Rugby games on any format don’t always have a great reputation. That’s partly because so many of us compare them unfavourably to the football gaming giants of FIFA and Pro Evolution with their investment even beyond the riches of the Chinese football league. After the legendary Codemasters’ Jonah Lomu Rugby game rugby fans had to wait far too many years until 2016 for Alternative Software’s Rugby Challenge 3 to arrive and provide a game to enjoy an authentic fun experience that respected the game we love and kept players coming back for more.
That positive rugby game reputation therefore made me eagerly welcome news that Alternative Software were releasing a 2017 version of their Rugby Union Team Manager game. First off, let’s be clear: it’s not the rugby equivalent of the top-selling Football Manager series. The degree of polish that has developed comes with multiple iterations and vastly deep pockets investment. But set that aside and recognise a developer seeking to provide an in-depth immersive rugby experience and their emotional and technical investment in seeking to create as good a game as possible is clear. They have responded to community requests about improvements on the previous RUTM version. They have clearly sought to pack in a huge array of features to the new one.
Once loaded you are able to choose to manage clubs from officially licenced Aviva Premiership, Pro 12, Top 14 and Pro D2 teams as well as lower league and Pro Evo style non-licenced Super Rugby sides under loose cover of city names. Apparently later on you can manage international sides. I suspect that will take serious time investment. Like the FM games, this could seriously steal your life away as you seek to fathom the various menu and other options, crack the secrets to developing a winning formula to win trophies, develop Academy and colts through to internationals and perhaps even ensure Bristol’s safety in the Premiership.
Clearly, I chose to manage Saracens. Sorry to Mark McCall, who hopefully with his current coaching team will be leading us to success at Allianz Park for years to come, but if I was going to put in time to a game I wanted to win it for Sarries. First impressions are of a baffling array of options. After selecting a sponsor, training plans (with little understanding of how that would affect the team’s performance at this stage) and reading about the Board’s expectations I started to explore to try to work out what I could do. I think one reason I had enjoyed their RC3 game so much was that Alternative had built in instructional guides. RUTM17 has very little by way of guidance. I wanted to sign a new player. I haven’t worked out how.
However, the new 3D match engine is quite clever, enabling you to take decisions during the game that affect the outcome and you can select the game speed if you want to race ahead to get back to decisions away from match days. You feel part of the game and seeing Saracens score tries in any format is always a joy (well, for me if not all rugby fans).
Reviewing this is tricky though. I know that the more I play – and I’ll keep playing and playing – the more I’ll understand it and be able to make the most of the game. Perhaps for the next AIternative Software patch or 2018 upgrade they can build in an optional more instructional initial experience and ‘help’ function. The graphics could be polished yet further but work well in the game. The background music needs to vary or synch with your own playlist. But grumble, grumble: typical rugby fan always wanting more even when your team are defending Double Champions.
This is definitely worth the relatively modest investment. I suspect significant returns for your time as you plunge yourself into the game.
I’m off to ponder over the line up for the next game. Closest I’ll ever get to McCall’s job…!
Some example screenshots supplied by Alternative Software: