By Xan Vital
September 15, 2019
While ESport Manager (yes their capitalization is a bit awkward) is a bit of a mess, many esports fans will likely be able to find something to love in this Nintendo Switch title. However, it’s one of those games where you’ll pick it up and can tell there’s fun to be had but it’s always just out of reach.
While playing ESport Manager won’t truly give you the experience of running your own version of 100 Thieves or Astralis, it does provide a glimpse at the dream of every longtime fan. Making your own homegrown esports org.
Before we jump into our ESport Manager review, let’s be real here. I dare you to find me an esports fan who has never dreamed of building (or at least joining) their own esports org. If nothing else the sheer amount of people with “esports org ceo” in their Twitter bio should give you an idea of how much of a market there is for the kind of escapist game that allows players to live out their esports fantasies. However, ESport Manager consistently falls short of providing an engaging or novel take on managing a team.
The game starts with players picking out a team of players and customizing them with unique gamer tags alongside minimal cosmetic adjustments. Afterwards you create a generic logo and the most awkward possible spelling for your team name (for the sake of realism, of course). Finally you decide whether you want to go the MMO or FPS route with your team (I went with the FPS path).
After getting the initial setup out of the way it’s time to start living large in your brand new team house where you’ll take care of your players like an overprotective mother hen. You’ll find yourself micromanaging each player in between tournaments as you monitor their overall health, hunger, fatigue, remind them to exercise, and generally try to keep them all happy. The low-poly designs with very little in the way of detailed customization certainly don’t do the game any favors in this department as it’s hard to form any true attachment to players that look like Roblox characters. This issue becomes even more glaring when you get to actual tournaments and realize that the lackluster player management is the core of the gameplay loop.
Throughout the entire setup and team management process I kept thinking “if I just make it through this I’ll eventually make it to the fun” as I imagined the tournaments would be the true highlight of my time with the game. How I wish I could say that I was right. The actual tournament play is little more than the equivalent of a spectator replay of a match with a little input when it comes to player loadouts.
By default (at least on the FPS path) you start each match by selecting perks and a playstyle for your players before clicking play and beginning the match. From that point on, your choices are highly limited as your main role becomes watching rounds play out. While the gameplay loop of experimenting with different builds for your team and finding the most effective strategies can be fun in some games, the structure of ESport Manager isn’t well developed enough to provide to kind of satisfaction needed to make things fun. This is exacerbated by the fact that your choices don’t feel impactful enough to motivate you to truly experiment.
Even when given the option to assume direct control of your players, it’s a bit of a nightmare trying to get anything done while dealing with our next object of criticism: the game’s horribly ungainly user interface.
Somehow, despite the base mechanics not being particularly well executed, the user interface manages to be the game’s worst feature. In fact, for some it will make the game borderline unplayable. The screen is organized in such a way that it feels like every time you want to do something, it’s about five or six clicks from where you are at any point in time.
It’s the type of gameplay experience that makes you crave touch-screen support just so you aren’t tapping on the analog stick for what feels like an eternity. This is especially true considering that most of your time will be spent navigating through menus.
At this point it’s worth mentioning that perhaps my expectations were misplaced. I went into this game imagining my position in the grand scheme of things would be akin to that of Nadeshot or Hecz. An executive at the head of an org that’s perhaps not aggressively involved in the minute details of the org’s day to day operations, but more hands on when it comes to content creation and brand strategy with a slight bit of combat in the tournament segments. However, the game plays more like you’re purely a house manager whose only responsibility is watching over your players and occasionally reminding them to eat.
With that said, that’s not to say it’s all bad. With more refinement, perhaps in a sequel, this is a concept I could see evolving into something truly special. Esports fans would likely show their support in droves for a more developed version of this concept that’s a little less cookie clicker and more real-time-strategy.
Despite the ESport Manager’s failings, you do have to take into account that the game is priced at a mere $7.99. For such a paltry price, it could definitely be easy for many to hand-wave some of the game’s problems. However, if you decide to take the leap please do so knowing that you’ll likely wish you had spent that $7.99 on lunch instead.
Thanks for joining us for our ESport Manager review! The developers were kind enough to provide us with two codes for our readers to try ESport Manager out for themselves. If interested, please feel free to use one of the codes below.
Disclaimer: We were provided a complementary code to review ESport Manager on the Nintendo Switch by the developers. The game is available for purchase here.