As we get closer to the NBA playoffs, we’ve seen some historic things in the NBA this year. The quest for the Golden State Warriors going for 73 wins. Steph Curry’s monumental shooting from outside. And me trying to get the Boston Irish out of the first round of the playoffs.
Wait, that last one isn’t the real NBA. It’s my game of DDS:PB16.
Usually, there’s a way to get to easy mode in sports games, be it joystick games or simulator games like Wolverine Studios’ Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball 16. Find the key ratings that the game emphasizes over everything, and exploit the hell out of it. So, when it comes to DDSPB16, all you need is to find the best player available at each position, right? Centers and Power Forwards rebound with a touch of inside scoring, a do-everything Small Forward, and guards who can lights out shoot the rock. Boom, you have your own dynasty… right?
Well, if you’re not careful, what you will have is the sim-version of this year’s Houston Rockets. A team, that on paper, should be awesome, but crumbles like cheap origami where the games are actually played: On the court. That’s the level of detail that DDS:PB16 brings to the game. Your shooting guard may love to dribble the shot clock down, hoping to take his man one on one off the dribble, while everyone stands around feeling useless. Your point guard may have the hankering to stop and pop a three pointer on the fast break rather then taking the easy two pointer. Your power forward may like drifting out to 15 feet to get himself involved with the offense, instead of hanging and banging down low like you want. And your center? He may pull down double digit rebounds per game, but get into double digit altercations with his teammates because no one will pass him the ball.
That’s the feeling I get in DDSPB16, trying to deal with personalities that will definitely clash with each other and you, I had a player nearly get into an altercation with one of his teammates, and then when I suggested he calm down, he said that if I didn’t get out of his face, he’d fight ME! Needless to say, since he was 9th or 10th on my depth chart and didn’t have a contract after that season, he was quickly sent packing and told to not let the door hit em where the good Lord split ’em. Then again, what if it’s your superstar? You can easily end up in a situation where it’s “The GM goes or I do”, and who do you think the owner will side with? Protip: Likely, it’s not you.
And there’s definitely a “getting to know each other” warming period with radically changed teams. In my second season I had a pretty good rookie power forward and the best center in free agency signed up with my team, then in my first game of the new season, watched in horror as we made NINE baskets… in the first half! (even worse, it was on THIRTY EIGHT attempts, a woeful 23.7 Field Goal percentage). The final score of that game was 89-73, and I could just imagine the disgusted fans slouching their way out of the building going “We paid thirty bucks in parking to see that?”
The game is functional with good use of colors and space to draw your attention to the key stats, which was a key issue in our review of Wolverine Studio’s Pro Football game. Of course, being a long running series, the game has had a lot of time to iterate, but the game looks and feels like you’re watching an ESPN gamecast of the game, which is good. The game does offer for the first time, a historical mode, where you start in 1976-77, the year the ABA and the NBA merged to create an unwieldy 22 team league, with some of the greatest players in history (Julius “Doctor J” Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pistol Pete Maravich), and you can play through the modern day, with players like Bird, Magic, Michael Jordan, and LeBron coming through.
The important part of any basketball simulator is the draft, and the game does that part well, with a mock draft being created to give you an idea of what players will be around when it’s your turn to draft. You can invite up to 18 players for workouts, which gives you a better idea of their attitude and work ethic, two very important stats. Also, the coaches you hire will be very important in not only developing the players you draft, but targeting that “diamond in the rough” that the other teams may overlook. The game even offers a “Draft TV” show, where the folks discuss the picks in real time (a couple times, I’ve gotten roasted by the commentators for a pick, which makes me worry about what I didn’t see).
The game has gone through four patches already, to make the game’s stats as close to real life as possible. While there are still some variances, they are relatively close (Steph Curry’s scoring 33.2 points per game in my second season, compared to 30.5 in the real 2016-17 season. Players can boom or bust, just like real life . You see that Keith Powell recommendation in the screenshot above? Well, he went third in the draft, to Brooklyn, and in mid January, he leads the league in triple-doubles with 3 (no one else has more than 1). Scoring is slightly depressed, the game ranges from 109 points per game to 87.5 (the Jazz are truly putrid in this game), compared to 116 to 96.8. But that’s something that will be addressed in a patch.
One nice bit of synergy is that for those folks who own the just-released Draft Day Sports College Basketball 2016 game, you can use the draft classes generated in that game to fill your rookie pool in this game, so you can see that superstar freshman you recruited in the college game play his time at your school, then transfer his draft class to the Pro Basketball game to see if he fulfills his potential in the pros. The game also comes with the Developmental League and Summer Leagues so you can give those young players a chance to play rather then advanced lessons on how to sit on the bench deep in your depth chart. It also comes with a Euroleague setup, allowing you to play European teams, and of course, the best players may find their way over to the NBA.
All in all, this is the best basketball sports sim out there, and I highly recommend it. Now if you don’t mind, two of my players have yelled at each other for the fourth time in three weeks, and I have to figure out which one of them I’m going to have to trade..
The Good: Solid statistical engine, gives enough data without being overwhelming. Drafting, trading, contract work is all solid. Game presentation is like watching a game on your favorite website. The game gives you enough data so that you can SEE where the problems are at with your team, and work around it.
The Bad: A couple small niggling bugs, but most of them have been squashed already. In-game audio gets repetitive very quickly (thankfully, there’s an option to mute it)
Should You Buy it? If you’re a basketball fan, and ever thought to yourself “I could build a better team then those idiots in the front office”, then this is your chance to see if you could. This is the best sports sim basketball game out there, period. End of story.
David "SirFozzie" Yellope is the operator of the "An 8 bit mind in an 8 Gigabyte World". (an8bitmind.com) While not QUITE yet at the stage of waving his cane and telling the kids to "get off his lawn", he does admit he owns three canes.