At first glance, baseball games and MMOs don’t seem like a natural marriage. Sure, there are a few similarities: For every giant, ogre-like beast in World of Warcraft, baseball has a Roger Clemens. And for every diabolical genius bent on world-domination in City of Villains, baseball has, well, a Roger Clemens. But the common features really end there, which is why it’s surprising to see that Ultimate Baseball Online 2007 actually works pretty well.
After all, this free game is treading into some unfamiliar territory for a baseball sim. Instead of a one vs one match up, the two teams can be filled with 18 real players, each manning their own position on the field and waiting for their turn in the lineup. What’s more, you’re not picking a player from a pre-existing team. Everyone brings their own user-created character for a chance to gain experience points and level up in an RPG-style skill progression system.
The pitching and hitting interfaces are equally simple. While on the mound, simply click to spot your location, and then use a gauge to adjust for power and accuracy. When you’re hitting, you’ll see an oval-shaped zone in the batter’s box that represents the area where the bat can make contact, something you can shrink if you want to take a vicious Gary Sheffield-type hack at the ball. Both systems are fairly easy to master, but the real depth comes from the aforementioned character leveling system. The accessible mechanics work well enough to lure you in, but the rewards gained from leveling up your character really help to keep things from getting stale. It’s hard to resist adding a bit more zip to your fastball or just enough foot speed to shave a few tenths of a second off your dash to first.