Invincibles Studio Ltd, previously known as Soccer Manager Games, has brought out its latest release in the Soccer Manager series, ahead of the 2022/23 football season. Soccer Manager 2023, abbreviated to SM23, is the updated football manager experience, which builds on its predecessor. The developer’s aim towards producing something more and more authentic each year is clear, and this year is no different. Jam-packed with new features, various enhancements, and an exciting mode, we were certainly quite eager to play this one. Here in this article, we will review Soccer Manager 2023 and share our first impressions of the game.
Annual graphics updates and UI changes have settled nicely
Starting off with the Soccer Manager 2023 review, every year, the game brings a redefined UI with different color schemes and layouts. This year is no different in that sense. With a light blue, black, and white combination, the menus look bright, but not too over-the-top either. The buttons are smoothly-rounded, looking clean and simple. It’s a different take in comparison to SM22, but it has been executed very well. Personally, the minimalist look suits well taste and makes this complex game a little bit more approachable.
In terms of the matchday experience, the developers have promised regular upgrades, and they are present this year too. We have some updated player models, new cutscenes, and better graphics all-round. The environment is bright, and it feels closer than before to the stadium experience the game is aiming to capture. Indeed, the game has come a long way since when it first introduced the 3D match engine.
There are still some small visual bugs with players phasing through each other or some delayed animations. However, it does seem quite smoother compared to previous years, which confirms the developers are trying to cut down on these bugs where possible.
Experience a new way to play with Create-a-Club
SM23 brings one of the series’ most awaited additions: the Create-a-Club. As opposed to picking one of the many existing clubs, players can now choose to build their own. Customization includes editing the team and stadium name and designing the club badge, as well as both home and away kits.
The newly formed club will start in the bottom league of whichever nation is initially chosen, for example, the National League in England. A classic challenge in Soccer Manager is to carry a team from the lower leagues to major glory, and Create-a-Club offers the same but with a bit more personal attachment.
The mode works well and lives up to its expectations. Having a good set of options in customization was always going to be the deciding factor, and Invincibles Studio has done well in that part. This is the first game mode introduced to SM23 alongside the main Career mode, aside from perhaps the Challenge mode that was introduced for a few months in SM21. Hopefully, this is a sign of what’s to come, in terms of new ways to play Soccer Manager.
SM23’s overhauled Transfer market creates a more competitive atmosphere
Another key selling point of this year’s Soccer Manager title is the overhauled transfer system. Previous editions saw players simply placing or responding to bids through email. Whilst it worked, it didn’t feel like interaction, but rather a game of who caves with their demands first. The new transfer system brings live negotiations, introducing multiple potential buyers as well.
Signing a player can involve fighting off the financial power of other European giants, so confirming that marquee signing is much more satisfying. Selling players is much better in a similar way too. It’s still important to keep an eye on the patience levels of other managers. However, if things don’t go to plan, it’s nice to know the negotiation wasn’t spread out over the whole week, and there is still time to chase an alternative player.
Contract Negotiations are still the same as last year, but they could well be on the To Do list for future updates. Additionally, it would’ve been nice to have other parts of a transfer offer, such as player exchanges, and perhaps installments/other clauses. Again, it’s likely these will be coming up later down the line.
Take more control with better Tactic selection
SM23 advances the tactics selection screen, adding more options as well as pre-set tactics. Now, it’s easier for new players to approach tactics without having to deal with the numerous settings in the menu. Simply select a pre-set tactic, ranging from High Press to Park the Bus, and the game will do the rest. On the other hand, those that enjoy the tweaking have more control, with new tactic settings like Formation Fluidity, Sweeper Keepers, and Time Wasting.
The tactics menu has always been one of the more important parts of the Soccer Manager series, so improvements here are great to see. This was a seemingly untouched area last year, and the changes prove the developers are definitely out there actively responding to feedback.
Developing Wonderkids is still missing some satisfaction
On first impression, the previous issue of irregular player development has leveled out a bit. How players grow and improve seems to make a little more sense, which is nice to know as this was a problem before. However, the player growth system as a whole still has some way to go through.
Tracking player growth works quite well, although it is difficult to reshape this growth by changing positions or working specific attributes for example. The introduction of Loan reports into the inbox is a nice addition. Sending players on loan used to feel like just moving them off the wage bill, and it’s interesting to see what those guys are getting up to on their time away.
However, these loan reposts revealed that some clubs simply weren’t using the players. Particularly with youngsters, loan moves are great ways for them to gain experience, but that’s pointless without game time. In the future, it would be nice to have more control over these types of things.
Finally, the youth academy desperately needs some work. It feels like it has been a while since this system was implemented, and it admittedly feels dry now. With some upgrades to the facility, the youngsters from here can be worthwhile, though it feels like these players are just appearing out of thin air. Perhaps some more layers could help, with youth squads and competitions. These would also be opportunities for players to keep match fit rather than just sitting idle in the Reserves section of the squad.
The Training system still has some way further to go
Building on the previous point of player development, training is another area for improvement. It is the same as last year and has grown to be slightly one-dimensional. Currently, players select a set number of standard training drills for the whole team and wait a week before they can go again. For starters, the weekly theme doesn’t match the rigorous, almost-daily, training programs of top-flight players.
Using training schedules similar to those of the popular PC game, Football Manager, could be a workaround here. Additionally, It would be nice for the drills to be more specific as well, with different elements of attacking rather than just Attacking, in order to mirror real-life scenarios.
During a developer interview with us, the developers spoke of their aim to build a “simple (but in-depth) game“, so it will be exciting to see how they approach the player growth system. With so many advancements in other parts of the game, it is hoped that improvements here are soon to come down the line.
The developers’ ideas have been clear from the start, and the release of SM23 looks like another step in the right direction. With the introduction of a new mode as well as fresh features, tweaks, and improvements in several aspects of the game, this year looks exciting.
From our review perspective, Soccer Manager 2023 still isn’t a finished product though, as there are some missing pieces in some areas. However, looking at these missing pieces as opportunities to improve paints a promising future for the series. No doubt, it will be interesting to see how it progresses going forward.
What are your opinions on the Soccer Manager 2023 game and your review of it? Do let us know in the comments!