From developer Blackout Games, Blackout Rugby Manager is a multiplayer rugby manager game available for the PC and select mobile devices. As another free-to-play game, Blackout Games does make it known that there are paid DLC items, but for the most part the experience to be had with this rugby sim can be enjoyed without having to hit the old credit card. As one of the only rugby sims out, Blackout Rugby Manager strikes a nice balance for newcomers to the sport and die-hard fans. For the purpose of this review, I played the game via Steam for the PC. With that all said, let’s get into my Blackout Rugby Manager review.
Blackout Rugby Manager Review
What I Like
One of the hardest concepts to settle on for sports game developers has to be balance. “How do I make the game easy to pick up and play for casuals and/or newcomers” versus “how do I appease the rugby fanatics that also happen to enjoy gaming?” One way of achieving this kind of balance is through a great tutorial and thankfully this game has one. Not only does Blackout Games have a good in-game tutorial, they also have a great wiki page — as well as a blog that is updated as the game further develops.
Everything from the basics of the sport to how upgrade buildings and manage your finances is covered. Of course, if you’re already familiar with both you can jump right in and skip the tutorial. Throughout the course of my time with the game, I frequently found myself referring to the wiki page.
Management Side of Rugby
Whether you’re an ex-player or someone looking to get into the game, Blackout Rugby Manager does a good job of incorporating various levels of responsibility. The extensive training program is a great way to get a firm grip on your roster while looking for ways to improve your current players or find new ones. Once you plan a training regimen, you can then assign players to it and even boost the sessions with Training Cards while also taking into account your Club’s level.
Just like in Soccer Manager, I found myself spending more time tinkering with my players and setting up Training than I did actually playing matches. Some of the training sessions can become repetitive considering they can be completed on a daily basis, but if you’re playing a sim management game then this is what one should expect. Forward and Backs sessions carry a great deal of importance, so it’s worth taking your time with these and monitoring the affects they have on your team.
Blackout Rugby Manager isn’t a game that you can instantly pick up and enjoy. Learning the mechanics of the game takes time, and I appreciate that. Folks of sim management games are in it for the long haul with matches being the cherry on top as you prepare all week for them using your daily training sessions (and logins to collect bonuses) as a way to better your team. Not only does patience pay off, it also helps you manage your team both in the present and long-term future, especially when it comes to finances.
Instant gratification types might want to jump in and splash the cash right away, but buyer beware as doing so will severely impact your cash flow and limit your ability to capitalize on the fly.
What I Don’t Like
Look, I’m not against paying for certain enhancements available within a game to make my experience better but there’s a point that I won’t cross. Unfortunately, there’s a point in this game that hits that exact trigger point, and it rears its ugly head nearly almost from the start. One of the first actions you have to undertake as a manager is building your stadium, which is not a hard task but the game wants you to either wait 10 minutes or spend money to accelerate this process.
So as I waited for my stadium upgrades to be completed, I did what most folks would do and made myself a sandwich knowing that I had some time to kill. This time-enhancement-based monetization happens too frequently for my liking, even when it comes to playing matches and joining leagues/unions.
In actuality, this game has been out for quite some time as a desktop game (originally released in 2018/19). As it continues to evolve there will be the odd bug or two, but it’s obvious that the developer is at least committed to resolving these. These current bugs are not game killers, rather they’re annoying items that can dampen your playing experience. Some of the bugs I’ve encountered are:
- Tutorial has issues when you advance past the initial few items/screens, which caused me to restart the game on more than one occasion.
- There are some graphical user interface (UI) issues that congest the viewing screen such as the game overlay bug when you click squad, then try to click stadium too quickly or another upgradeable item. At this point, you will get both screen overlays at the same time with neither one working.
- Sounds lag on different screens/menus.
- Character models jerk and freeze when changing players too quickly within a match.
Overall, there aren’t too many rugby sims out on the market so that alone helps Blackout Rugby Manager’s appeal. Trying to break into the simulation market is tough, especially when it requires a delicate balance between going the full Soccer Manager route or being so arcadey/basic that it pushes away the hardcore rugby fan. Fortunately, Blackout Rugby Manager does a pretty decent job overall at achieving this balance.
With a pretty strong community online and daily bonuses, there’s enough to keep most coming back, but only if they exercise patience as waiting for certain upgrades/tasks to complete leaves gamers with a lot of dead time that could put some folks off. Even the most sim of sim games, Soccer Manager, has worked tirelessly over the years to eliminate the amount of dead time with popups and little helpful hints to aid you in your journey. While this game does offer something unique to fans of rugby, it will be hard to envision casuals becoming too invested in this title.