We humans, are very strange creatures. Most of us seem to be wired to better deal with the allegedly warmth welcome of an actual stranger, instead of the goodbye from someone we’ve known all along. Oh, and by the way, hello to everyone. My name is Andrew Ray and it is my pleasure to be writing to all of you today. But as I do my welcoming bid – no need to applaud, you can all go back to your seats… Well, maybe just a few more seconds – the gloom and doom of the ever-hurtful goodbye is already in the air. And seriously speaking, it is kind of easy to relate to that pattern of behaviour that accepts the welcoming of the stranger, as it tries to run away from the goodbyes of those we know.
I mean, it’s actually understandable. It is based on the always powerful nostalgia and the unwillingness of letting go of something or someone we deeply did not want to go away, versus the easiness of at least simply saying hello to something that while strange and new, may very well be a positive thing. Such is the duality that we have to deal with when it comes to World of Mixed Martial Arts 5: One Last Round.
We all know how the saying goes. “Go big or go home!” But Adam Ryland, developer of the World of Mixed Martial Arts series, has decided to take this to heart when it comes to his most recent title in the series. World of Mixed Martial Arts 5: One Last Round, is the fifth and final instalment in a series that has been around since 2007, slowly building what had its good and bad moments, much like everything else in life, but that apparently tries to bow out in a big way, while at the same time gracefully exiting the stage to never again be seen. Short story long, Adam Ryland attempted to go big AND go home at the same time. Did he succeed? Let’s take a look and find out, shall we?
WMMA5 was, as previously mentioned, developed by Adam Ryland and released by American publisher GreyDog Software at the end of January of 2018. And with the continuous growth of GM Games, it was obviously bound to have its much-deserved review. The main menu says it all. Billed as “One Last Round”, WMMA5 goes straight to the point as soon as you open it. It tells you this is the final round, and given the nature of the title itself, as well as statements made by Ryland after the release, the possibility of a sixth game in the series is mostly unlikely. And while one can never say never, let’s just call it for what it is and enjoy this final round.
Much like its predecessors, in WMMA5 you take control of an MMA company, in a fictional world. Which is not a problem of any sorts because that fantasy world that was created is actually very engaging and well crafted. On the other hand, the game is 100% customizable, meaning that you can create your own world, or even replicate the real MMA promotions in either the present day world, past times or even alternative timelines, and try and be Dana White, Scott Coker or anyone else that currently runs or did run a company of MMA. Said customization allows you to create any scenario you want and is highly powered by a proficient and user-friendly editor that allows you to pretty much craft and edit every aspect of the game that you may desire.
Once you start up your game, you will be prompted to select your user avatar, which is pretty much the character that will be representing you in the game. You will have to select, from a set amount of points, some of the talents your character possesses. These will make it easier or harder to negotiate deals with fighters, setting up fights, among other things. You can choose to start as the Owner or CEO of a company. Playing as the owner, like the image explains, simply means you have no restrictions financially and obviously cannot be fired if your performance is really bad. It also means there is no one there to stop you if your choices are that bad. Not only does each option set its own difficulties and choices, it also allows you the possibility to fully take over every decision made in your promotion, without a safety blanket.
From there on you start your adventure into the world of running an MMA promotion. Through one of its brand new features, the new 1366×768 resolution that will now be the norm for the all the future games released by Ryland, you get pleasing visually aesthetic graphics, as well as menus with more space, therefore more options, all at once. A glance at the main menu can initially look daunting for a newcomer, but it really is quick to learn, and once you actually start looking at the options available in your office menu, you will soon find yourself booking fights, creating cards, putting on events, as well filling months and years full of memorable (or not so much, it is all up to you) shows.
What might look hard at first, quickly becomes something you easily grasp how to do, but that does not mean that the game itself becomes easy. In fact, even that can be set by you, given the several in game options that you can turn off or on in/during the game, that will help create the scenario where you feel more comfortable playing, making easier or more difficult to play. There are several of these options, that range from things like fantasy match making, which turns off the majority of reasons why fighters would decline a fight against someone, like huge name value difference, to stuff like at which rate do legal incidents involving fighters (or even if your company is affected by scandals itself) tend to happen.
