MLB The Show 18 Review
Release Date: March 27, 2018
It’s springtime and that means a new Show! This year’s entry makes its usual incremental improvements to gameplay and graphics (which look excellent) while also freshening up its three main modes, Road to the Show, Franchise, and Diamond Dynasty.
Of the three, Road to the Show has seen the most significant changes. Gone are the clunky training points in favor of your player’s skills improving by you actually doing the things you’re trying to improve (getting hits off a left handed pitcher, stealing bases, plate discipline) as well as by training opportunities that pop up frequently throughout the season. While manual training sessions are still available, these new sessions are automatic. Simply choose which one you want to do from a short list, and presto your character’s stats have improved.
The other big change is the introduction of player archetypes. Unlike in previous installments, you can no longer create a player who is amazing at everything. Instead you pick the type of player you want to be (powerhouse hitter, speed demon, and so on) and your attributes are capped appropriately. Each archetype has a mix of attributes that can be maxed out and ones that have lower (sometimes very low) caps. You’ll really have to think about what kind of player you want to be going in, which can be intimidating for new players who haven’t had a chance to try different play styles out yet. While there aren’t that many archetypes to choose from, there are options for all around balanced players, which will most likely be a welcomed sight for people who really don’t know what to pick.
The introduction of archetypes also means your maxed out ’17 character is getting many of his skills nerfed. Thankfully, skills that are passed your chosen archetype’s max cap regress slowly instead of being reset immediately. Overall I’m not sold on the new archetype system, but it’s not a bad idea either. I would like to see a few more added in or possibly a blank archetype which let’s you designate which skills you want to max out and which ones you want to keep at a low cap.
The game eliminates Season mode in favor of providing a more streamlined Franchise mode that lets you decide what managerial duties you want to take on or ignore in favor of just playing games as your favorite team. New options have been included to shorten game time, which at full length take about 45-60 minutes. You can now choose to only play as one player, creating an experience very close to Road to the Show, which shortens game time down to about 10-15 minutes (or longer if you want to only pitch). The main difference here from RTTS is that if your player gets taken out of the game, instead of skipping to the end, you will gain control of the whole team and can either continue that way or choose a new player to exclusively play. You can also play Retro Mode games in Franchise, which run about 30 minutes, but since I never played old school MLB games, I found the simplicity boring instead of nostalgic.
Franchise mode also splits the season up into “phases” and makes it easy to skip to each new phase (draft deadlines, All-Star break, etc.) so you can focus on the parts of building a winning team that you want.
Diamond Dynasty added in a lot of new legendary players including Babe Ruth, which require you to complete challenges to unlock. There’s also a goofy mini game that has you try and take over fan territory from other teams, but unfortunately you have no control over where your fan base originates. My team (called the Black Friday Warriors) is based in King of Prussia, PA but the fan base started out Midwest somewhere, which is both hilarious and head scratching. (Though I suppose picking a place twenty miles from Philadelphia as the home for a new MLB team doesn’t make sense either.)
The looks and sounds of the game have also seen dramatic improvement, especially the former. Tons of new animations were added in and not just for players. Fans now react like human beings instead of robots doing a poor impression. Players also display way more personality than in previous games. Struck out players may flip their gear or smile and nod at the pitcher in respect. Play animations are also much more fluid. The most notable one I’ve seen so far is catchers will no longer awkwardly look at a random base before throwing to the correct one. Which animation you get also depends on the player. Basically, the better the player the more often you’re going to see impressive animations compared to generic or even pathetic ones. (Since I chose the Phillies for Franchise mode, I saw more dropped balls and other mistakes than impressive plays. Though my RTTS guy made some cool throws I never saw last year.)
While many of the features long time fans have been asking for, like Double A teams in Road to the Show, are still absent, there are still quite a few changes and new additions that keep this entry feeling fresh and exciting. The new animations provide character to each game that makes them feel more dynamic and interesting. The updates to RTTS offer a welcome change to the experience and the more streamlined Franchise mode provides newcomers a compelling reason to check it out without alienating veteran players. Overall The Show 18 is a great addition to the long running franchise while also laying a promising foundation for more improvements to be built upon.