Football Life Takes Another Approach to Sports RPGs on Facebook

Football LifeThough last year had a wide range of soccer-based Facebook apps around the time of the World Cup, a younger app by the name of Football Life is coming late to the game. Developed by 109studio, this soccer title takes a role-playing approach to the sport. First appearing on our emerging apps list earlier this month, the game now hosts north of 209,000 monthly active users but a rather low daily active user count of around 15,000.

A sort of sports RPG that consists of primarily training teams and playing matches, Football Life is filled with many of the standards one might find in a mafia-style RPG. Though clean-looking and holding a decent production value, the game suffers from a lack in both depth and clarity. It’s an issue that is ironic considering that elements that cause the former involve the game telling the player exactly what to do. Moreover, the title lacks any sense of success or progress, which likely contributes most to the low DAU count.

Players are put in charge of their own soccer team, made up of random non-player characters. The objective, in theory anyway, is to build up one’s team so they can be at the top of application leaderboards. Using energy as a resource, the idea is to train one’s team in areas such as speed, strength, creativity, and so on, in order to defeat other random users’ teams.

TrainingIn terms of the training, there are eight different aspects to build upon. Each stat increases match performance in some way, but the differences feel rather negligible, at best (more on that in a bit). Players click a button to “train” in a text-based quest fashion, and a percentage of “mastery” increases. Once it is at 100%, the level of the skill increases, and so does the performance of the team. It’s pretty mundane, though, as it all boils down to repeatedly clicking a button, and unlike the noted mafia-style RPGs, there’s no interesting story, of any kind, or significant reward, to go along with it.

In addition to these qualms, the game literally tells the player what they need to level up in terms making the team stronger with a giant “Recommended” tag (or, if users desire, they can follow quests that take you right to other needed stats). This isn’t a bad thing, but the training is mindless enough as it is. The problem stems from the fact that the information about each statistic’s benefit is nothing more than an arbitrary statement about what it sort of does. With this lack of information, the player isn’t able to make educated decisions on how to level up their team the way they see fit.

Not that leveling up seems to mean much either, as there doesn’t ever feel like there is any progression. Yes, the player levels up number-wise, and they even do so very quickly, but no matter how much training was done, we never once won a match. Not one! More than anything else, this is likely the biggest cause to the game’s low DAU. Who wants to play a game where they never win?

MatchesThere is no control over the matches either. All users do is sit back and watch it play out automatically. Moreover, even when the game ended in a draw, we still lost. With each incident of this, there was a small “P” icon by the winner, so we’re assuming that means we lost in penalty kicks. Of course, the game doesn’t tell anyone that.

There are currently three types of matches: Quick, Cup, and League. The first allows users to just play a quick one on one game, while the second allows users to enter a tournament ranging from four to 32 teams. Don’t worry though, all the user has to do is enter, and the rest is played out in their absence. As for League, this appears to run in a similar fashion to Cup mode. The only notable differences between the three, however, appear to be the amount of cash earned at the end.

Unfortunately, cash is pretty useless too as the only thing that seems available for purchase are items that cost Facebook Credits or the game’s virtual currency. To top that off, the usefulness of these items remains unknown. Players can purchase various colored soccer balls, that apparently boost… something, but lord knows what that is. They have to be important for something, as once users hit level 12, they can build a building that periodically produces them (Mafia Wars style) with the help of friends.

BusinessesAs for other social mechanics, players can invite friends to play on one another’s teams, but once again, the benefit remains vague, at best. Thus far, there doesn’t appear to be much visible benefit for doing so, and the only other plus to having friends play is being able to gift each other energy or visit them and “help” out their team for a daily energy reward.

Regarding any final hopes for redemption, there is one interesting mechanic that involves players finding random biography books. When opened, they cycle through different bios, casino-slots-style, with one randomly being found. Though we didn’t “win” any, it looks like some of those bios might be actual soccer players. That in mind, the bio won can be applied to a user’s players to boost their individual statistics.

In the end, Football Life looks decent, but is ultimately shallow with no goals for the user to truly reach. Players spend tremendous amounts of time repeating the same mundane tasks in order to improve upon something with negligible and unclear benefits. Even when the game is “clear” it really only boils down to it explicitly saying “do this” or “do that” rather than giving the player enough information to make their own educated decisions. All that said, the developers do state that the app is still in a “pre-beta” state, so significant changes may be on the way in the near future.