From there on you will find yourself having to deal with several matters. Your goal is to sign good fighters, as any CEO or owner would want to do, try and book the best possible fights, while attempting to create the most memorable shows, in an effort to make your company grow as much as possible. In between that, a lot of things can and will happen to you. You will find yourself having to take many decisions, some that can lead you to greatness, others that can backfire spectacularly. You will have to go through things like scouting and searching for good fighters, dealing with their occasional tantrums, or even scandals that leave them toxic and pretty much unhireable and certainly undesirable, causing them to harm your shows more than anything else if you decide to still use them.
If I was to tell you about every single thing that could/will happen, or every single decision you will have to make, we would be here all day. Maybe even more. But all the options available lead to a world that becomes a living, breathing organism, one that evolves naturally and entangles you into a very appeasing web that makes you want to play more and more. One more day, one more week, one more event…and so on.
But for all the possibilities the game presents, it also comes up with ways to make your life easier while dealing with them. Which means that even if you have to deal with a lot of things, it won’t be hard to do so. You can customise things like your shortlist to the point where you will assign what specific things about a shortlisted fighter will be presented in your emails, you can set templates to automatically apply them when offering contracts, meaning that you won’t have the need to set every single detail of every single contract while negotiating, unless you actually want to. The “sticky search” feature allows you to maintain all the settings of a search you did when looking for a specific type of fighters, until you either reset it, or close the game. Either is fine by me, by the way.
WMMA5 is a text-based sports simulator, specifically an MMA one. But that doesn’t mean it fails to deliver in any way, almost always in better fashion that so many other games of the genre, some also text-based, others with actual 3D graphics that will not necessarily make them better games just because they have them. It’s not just about setting up reality tv shows to promote 16 fighters of a division, or randomly let the game create them for you to further populate that division if you want to, something you could already do anyway with features that also exist that allow you to populate the world with new fighters and companies. It is not limited only to the one night tournament system, that helps to better replicate the legendary one night tournaments of yesteryear, or shiny new ones you want to make yourself. And oddly enough, it isn’t also just about finding the right prospects and watching them rack up wins while improving their skills, or choking in high fashion against a simple “Can”, (a weaker fighter that you choose that is very likely to loose to make your favourite fighters look good.) which by the way, can happen to anyone, even the strongest of your champions.
WMMA5 is about all those things and much more. You can get excited or frustrated while creating your own broadcasters for your shows, or signing a deal with an existing one; You can feel the triumph of using the hyping feature, something that allows you to build the hype around a fighter, thus increasing his popularity gains if he (or she, by the way) wins, or face the sheer taste of agony if you watch said fighter fumble, sometimes against a nobody that ends up being the next big thing you were actually looking for. You will try and talk workers out of retirement, you will have to deal with their sometimes insane financial demands, the predatory hiring of the AI (which can also set to be higher or lower, according to your tastes) that will decimate your top prospects if you are a small company, or make you have to spend the big bucks to keep them, if you are financially solid and with enough popularity to do so.
You will try and convince fighters out of retirement, you will have to deal with drug testing, fighters being caught on illegal substances, and you will have to end up setting examples to avoid such situations to go out of your control. You will have to do that and much more, and you will feel anger and happiness along the way, while fully immersed in an amazing gaming experience that allows you to live almost everything there is to live as the person who has to call the shots.
However, as I said before, WMMA5 is about all of that and more. Because when you finally get to the day of one of your events, you get to watch the actual fights take place, via a well-developed text presentation, brought to you by a thoroughly improved fight engine. There you will have the choice of either watching the full card unfold, skipping and watching just the fights you want, or simply skip it all and jump to the results. The fight engine has had several improvements, leading to much more realistic scenarios and fight descriptions, leading to well narrated fights where things like someone taking advantage of its superior weight and extra power to press the opponent into the cage, or mat, turning it into a boring fight can happen, as they do in real life, or you can be in the best seat of the house and see an epic knock-out, or one of those amazing fights that is so tight to the point you don’t even know how the judges will score it.
