Game Over Online ~ Baseball Mogul 2003

GameOver Game Reviews - Baseball Mogul 2003 (c) Sports Mogul Inc., Reviewed by - Westlake

Game & Publisher Baseball Mogul 2003 (c) Sports Mogul Inc.
System Requirements Windows, Pentium 100MHz, 16MB RAM, 160MB HDD
Overall Rating 68%
Date Published Wednesday, June 5th, 2002 at 12:19 PM

Divider Left By: Westlake Divider Right

Baseball Mogul 2003 is a text-based baseball simulation. It lets you take on the role of a team’s general manager (GM) and make trades, set lineups, and negotiate with free agents. It’s also the fifth installment in the Baseball Mogul franchise, and therein lies the problem. The game has barely evolved since it was first released in the 90’s, and while some of its quirks then were easy to forgive since the game was a first effort and there wasn’t any competition, now the game is sort of frustrating because the developers haven’t tried to deal with any of its problems. And so there still isn’t a disabled list, the minors still function as a reserve list for the majors, free agency is still handled badly, the game still doesn’t present information well, and more. In fact, my review of Baseball Mogul 2002 still essentially holds.

But that’s not to say developer Sports Mogul Inc. simply updated the player statistics and didn’t do anything else with the Baseball Mogul engine. They made some changes, both minor and major. For example, you can now run a draft at the start of the game to select the players for your team (rather than just having the players who are supposed to be on the team or using a random shuffle). More years of statistics are shown for each player (their entire career rather than just the latest two years). And you can now specify the types of prospects you’d like to see appear in your minor league system (rather than just leaving it to chance).

Those are some of the minor changes, and, oddly, those are the ones listed most prominently in the game’s documentation. The most interesting change, however, has to do with free agency. In previous installments, the off season was a single time block, and you’d get to negotiate with free agents before the computer players. That gave you an obvious advantage, since you could grab all the good free agents (provided you could afford them) and leave the scraps for the other teams. Now the off season is made up of days, just like the regular season, and free agents negotiate with all teams as the days go by. Moreover, free agents lower their demands as time goes by, and so you have decide whether to grab them right away (and pay more) or wait and hope they’re still around later (and pay less). It’s a fairer system than it was before, but unfortunately it doesn’t work well. Most free agents last all the way until opening day, and they drop their prices by way too much, and so it’s far too easy to get a bargain. It also means that it’s almost always bad to re-sign your own free agents, because even though they’ll give you a “hometown discount” you’ll still end up paying more than if you let them go and sign them later.

Of course, no baseball simulation has really handled free agency well. But here’s the problem: being a baseball GM is a complicated thing, and so while the developer of a baseball simulation has to simplify some areas of the game, they have to simplify them in such a way as to make the experience still feel right -- and never signing your own free agents isn’t going to confuse anybody with how Major League Baseball really works.

Baseball Mogul 2003 has this problem in other areas as well. For example, there still isn’t a disabled list in the game, and when players gets hurt, you don’t even have to take them off the active roster. The computer manager will just use somebody from the minors in their place. And so once again the feel of the game is off, and while things like free agency and arbitration might be difficult to model well, the disabled list is a pretty simple thing, and it’s just odd that it isn’t in the game.

Baseball Mogul 2003 also still has problems with its interface, the most glaring of which is that it doesn’t present information well. The game is played in a window, and while that’s useful if you’re doing other things at the same time, it also means the game doesn’t have enough screen space for the information it should be presenting. And so if you want to see the statistics for a team, you have to dump the statistics to a file and then view the file. And if you want to, say, make a trade, and you’re looking for a suitable player to acquire, statistics are only presented one player at a time, and so you have to do a lot of unnecessary clicking while conducting a search. Baseball Mogul 2003 is also a little vanilla in the statistics it keeps track of. If you’re interested in situational statistics (like home/road splits) or more esoteric statistics (like runs created), you won’t find them in the game.

Overall, Baseball Mogul 2003 provides some fun moments, but it’s a little simplistic and it hasn’t changed enough from its earlier installments. It’s also a little easy, once you figure out how to trade with the computer GM’s. (I made the Expos into a perennial World Series threat on the “mogul” difficulty setting, and once you can do that the game loses its excitement.) But if you’re a casual baseball fan, and if you haven’t played any of the other games in the series, then it might be a fun enough way to spend the weekend while watching your favorite team on TV.

(35/50) Gameplay
(20/30) Verisimilitude
(05/10) Interface
(05/05) Technical
(03/05) Documentation


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