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Out of the Park Baseball 19 Review

I’ve always loved the adage “fantasy sports are like Dungeons & Dragons for sports fans.” Independent of the accuracy of this statement, I like the thought that whatever topic you nerd-out about, there exists in this world an outlet (or D&D equivalent) that allows you to embrace your nerd-dom, flex your knowledge, and bathe in your love of that topic to your heart's content.

If it’s true that fantasy sports really are like D&D for sports fans, then Out of the Park Baseball 19 (OOTP 19) is like being able to play every version of D&D ever, with every supplement and expansion, with every NPC, piece of gear, map, figurine, and rules cliff note buried in some long-forgotten forum… for baseball fans. Wanna play the 1950 Orioles but pull from a roster that spans the last fifty years, where you’re the coach and general manager, but you also can’t be fired and can change the rules of the game at will? Then OOTP 19 is for you. So sit back, grab your baseball-themed infinity gauntlet, and get ready for one of the most in-depth baseball experiences on the market.

WELCOME TO THE BIG LEAGUES

Before diving too deeply into the gameplay and modes of OOTP 19, it’s worth taking some time to talk about the onboarding process. OOTP 19 is one of the more complicated games on the market, and as such it can be a bit intimidating to get into. When dealing with a game of such depth and complexity, just starting a new game can be a daunting task. That being said, OOTP 19 makes a significant effort to teach players how to play and how to navigate the myriad menus.

As soon as you fire up OOTP 19, you are greeted with a Getting Started page. This page gives you fair warning that OOTP 19 is “the most advanced baseball management game on the market” and suggests that players review some of the resources they’ve provided in order to get the most out the experience. These resources come in three flavors: a detailed online manual, a four-part video tutorial series, and a link to the title’s online forums.

There’s also an instant-help function, whereby players can hit the F1 key at any time to bring up the in-game Help menu. Each one of these resources offers a wealth of knowledge (the video tutorials alone clock in over 45 minutes) but all are well worth your time, especially if you are new to the series. The robustness of these resources brings two things to light, the first of which being that the developers have gone a long way to make OOTP 19 as accessible as possible. Second, that OOTP is a complicated game that asks a good deal from its players (in terms of time and brainpower).

A MODE OF THEIR OWN

The four primary modes in OOTP 19 are focused around adjusting your game settings, picking your team, and playing through one or more seasons. The four main modes are Standard, Historical, Custom, and Quick Start. For the historian, nostalgic, or player short on time, there is also an option to play through a single game or series of games from the past (going back to nearly the invention of baseball). But the feeling here seems to be that if you are willing to learn how to play OOTP 19 and invest in a team, you will want to play with that team for some time (which may be until the next version of the game is released, as there is an option to import an OOTP 18 save). OOTP 19 also boasts a special setting/profile called Challenge Mode. After creating an online account, you may enable Challenge Mode to lock some of the games settings, making for a more accurate and, well, challenging experience. This isn’t something to be intimidated by, though, as it mostly restricts you from messing with other teams (whether they like it or not) or, say, auto-simulating an entire season. Challenge Mode also uploads some of your play data online, which you can review from a web browser, should that sort of thing interest you.

It's also worth mentioning OOTP 19 teases a new mode called Perfect Team. This mode looks to expand OOTP 19 into the multiplayer realm, with features like online leagues. It’s exciting to speculate what this mode might entail, and how it may augment or enhance the traditional experience. Unfortunately, as this review is being written, Perfect Team is not yet available.

PLAY BALL!

Gameplay in OOTP 19 is really broken into two distinct experiences: menu management and turn-based baseball game simulation. Of those two, it’s really 75% the former (100% if you find yourself simulating the actual games). In both scenarios you have plenty of time to think through and calculate your next move. Feel free to hover over players, cycle through menus, and think through your next move for as long as you’d like; time never seems to be the enemy in OOTP 19.

It’s knowledge and memorization that seem to be your greatest rivals. In a game where you can do almost anything baseball-related, the devil really is in the details. If you need more money for free agents or to secure a new shortstop, maybe you’ll adjust ticket prices. But like tycoon games of yore, the possibility for failure is baked in. If your team flops and tickets are too high, your strategy may backfire and leave you bleeding money, scrounging for sleepers in the minor leagues.

