MLB The Show 16
MLB The Show 16 expands the game's Diamond Dynasty mode with added challenges and a range of rewards, but developer San Diego Studio is also including two new ways to collect cards. These are designed not only to give some of the best ones in the game, but also let you have lots of fun doing so.
Conquest is a single-player mode (although like Diamond Dynasty itself it requires an online connection) presenting players with a grid of the country featuring strongholds representing the territories of all 30 teams in the league. Your job is to expand your fanbase by capturing grid spaces on the board, and in the process, weaken other teams and complete objectives that grant you Diamond Dynasty rewards.
Games in this mode last three-innings and you can reset the board at any time, thus while the mode has a strategic component to it, it's meant to be a easy way to bolster your Diamond Dynasty collection.
A turn in Conquest mode is broken up into four phases. The attack phase is where you capture unoccupied adjacent hexes in order to expand your territory, and also attack occupied adjacent hexes. While you can make as many moves as you want in this phase, your ability to expand is naturally constrained by the forces at your disposal as represented by your fanbase. The fan power in a hex is represented by a number that represents your fans in the millions. The strength of your hex's number when compared to your opponent's determines the difficulty of the ensuring three-inning contest.
The capture phase allows you to attack and capture fans from AI-controlled strongholds, and is the one phase that the computer player does not partake in. This phase lets you strategically make moves on the board – which will have changed at the conclusion of the attack phase based on what the other teams on the board have done – and make pre-emptive strikes at opponents. MLB The Show 16 game designer Lance Leahy says the AI is tuned to protect its stronghold as well as monitor what's going on around the map to provide a competitive experience. "There are a lot of random factors in there to make sure the user gets a unique experience every time," he says.
The final two phases – reinforce and move fans – let you regroup and prepare for the next turn. Reinforce lets you place the fans you've picked up from the first two phases, while move fans lets you spread out your fans to adjacent hexes in your territory.
There are a variety of objectives in the mode, such as beating a certain team in two turns, for example, as well as some hidden objectives. Rewards include some flashback players, and the Diamond Dynasty items you get in the mode will be based on the teams you beat. So if you beat the Royals you'll get Royals gear, for instance.
Battle Royale is similar to the draft-and-play Ultimate Team modes that EA Sports introduced in its Madden and FIFA titles this year. Players draft a team of 25 players and play three-inning contests online versus other players for six tiers of Diamond Dynasty rewards – including some of the best cards in the game. Your team is dropped out of the ongoing 20-game tournament once you lose twice, and rewards are given out based on your total number of wins. However, even if you don't pick up a single victory, you'll still get a standard pack just for showing up. The first time you play Battle Royale it's free, but subsequent times will cost you 1,500 stubs a pop.
Leahy says that the cards in the mode's six reward tiers will change periodically, and the highest tier is populated by some of Diamond Dynasty's most powerful legend players such as the Rangers versions of Alex Rodriguez or Nolan Ryan.
While the asynchronous draft pulls from a pool of 1,200 current players and 500 flashback ones, when you start drafting you're actually choosing players from a smaller pool of 100 players that are different for everybody playing the mode in order to cut down on duplicate lineups. You start out by drafting your cornerstone player – a diamond level player. From there you pick two gold players and subsequently fill out the rest of your roster with silver and bronze players. Each draft round presents you with four players to choose from, and the computer will coordinate the selection so you're not presented with nothing but catchers even though you've already picked the position, for instance. Conversely, if you get to the later rounds and you don't have a catcher yet, the game will steer you in that direction.
While sports card-based modes can be money makers for the franchises, they can also cheese off some fans who don't want to put the time or cash into building a stacked deck. However, Conquest mode gives fans an easy chance to build up their Diamond Dynasty deck on their own via a compelling strategy game, while Battle Royale levels the playing field amongst gamers, and lets them play with some of the best players in the game and compete for some top prizes. These kinds of additions pump even more replayability into MLB The Show 16's already strong lineup.
MLB The Show 16 comes out for PS4 and PS3 on March 29 (both modes are on both consoles). To see the game in action, check it out here.