Change takes time before it takes place. This an unwritten rule of life, so if you are not willing to accept it, you might get left behind. And getting left behind is also what usually happens to those that refuse to accept change. For some reason, we are all geared to continue to change and evolve as a species, while rejecting it at the same time, always looking to get back into out comfort zone.
But you can’t avoid change forever and sometimes it will hit you in the face at the full speed of light. Such is the case with Grey Dog Software’s new release, Total Extreme Wrestling 2020, or TEW 2020. The latest creation of developer Adam Ryland is the perfect example on how change can be this complex paradox that feeds of some kind of intrinsic duality that we possess as human beings. But you came here for a review, right? So, let’s get things going!
The last time I wrote an Adam Ryland made game review, my big question was if TEW 2020 would be able to top WMMA5 or not. The question will finally be answered…and amidst lots of controversy. Between all of that lies an actual new game and the actual latest entry for the longest running wrestling booking text game series in history. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing, or sunshine and rainbows, this has become the most controversial entry in the series by far. Why? Because of change…
Beginning the game hasn’t changed drastically. As usual, you play in fictional CornellVerse, a very well done and balanced fictional universe (but modding and customizing is easy and there is a large online community for the game, so you will quickly find yourself booking WWE, for example, in present day or even past and alternative time realities, if you so wish) as either the head booker or owner of a wrestling promotion, which brings different layers of difficulty because your owner can and will block some of your decisions if you play as head booker, as well as give you goals to achieve. Or you can even start unemployed if you want to, while applying for a job in any promotion that is available and will take you. Your goal is only limited by your imagination. Obviously, as most people, you will want to book the best cards, the best events, the best shows and get the best matches ever. To get there you start you adventure by selecting a character and assigning them attributes that will define how well he/she deals with certain situations.
You can either assign those points, manually, select a template or try your luck with “lucky dip”, that will randomly choose your points, meaning you can actually get more than the default 30 ones, for example, but you can’t change whatever result you get from it. It adds some fun to the whole process.
From there on you will find many options and avenues to pursue, in your path to booking greatness. In this regard, TEW 2020 brings a plethora of new things that makes it both fun and the most complete game in the series, by far. But not everything is good news, such as almost always is the case with any game, because perfection is hard to achieve and TEW 2020 doesn’t get there, although it could have. The biggest setback you will have to face is a weird UI and some poor graphic choices that are purely and simply not attractive. The UI was far worse when the demo was released, and some slight improvements to the default skin made it much better, keeping the game with an actual interesting look, but there is still a lot to improve in the future.
Looking at a worker’s quick view profile is enough to notice some of the shortcomings on the visual department. The space has been increased, which allows for so many good things, including the reduction of clicks necessary to access info and get things done, but it also shows a wasteland of unused space that could have been utilized to increase the font size for numbers and facilitate some of the game’s mechanics.
For example, if you are wondering, while looking at this screen, how to fire Brandon James, you need to click on those arrows where it says popularity and change to the “employment” section, as seen in the screen above. Confusing, but not a deal breaker. To change his picture, alter ego and other details, you need to click on his name in yellow, where it says “Brandon James is a 43 year old White American male wrestler.” And you should do it from the roster page, as clicking in his picture to access his full profile page seems to just make things weirder, harder or impossible to do. Another major drawback is that the game unnecessarily looks like a spreadsheet full of numbers, which doesn’t help into the immersion factor AT ALL, and the actual numbers on the game are usually too small. This includes the most important factor of the game, the show/segment scores. While WMMA5 had an actual great way to build immersion with its screens, well placed UI, show numbers, PPV figures, post and during events screens, TEW was never a game that had that type of immersion. That’s fine to an extent, it’s a different game, but one of the bigger immersion moments was happily booking your show and looking at the big show grades (now just numbers, period.) and the bigger fonts for mostly anything in previous versions were a must keep.
However, despite some of the clumsiness of the UI, the fact is that it does the job, allows for some interesting and fluid gameplay, and helps to set up the many great improvements to the game. And there are many. With “on the fly booking”, you can actually change your card while the show is happening. Very good to replace someone that got injured, for example, among many other things. The new gimmick system is undoubtfully spectacular, much more intuitive, and it stops the whole gimmick assignment process from being pointless and like a chore on a spreadsheet where you look for the best score. It is organic, intuitive and very fun to actually use. THAT is the kind of stuff that helps immersion.