With the improvements on the (also customisable) fight engine, you can expect to see fighters trying and use their skills to their actual benefit, instead of just randomly seeing someone trying to land a kick on a wrestler, only to get the leg grabbed by said wrestler, resulting in a very likely takedown. Small but very important details as a more complete match engine that allows for better simulation of fights, will take you deeply into full immersion, making you truly feel like the head honcho of an actual MMA promotion. And if you add to this the actual specific attributes that the characters have, along with so many other elements that makes any play through, even one with the same company, completely different from the last one, you will get your money’s value for this game, as the replay factor being unending, especially when there is no specific end game to the simulation. Meaning you will not have a game over scenario, even if you get fired, (as you can always try and look for a job somewhere else) and you don’t have any objective to fulfil that leads to the game being won. What you want to do with your company and with your current save, the direction you are willing to take, is entirely up to you. And you can go on, and on, and on for years on a save, or simply start a new one, or even both at the same time, as you can easily store multiple save games at once and return to them whenever you see fit.
As I said in the beginning of this review, Adam Ryland went for both going big and going home at the same time. The result is a powerful and realistic MMA simulator that is, very likely, the closest that most of us will ever be of the actual world of Mixed Martial Arts. The levels of customisation and calculated randomness make sure to grant us a new experience in every new save, taking up the replay factor to hard to surmount heights. The text fight reports, supported by the several improvements on the fight engine, will allow for very realistic scenarios like a fighter having to abdicate from his main skill set. Take for example, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert, having to end up turning to his secondary skills if his opponent is a world class submission or ground specialist.
While the game has no licenses, it does have an always evolving community at the GreyDog Software forums, (http://www.greydogsoftware.com/forum/index.php) a community that even goes beyond those boards and ventures into other platforms like Reddit, Discord or fan made websites. This means it won’t be hard to find fan made mods where you can play as current day UFC, Rizin, Bellator, or many other existing promotions, or even turn back the clock and relive epic moments through historical fan made scenarios. You will even find a couple of fictional worlds made by some really expert players of the WMMA series. With the multiple customisation options, it won’t be hard to set the game as you want it, to try and get what YOU feel is the better experience for yourself.
While essentially a text-based simulator, (as such, do not expect any kind of 3D graphics in it, or anything remotely close) WMMA5 has a very distinctive and enjoyable presentation. The bigger and more crowded menus allow for less clicks and more options at your reach, with a pretty good visual presentation that is easily the best one ever displayed by the developer. The pictures are a big part of the game, especially for the fighters, and this includes full body renders that you can see when looking into a fighter’s profile, or when he/she is about to clash against an opponent.
Not only are the graphics good and customisable, like the rest of the game, including to the point of also being able to customize your own side-bar and other menu aspects, but the gameplay and the actual simulation are fun, immersive and, although with its own learning curve, especially if you are a novice to MMA, and not hard to adapt to. With a very passionate fan base, WMMA5 has the potential to thrive in terms of online playing. The fact that GDS (GreyDog Software) itself, already has its own passionate community is even complemented by other fan made communities in several platforms. If this game was on steam, it would most likely get a much bigger and well deserved exposition.
Yes, Adam Ryland tried to go big and go home. He managed both, and as we slowly come to terms with the fact that this might very well have been the swan song for an incredible series, we can at least rejoice with the fact that it ended at the highest level. Undoubtfully the best game ever developed by Adam Ryland so far. Which, if you are familiar with his track record, means there is an excessively large chance of his next game being much better.
Speaking of which, his next game will be released at the end of this month and it will be the long awaited return to the highly successful series, Total Extreme Wrestling, in its 2020 version, the wrestling simulator that, if we are to believe in the developer’s journal, will have the potential to easily become the best game ever made by Adam Ryland. If it does succeed or not…well, we will see when it gets released at the end of this month. I will be sure to meet all of you here again to see if that was indeed the case.
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