E-Sports are getting bigger and bigger these days. With high profile competitions for games like League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Rocket League attracting huge crowds, lucrative sponsorship, and TV coverage, it was only a matter of time before a games developer turned their attention this way. Step forward U-Play Online, the same team that rode the crest of YouTube content creation to bring us 2016’s YouTubers Life. E-Sports Life follows a similar pattern, placing you in the role of an E-sports wannabe who must improve her/his gaming skills while also staying abreast of life. But is this game an epic win or an epic fail? Read on to find out…
After customising your character with a decent array of cartoony costume and appearance choices, the game begins. At the beginning, you are not actually a wannabe. You have never heard of the fictional games E-Sports revolves around. In fact, you do not even own a PC. Persuaded by your friend Mike to go along to an E-Sports event, you get hooked and immediately begin to dream of one day joining battle and leading your team to glory.
Mike is there to guide you along the way. He takes you to the E-Sports Bar and generously gives you piles of cash so you can practice games and watch tutorial videos to up your skills. You visit his house to learn the basics of the MOBA game you will compete in, and hang out with other gamers at various locations around the city as you embrace the E-Sports lifestyle.
Life is never simple though and E-Sports Life attempts to reflect that. While training to become an e-sports competitor, you also have to keep up with school work and make sure you stay on the good side of your mother (who is also your only source of cash after you have blown all of Mike’s money).
To this point everything sounds good, great even. A life sim game that gets more complicated as you progress with the reward of achieving your dream while keeping your life in order spurring you on. Unfortunately, the gameplay experience is something quite different. The basic premise is fine, and the tale of someone who is not into video games suddenly getting hooked when the come across the right (or wrong?) title is a familiar one. E-Sports Life itself does not get you hooked. It drives you away.
Looking first of all at the main focus of the game, being an aspiring e-sports athlete, the only way the game offers you to get there is to grind. In the E-sports bar, you can ‘practice’ the game you will soon compete in… by clicking on sprites. A set of fantasy characters appears on the screen and you have to ‘shoot’ the red ones and not shoot the blue ones. And you have to do this again, and again, and again, multiple times over before you are anywhere near ready for your first real competition.
You can also grind your way to skill points by watching live streams of the game. This involves watching a pattern of viewers’ emojis going up the side of the screen and selecting your own emoji to complete the pattern. It is as much fun as it sounds…
And when you actually get to play the game in competition, it is something completely different. Mike invites you to his house early in the episode to talk you through the basics. It seems to be some variation of a card-based fantasy battle game and there are various complex rules about order of attack, and special abilities granted by the cards. It is very difficult to make any sense of and by the time the completion comes around, it is long forgotten anyway. Mike does mention that you can come around anytime for more practise, but I dropped in on two occasions only to find him not there.
Away from the ‘E-Sports’ the other aspects of your ‘Life’ also involve repetitive mini games at every turn. Go to school and you study by choosing a word cloud of notes to match a given image again, and again, and… you get the idea. You are encouraged to go to school every day and will even find yourself getting told off by your mum for missing school on a Sunday. The school seems to run on a flexi time system as you can turn up anytime from 8am to 10pm and join any class.
At home, you can keep your dear mother happy by tidying your room and taking out the trash…. by playing mini games! Outside, you get to socialise with others by…. no mini game (!) Instead, you click on them and watch while they talk until you end the conversation. Oh, wait – there is a mini game, a flirting mini game no less, in which you try to randomly guess your target’s interests. There is a certain logic to be applied here by selecting certain topics from the available choices and refining your picks based on the other person’s reactions. You only get four turns, however, and there are so many combinations of topics that it all comes down to guesswork.
Guess right and you might get to steal a kiss or two, though you have to wait six hours for a third for some reason. Never fear, as you can literally hit on the next person in the room, and the original object of your affections will just stand there. This scene can be repeated at the e-sports bar, the mall, a hamburger restaurant, and even the corridor at school. And you will repeat it. A lot. Eventually, you can move on from chatting and flirting by chatting to dancing but… it just takes too long to get there.
The game is essentially about levelling up skills and managing your energy and stress levels. Gaming practice and watching streams boosts your communication, focus and intelligence. Level up in these areas and you get reward points to spend on abilities to enhance your chances in the upcoming e-sports face off with the school bully. However, practice, raises your stress levels to the point when you can’t play anymore. That’s the point at which you go and socialise to calm yourself down. Ah, but that drains your energy so that’s the point when you go home to rest. Home is where you get hassled by your mum to do chores or Mike calls you to invite you to the cinema (at 2am!) and you have no choice but to follow along. Go to the cinema completely devoid of energy and your energy bar suddenly refills itself and you are free to stay outside until it’s time to go to school. Meanwhile, in real life meeting up with Mike has the opposite effect on me. The long conversations are of little interest and are not especially well-written. They quickly become tedious almost making me look forward to the next mini game and a chance to break the monotony.
And that is the major issue with this game – monotony. The mini games are a repetitive grind and the need to balance the different aspects of your character’s life just mean it takes way too long to make any kind of progress. The gaming aspect of E-Sports Life also suffers from the tedious practice modes, and is further let down by the confusing card game you end up playing in the match itself. This is only Episode 1 and the title is only in Early Access but it has a long way to come if it is to reach its own dreams of glory.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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