own impressions of Draft Day Sports: College Basketball 20. I believe it to be the best version yet, and the best college basketball made yet.
- It takes the same UI as Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball 20. This is a huge upgrade over past games, as this design is clean, easy to navigate, and full of information. I do have some suggestions to make it even better (a screen I helped develop, the Insights screen, could make better use of the real estate to get even more stats there, I think…this is one screen where less graphics is more for the player). Overall, though, this is obviously a major win for the series. I sincerely hope the football series follows suit. This is where Wolverine Studios needed to go with its games for a long time; now that they are there, I hope they continue to build on what rivals Out of the Park and Football Manager as the best UI for a sports sim.
- The game *feels* like basketball. Okay, so it’s a sim. It has limitations. The 2D has limitations. Gary Gorski is one man; he has help here and there, but he is the one building this year after year. Once you set aside those slight limitations (and they are slight), the game is rich, fun, and engaging.
Over the weekend, I took over Providence (as I live here now, I have switched off from UConn for a different challenge). I took a bit of time to get to know my team, but really, I learned through coaching them in games, something I find amazingly fun. From getting frustrated by Lucas Robinson committing two fouls in the first minute (I have since switched him out of the starting lineup for Robert Keown, who has been more dynamic at the 4), to figuring out how to navigate my lack of depth at the 3, to watching my freshman PG grow and outperform his current levels early on…the game is simply fun to watch play out. I lived with the highs (beating Florida State by 26, and beating a Boston College team that would upset #2 Xavier in their very next game), but also got really frustrated in watching Northeastern stumble their way into the Dunkin Donuts Center and have an answer for every run my team made, ultimately beating us by three.
I coach basketball, and play in several leagues (all of which are shut down at the moment). This is the closest I have to the real thing for the next while. I do not have a game console (I keep going back and forth on whether or not to get a Switch), so NBA2K is not a thing for me. To be honest, those games are fun, but this is much more where I prefer to hang my hat. And DDSCB helps scratch the itch I have for a realistic basketball coaching experience. That, to me, is the biggest thing to take away from this game.
- Recruiting is easy to navigate. This is the other thing that makes the game. Recruiting is a massive part of the game, from it’s impact (it’s really half the game) to the sheer size of it (it is quite vast). It could be overwhelming. In the past, it has been. This year, I find it quite manageable and engaging. In your first season, you can skip past some things, including recruiting, and just get into the season. That may be smart for many; I went through the summer and all of the recruiting, and it can be a bit tedious at the start (as I wanted to get to games). But that slow build helped me better know the recruits I was going after. Having shortcut keys helped in a major way as well. Unfortunately, recruiting is something that can be a click-fest in any game, because, again, it’s bloody massive.
I am happy that Wolverine has figured out a way through that. I hope it extends to DDS: College Football.
Oh, and one bit of realism that is a nice and frustrating touch: Three of my four recruits have signed Letters of Intent. One has yet to do so; he is my highest-ranked recruit, and I am nervous he is going to bolt elsewhere.
- The sheer amount of data is fantastic. Again, this takes the lead from DDSPB. Having an understanding about which lineups are working, being able to see why they may not be working, and seeing how a player’s strengths can be maximized for your team (and weaknesses minimized) are huge benefits to a game like this. Remember, above all else, this is a strategy game. And Draft Day Sports: College Basketball 20 gives you as complete a set of information as one can find.
For instance, I just learned that a lineup I had liked, while it has outscored opponents by two points, is a *terrible* lineup. The DRtg is 165.7. Holy swiss cheese D, Batman. The lineup’s Net is -56.8. And we’re somehow winning over that time. That defies logic, which makes me think we defy logic at the moment (there are other glimpses of lineup info that counteract that, but I do worry my start is not sustainable).
- The Selection Show. To be honest, I haven’t gotten there yet. (I’m only on my fourth game of the season). I am already looking forward to it. The draft in the DDSPB is one of the coolest, if not the single coolest, thing in a sports sim. The Selection Show, I believe, could surpass it. (Selection Sunday is my favorite day of the year, though I wish we had the old Day 1 of the NFL Draft back.) This is a big addition this year, and while I have seen screenshots, I cannot wait to see it play out.
For those who may be unaware, I belong to an online pro and college basketball league (www.jblfl.com, cheap plug for it). We have a growing college basketball league there, and I host a Selection Show podcast for it, where we reveal the brackets. I hosted a Selection Show podcast for an old FBCB league hosted at SimNation. I think DDSCB’s Selection Show feature could be the one that takes this game to the next level…even with the other things I have already said. Learning about an entire national landscape is really hard, especially in a game where 350 schools exist. To have this feature, and be able to get snapshots of these teams that could become your rivals over a three-week period…that’s awesome, and above and beyond what I have seen from rivals in this genre.
Look, for most of us, basketball is not a thing we can do right now. Rhode Island shut down all of the YMCAs, so for my basketball community, we are essentially shut down. The weather is not nice enough to get shots up outside. (And, to be honest, I am under the weather, and thus, not going outside anyway, so I don’t potentially get anyone else sick.) In terms of an actual college basketball game that can allow you to get immersed into a school and a program and ride the ups and downs of that experience, you will find no better choice than what Gary Gorski and Wolverine Studios have put out with Draft Day Sports: College Basketball 20. If you are like me and have more time on your hands than you thought you would, pick it up (and, while you’re at it, pick up the pro version).
We may not have real life March Madness, but the only one stopping you from having your own is you, if you don’t pick this up. You’re supporting small business, local and loyal developers, and getting a hell of a game. That’s a trifecta I have a hard time seeing past.
Leave John Comey or GM Games a comment on reddit or did you know we have a #draft-day-sports real time discord chat?