First off, I’m glad that I managed to avoid putting the English language words March and any word that indicates insanity, like, say, Madness in the title. Because we KNOW the NCAA has that trademarked, right? Mustn’t upset the bastion of non-professional athletics. (snerk)
It’s been a busy few months for Wolverine Studios. In the space of a few months, they’ve launched three games, which isn’t that unusual, if you’re say, Electronic Arts, but for a small sports sim company, that is a massive undertaking. Their first game in this recent spree Draft Day Sports Pro Football was a decent first attempt at a football game that needs to be polished… while their constant hit, Draft Day Sports Pro Basketball 2016 earned plaudits as the best basketball sim, bar none. So, what happens with their third game?
Well, if you’ve played their previous college basketball games, this will be familiar, or even if you’ve played the Pro Basketball game. Instead of dealing with 16-30 teams in the NBA, you’re dealing with the 351 teams playing Division 1 Men’s Basketball… and more importantly, the meat market that is recruiting and managing teams. It’s almost the second game in college sports, the best coach do what they can with a group of scrubs, while other coaches grab players in an ever rotating “one and done” revolving door, grabbing four or five star kids each year, playing them for one year, and then sending them on to the NBA draft.
In-game footage is very similar to the Pro Basketball game, and offers a 2D game mode or Gamecast mode.
Of course, there’s all kinds of allegations about what kind of inducements are made to players to get them to attend, but the NCAA manages to simultaneously look hypocritical in coming down harshly on some minor things (a college golfer was made to reimburse her school by the NCAA for washing her car on campus property because she used university water to clean her car, which was an “improper benefit”), while allegations of major misconduct are investigated at a glacial pace or not at all. (Louisville, looking RIGHT at you, right now)
DDSCB16 manages to handle this slightly unsavory task well. For those who love the recruiting “game”, there is a robust recruiting setup in the game, where you pitch your school based on several factors (distance, facilities, promised playing time), and not every student will respond to every pitch equally. Some kids may want to experience life in the big city, while others try to get away from their old life. You can even offer illegal inducements to recruits (at risk of getting caught and fired), should you desperately need that 5 star center to attend. For those of you whose eyes may glaze over at trying to handle over 1500 recruits each year, it’s very simple to have the AI handle your recruiting, and let you focus on coaching.
Even then, however, you have to remember you are working with young men, at a time when emotions can be very volatile. Every week, you get an incident report, indicating some of the things that happened in practice that week. They can be little things like players taking a hard foul and getting up and in their teammate’s face, and even the strangely bizarre situation where two of my players started insulting each other’s girlfriends looks. And then there is the classic dichotomy, some of the best players are the worst students, (I’m thinking of Cardale Jones’s “I didn’t come to college to play SCHOOL” tweet here). If you don’t keep them academically up to par, then they don’t play. It makes for interesting team building. The way I compared it was trying to mix together a team on the court. Do it right, and the players will combine into a team giving Maximum Effort all the time, cheering for each other and pushing each other to overachieve. Then, if you add in one wrong element, that mixture will become ruined, and quite possibly blow up right in your face.
The on-court game play is very similar to DDSPB16, which is fine because it’s a very good engine. Due to NCAA licensing restrictions, fictionalized names for the universities come with the game, but there are mods available on the forums to install real university names and logos, as well as in game courts. It’s pretty simple to power through simming a season if that’s what you want, but there’s a lot of depth in the in-game play, and in the universe around your team, setting up a play style to suit your players, keeping an eye on the dreaded “bubble watch” that keeps track of teams that may, or may not be invited to take part in the Big Dance. I have to admit, there’s a feeling of pride when watching my senior laden class bounce back after a rough end of the season streak to win the conference tourney and earn the automatic invite.
Each team is rated and has stats, whether it’s Duke, or.. yeah.. my team.
For those folks who own both the Pro and the College game, you can export your draft classes from the college game into the pro game, so if you want to see how that star player you saw from a distance (or even coached) does in the pros, it’s a matter of exporting the class from the College Basketball game, and using the exported class as a draft pool in the pro game. And really, the goals in this game are pretty much what you make of it. Do you want to coach a traditional powerhouse and go for that “One Shining Moment” each year? How about life at the lower end, where you may play very good basketball all year around, but one bad game in the conference tourney, and you’ll be lucky to get an invite to one of the lesser national tournaments? Or a plucky mid major who puts it altogether for a couple years, before inertia finally drags it back. It supports it all.
The numbers are very close to what is expected in real basketball games. You’ll get run and gun teams who score 80+ points a game, and those teams that shoot, um.. not so well, but make up for it with tenacious defense (yes, those 41-37 games happen in real life AND in DDS CB) as well.
DDS: College Basketball doesn’t quite scratch the same itch for me the pro game does, but the reasons for that is two-fold, first, I live in a part of the nation that doesn’t really cotton to collegiate sports, being a pro sports town (my local team was the first team to ever go a season both winless in ACC conference play for football AND basketball), and two, the inherent problems with the NCAA’s model. But put that aside. This is another great game, and definitely deserves a place in any dedicated basketball fan, or sports sim fan’s library.
The Good: The tried and true Wolverine Studios Engine produces a realistic basketball world, and is very faithful to “the real thing”. The recruiting model is robust. The game offers options to automate things that may not be your cup of tea, allowing you to focus on the things you find fun. Exporting players between the college and pro game allows you to build a full basketball world.
The Bad: A bit jarring to see fake college info until you install a mod, dealing with the “man-management” part can get old, Sound needs an upgrade.
Should You Buy It? If you’re one of the many who think the first week of the NCAA basketball tournament should be declared a national holiday, this is nirvana. Basketball fans have their college game to go with the pro game.
The Rating: 84/100