It’s not long after diving into the gameplay of OOTP 19 that you may find yourself scrambling back to the tutorial videos or manual for help. OOTP 19 throws a ton of info in your face, and it can be very intimidating. However, given a little time, it’s easy to learn the structure of the title’s various menus and compartmentalize what’s useful based on what you’re trying to accomplish. From the main page, there is a row of icons running along the right side of the screen, allowing quick access to the title’s most important sections. From here you can do pretty much everything, from checking out your front office, to reviewing your team and lineups, to looking around the league and seeing what other teams are up to.

OOTP 19 really does allow you to control most every aspect of your team. While this is a lot of information to process, it’s comforting to know you don’t need to know everything to play the game, or even to succeed in it, for that matter. Sure, some general knowledge of what baseball is and how it’s played will take you a long way. But past that, there is no penalty for getting your hands dirty and playing through (or simulating) some games. Worst case scenario, you start your season 0-5 (I blame the Orioles current roster over my inexperience) but who cares? The more you play, the more the game opens up to you and the easier (or at least more intuitive) things become. This is a game that rewards knowledge and memorization, and sometimes that’s best achieved by trial-and-error. There is no shame in playing through half a season to get the hang of things and then just starting over. (I won’t tell. I did it too.)

ALL SUBSTANCE, LITTLE FLASH

Let’s talk a bit about what you won’t find in OOTP 19. First off, flair is in short supply. Even taking a cursory look, you will see what you will get, which is mainly menus. Nope, there will be no batter POV glamor cams as you crush a homer over the nosebleeds. Don’t expect a bellowing Harry Caray-esque send-off if you pitch a no-hitter. Everything that occurs within the game is handled with an almost antiseptic and calculated approach.

This is, in all likelihood, due to the game’s hyper-focus on facts and statistics. Data really is king in OOTP 19, and everything about the game works to reinforce this mantra. While it does appear that each iteration of OOTP introduces more of the actual game of baseball (i.e., watching actual players playing baseball), OOTP 19 still leaves most of the flair to the player’s imagination, while the core experience largely remains cycling between spreadsheets.

For players accustomed to this experience and similar manager-type sports games, this is nothing new. However, I’m sure for many gamers this experience may not appeal. But, I think that’s okay. OOTP 19 does something pretty unique, and they do a good job of it. Out of the Park Developments has been able to find both a sufficient following and room for yearly improvements, allowing them to make the type of baseball game they would want to play. The developers’ passion, paired with the enormous depth of content, continue to make OOTP a franchise worth celebrating.

Lastly, I’m curious to see where Out of the Park Developments takes this genre and format as they continue to grow. I can’t help but fantasize about sports I love getting the OOTP 19 treatment. I think of how smitten I would be with their version of American Football or something fantastical like quidditch (cut me some slack, a Harry Potter nerd can dream). For now, I will have to continue to daydream, as Out of the Park Developments currently only explores baseball and hockey.

8

The Verdict: Excellent

OOTP 19 is a very specific and complicated type of game. As with any title of that nature, there are going to be those who feel alienated, or too intimidated to give it a try. As a casual baseball fan and a rookie to the world of manager-style PC games, I count myself among those on the fringe of this title’s appeal. But it doesn’t take long with OOTP 19 to be in awe of the complexity of interwoven systems and to feel the dev’s love radiating off the game’s many menus. Whether you are someone like me who catches a few baseball games a year and wants to try something new, or an uber-fan who enjoys filling in stat-sheets live, OOTP 19 is something special and well worth your time.

Matthew Watson
Written by
July 25, 2018
Published in Sport

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Matt finds himself thinking about gaming most of the day. If he's not glued to his PC searching for the next great indie game; he's likely explaining the rules to some complex board game he's talked his friends into. Matt graduated from Marymount University in Arlington,VA with a Bachelor of Arts. Originally from Maryland, Matt currently lives in Austin,TX where he provides customer support for Electronic Arts. As such, Matt will not be reviewing any EA games we happen to get our hands on.

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