Baseball Mogul 2006 gets the series back on track for the first time in ages with what is easily the best game since the original debuted in 1997.
- New player personality features
- Added Lahman Database support provides more-accurate historical seasons
- Other amenities like expansion drafts and arbitration add to the realism.
- Managerial options need to be beefed up, and the lefty/righty issue has to finally be addressed
- Financial model is still overly simplistic.
As the original baseball management sim, Baseball Mogul paved the way for a lot of other developers over the past eight years. Quite simply, we wouldn't have great games like Out of the Park Baseball without the pioneering work of developer Clay Dreslough. But something happened along the way to sports-game greatness. The outstanding original design didn't evolve, and Dreslough found himself standing still while his former followers whizzed by with ever-more authentic and complex reproductions of life at the helm of a Major League ballclub. Not any longer. Baseball Mogul 2006 gets the series back on track for the first time in ages with what is easily the best game since the original debuted to all-around praise in 1997. Dreslough and his team at Sports Mogul have made wholesale changes to the design, adding much-needed depth to key areas like player personality, contract negotiations, and historical replay. It feels like this once-great series is finally reaching its potential.
Core aspects of the game remain untouched, however. You still take total control of your favorite Major League Baseball club and attempt to guide the franchise to success, both in the standings and in the accountant's ledger. This remains a baseball business sim, geared toward those who like crunching statistics, setting the going rate for hot dogs, establishing budgets for player development, and shipping recalcitrant outfielders off to Omaha. It still lacks graphical flash (although drag-and-drop support has finally been added, along with an attractive team summary screen), and it's missing some managerial options, including left/right splits, so look elsewhere if you want a game that lets you field hot grounders or become a virtual Casey Stengel.
Baseball Mogul 2006 isn't changing the series' long-standing focus. But the heart of the game has changed, largely because all players now have personality traits, nicknames, friends, and morale that ebbs and flows depending on what's taking place in the clubhouse and on the field. Pedro Martinez, for instance, is no longer just a fantastic starter with great numbers; he's a "generous, down-to-earth" human being who's "glad to be with a team that's committed to winning." Ivan Rodriguez is "gregarious," but also someone who wants to play for a "perennial playoff contender." Vladimir Guerrero is "egotistical," although that apparently makes him "a good fit" with the LA Angels of Anaheim.
Player personality has a tremendous impact on gameplay, turning a predictable manipulation of names and numbers into an authentic simulation of running a big-league ballclub with real people on the roster. Bringing in a star with great numbers used to be a no-brainer. Now you've got to look behind the statistics and see if the player will be happy in the role to which you want to assign him and whether or not he'll add to team chemistry or blow up the clubhouse. Making the right move is also easier said than done. Most players have complex or conflicting characteristics, like "sloppy but outgoing" and "boastful but even-tempered," so at times it feels like you're assembling the Multiple Personality All-Stars.
Taking the time to put together a team of stable individuals really seems to pay off, though. We didn't get solid innings out of Derek Lowe with our LA Dodgers until we moved him up to his desired number-two position in the starting rotation. J.D. Drew's numbers indicated that he was never satisfied in Chavez Ravine, likely because he wanted to be moved to Colorado to play with his brother, Tim. "Gluttonous but silly" Milton Bradley turned in one career season after another hitting leadoff for the Dodgers, after he became "comfortable" with most of his teammates. As in the real world, happy players usually performed well, and unhappy players did not.
Unfortunately, player personalities don't play much of a role in personnel moves. There aren't any real troublemakers in Baseball Mogul 2006. Even Barry Bonds is simply described as "practical," which is probably the nicest epithet that's been applied to him over the course of his stormy career. At any rate, stars with difficult personalities don't refuse trades or minor-league assignments, and they won't turn down a contract offer if you meet their terms or come close. We were always able to sign free agents--even if their personalities indicated that they would be difficult to please, even if rumors stated that they wanted to sign elsewhere, and even if they stated a preference for playing on another Major League club so they could be with their friends.