The long wait for an excellent baseball game on Xbox is over, now that MLB The Show 21 has made its way over to the Xbox Series X|S. Xbox players have been able to play other baseball simulators such as RBI Baseball, but when it comes to the best of the best, the previously PlayStation-exclusive MLB The Show continues to improve every year.
Since this is the first year The Show will be featured on Xbox consoles, players need to know what they can expect from each of the main game modes on offer.
The staple of any sports simulator is its franchise mode, which lets players take control of a team and make all of the everyday decisions necessary to secure wins. From adjusting lineups to making roster call ups during a season, there’s many details players are asked to handle so as to ensure their team is the best in their given league. This type of mode’s options for preparation and team performance would be sufficient for satisfying an audience, even without considering the time between sports seasons.
That having been said, a given game’s Franchise Mode often extends beyond just midseason activities. For example, when it comes time for the offseason, the player is responsible for handling the contracts of existing team members and staff. They also have the ability to make trades and sign free agents, all to prepare the team for the next season. Given the many layers to Franchise Mode on and off the field, it’s astounding that The Show’s underlying design has only now caught up in terms of conveying a team manager’s true experiences.
MLB The Show 21 is set to introduce some minor changes in the game’s backend to better emphasize how it feels to be a General Manager, for good or ill. Player projections have a new algorithm that focuses on the players’ performance, attributes, and existing contracts. On top of that, trading is now more difficult; an aspiring GM won’t be able to easily trade a high-earning player to a team that can’t afford them, regardless of said player’s caliber.
Another exciting new feature is the use of AI to generate lineups. To give an example, it’s possible that a player simulating a majority of their season will be subjected to a string of team injuries, which can result in new players being called up from the minor leagues. Having the AI generate a lineup at random in such a scenario leads to the best players on the team being put on the field, as opposed to filling the lineup with anyone on the bench..
Last but not least, the depth chart is also receiving a large update. This chart will now provide new information about what team members need a day off, accompanied by player projections to help prepare the team for the future.
Road to the Show
Many fans of The Show consider their favourite mode to be Road to the Show, the series’ create-a-player-mode. Road to the Show allows gamers to create their own player, letting them go through a baseball combine to determine draft placement.
The mode also gives players the chance to pick from several traits, shaping their baseball star in a variety of interesting if limited ways. It is well within the player’s ability to create a character that is a power hitter, a fast-paced pitcher, or a leader. Though these traits have minimal impact on gameplay, they can lead to interesting conversations with the General Manager. Compelling as Road to the Show’s options can be, there’s room for improvement with regards to encouraging more freeform gameplay.
In The Show 21, Road to the Show is receiving some updates that change the presentation and overall gameplay featured in past entries, such as the ability to serve as a Two Way Player. This addition lets the player act as both a position player and a pitcher, as opposed to needing to choose between the two. It also means a number of new character building options will be available, like keeping the attributes for both positions balanced or training in only one of the roles..
Furthermore, MLB The Show has introduced podcasts that will act as the narrative system throughout a created player’s career. Each podcast episode will reflect on the decisions the player has made and will feature voices of former baseball players, such as Sean Casey.
Comparable to the Ultimate Team feature in EA Sports titles, Diamond Dynasty entails opening packs of cards in order to build a team. Said cards include a mix of players and stadiums past and present, as well as special equipment for boosting the stats of players. People can unlock more packs by playing through memorable moments in baseball history or by pre-ordering one of The Show 21’s special editions. However, assembling a team with these packs only accounts for part of the mode; there’s still the matter of regular play.
Within the Diamond Dynasty mode, people can engage in various activities with other players online. Diamond Dynasty includes an online league for inter-player competition and a Battle Royale sub-mode in which the last team standing wins. It also features Conquest, which tasks players with building up a fan base within a small region while competing against other teams. Having so many ways to experience Diamond Dynasty makes the prospect of the odd unsatisfying card pack easier to accept.
Of course, the mode also provides options for players who find wanting for better cards. Those who are unhappy with the cards they received can list them on the Marketplace and potentially sell them. Alternatively, those people can find a desired player card and buy it using the in-game currency.
Apart from the major three modes, there’s also fun and time-saving modes like March to October. This mode exists for players who want to fast forward a franchise in order to get to the postseason. While it doesn’t allow people to immediately start a season in October, the mode does highlight certain games over the course of a 162 game season.
In addition to March to October, the game includes the ability to play a pick-up game for those who are short on time. The Home Run derby mode is where players can test their skill at hitting a ball out of the park, using their preferred power slugger.
Then there’s Stadium Creator, a feature available only in the next-gen versions of The Show 21. As the name implies, Stadium Creator grants the player freedom to build a stadium from scratch. Besides being able to place and arrange items as they see fit, players can also borrow pieces from existing stadiums to create astounding displays. In offering this kind of creative outlet, MLB The Show 21 shows how far it intends to go in order to satisfy its audience.
We won’t have to wait much longer to start building our dream team in Diamond Dynasty or taking our favorite team to the World Series, as MLB The Show 21 launches for early access on April 16. For players who didn’t pre-order the special edition, the game will be released on April 20 for both PlayStation and Xbox consoles, as well as Xbox Game Pass.