The old and outdated “Push” system was replaced with what is now called “Perception” and it is a joy to watch. It allows for many new possibilities, such as simulating crowd organic rises to the top, just as Daniel Bryan’s or Becky Lynch’s, without the need to be always verifying the push of your workers or abusing the past feature to give more time to your jobbers.
You can now play as a developmental company, like NXT, or FCW in the past, and this was one of the most requested features for years. The AI is far smarter and aggressive, which is very good to see and when you finally get used to the UI, which doesn’t take that long, you realize the whole concept behind it. Change…evolution! And this makes the experience of playing TEW 2020 a wonderful thing and a massive improvement from its predecessors.
The Heart of the Matter
When the demo for TEW 2020 was released, Adam Ryland was faced with backlash, criticism and the closest you will ever get to an online riot. Mostly from a vocal minority of fans that probably will never be satisfied, regardless, but there were some valid criticisms in there. As a man that takes pride in his work, Ryland postponed the release of the game for the first time in his career and tackled all the issues he could (and is still doing so via patches) within the limits he had, meaning, without having to delay it for months and doing a full rewrite of the code. This made the game better and if he adds some QOL improvements, such as the ability to customize if a worker is retired or is a non-wrestler during a game, (this was also annoying on WMMA5, removing this option for the TEW series just removed an important element of playing the game in sandbox mode, which will hopefully be fixed soon) or stuff like instructions and aims to give to people when sending them to development to either train other workers or, well, develop, TEW 2020 will become an even greater game.
The new “Talk to Worker” feature, ported from WMMA5 as well, may allow you to try and convince someone to get out of retirement (among many other things) and is a major improvement into the game, but the customization during a save game is something that should never be reduced, as it allows those of us who love to play the game as a sandbox to have much needed freedom. I can’t list all of the new stuff that was added for TEW 2020, as it would take ages, but I listed most of the downsides on this review. When that happens, it means that you are playing a great game, one where the pros far exceed the cons, one that is visibly the best entry in the TEW series so far.
And when you look deeply into it, you finally realize that this game was all about changing and evolution. Changing it for the best, preparing the bright new future that can lie ahead for the series, because Adam Ryland continues to be the developer that listens to his fanbase, as he has always done and continues to do, instead of being like many other developers that ignore their players, copy and paste the same stuff every year for some quick cash grab, and get way with it. In that regard, TEW 2020 is a 10/10 game. It brings immediate change, while also setting the possibility of a bright future.
In a time and age where alternatives for the wrestling booking genre are being both rumored AND announced, TEW 2020 is a masterfully executed game that fully cements the series as the gold standard of text management sims. The UI isn’t the best at first glance, and it is not perfect, but with time it starts making sense, like some things in WMMA5 did with time, like having to hover over a line to see someone’s weight limits. Hard to catch at first, but very helpful and intuitive. There is room for improvement, as with any game, but TEW 2020 is simply a wonderful game.
The fact that there was some controversy over its demo just shows how passionate the fanbase is, and how we all sometimes take change too personally and resist it at all costs. But in the end…we need to continue changing. Yes, change takes time before it takes place, but when it actually happens and it is positive, as in this game, it is such an amazing thing to watch. Adam Ryland succeeds in yet another release, despite severe obstacles that were thrown in his direction. He only needs to remember that sometimes “more is actually more” and that small QOL stuff should be added from version to version, not removed, and that graphics/UI are very important to help in the game immersion, and he will be fine.
And as we approach the end of this review, we go back to the original question that was in the air: “Can TEW 2020 top WMMA5?” Yes. Most of the time it will do so in its own great gaming experience. But to top it overall, it still needs some improvements. And the entire rewrite was a step in that direction. But for now, it at least reaches the same territory of quality. Which in itself is great news.
In the overall, the editing/customization options have been increased and improved. The series continues to have a massive following, considering its niche status, and the online playing is limitless, branching to dynasties, videos, fantasy leagues, and so on. The actual engine for the game was vastly improved and the game flows and plays better, as well as faster. The replay fun factor is, as always, endless, as there is no end goal for the simulation, no game over, which means imagination is your limit and you can set your own objectives. And after several hours, you will notice that you will want to add more and more hours to your play time.
Change takes time before it takes place. This an unwritten rule of life, so if you are not willing to accept it, you might get left behind. Adam Ryland embraced change and tackled his biggest endeavor so far. And it paid off. At the end of the day, TEW 2020 is a success.
As for us, we will meet again soon when I bring you my review of Pro Cycling Manager 2020. Which I think is also a first time for GM Games. Look at the evolution, look at the growth, look at how GM Games continues to expand so well. That takes time…and it also takes change.
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