The match engine itself is effectively the same as the one in Football Manager 2008, but it only has the 2D blob mode available (some will be thankful for this). This is one area SI have left alone, in terms of FM’s fundamentals. There’s one important thing they have decided to change, though – the way tactics are implemented.
Being an MMO, SI has sought to extend the lifespan of the game by introducing a role-playing element to your manager. When starting out, you choose a template – tactician, super scout, physician, that sort of thing – and you’re awarded a set of free skills. The templates give you a head start; for example, choosing the tactician will grant you a lot of the starting skills you’d otherwise have to spend time learning.
From then on you have to learn the skills you’ll be utilising. For example, if you want to play counter-attacking football, your manager will have to learn this, unlocking the button in the tactics menu once this has been completed. Initially this is frustrating, as you’ll be wanting to tweak your tactics before and during matches but won’t be able to. Once you get used to it, however, it adds an element of interest beyond the everyday grind of playing through your fixtures, especially when learning scouting skills. The higher the level of the skill you’re learning, the longer it takes (the highest levels take nearly a month to learn), so you’ll be there for the long term if you want to max out everything.
SI have made the conscious decision to hook players in for a long period with the skills system and a regeneration/youth system that will slowly replace the established stars as game worlds age. Perhaps it will even add up-and-coming stars of the real world as time goes by? We certainly hope so.
As with any MMO, the community is key to the game’s development. While you can set up friendly competitions with your mates, there are hundreds of unofficial tournaments cropping all the time, so you’ll probably never be stuck for a match. Even if you’ve exhausted the competitions, you can challenge people to friendlies or just make yourself available to other players using the Match Finder. It’s rare that you’ll ever be waiting more than a few seconds for a match if you use this.
The scouting system is essentially manual – that is, you do your own scouting for players – but the way SI have implemented it in FML is unique. Scouting is contained within the Skills section of the game, and you learn it to view the full number of players in the game. Each time you scout a region, the game unlocks 5% more of the players from that area for you to view. This means you can snap up the bargains and hidden gems a long time before others can bid, so you don’t necessarily want to neglect this area of the game in favour of being able to tweak the Closing Down slider by 15 instead of 10 notches, for example.