MLB The Show 19 on PlayStation 4
If you’ve been following along with my last few MLB The Show reviews, you would know that I’ve started to grow a bit weary of the franchise. It’s never slipped into the territory of being not fun anymore, but overall it was starting to feel a bit tired.
Another year of the same old for the three main game modes (Franchise, Road to the Show, and Diamond Dynasty) would have been very problematic for the series if that was the case with MLB The Show 19.
Fortunately, that isn’t the case this year. MLB The Show 19 adds two new game modes, Moments and March to October, which both standout on their own merits as worthwhile additions, but they also enhance the Diamond Dynasty experience for those that are into that (read: lots of you).
Let’s start with the aforementioned new game modes, March to October first. March to October functions as a story mode of sorts for each team in the MLB. Definitely not to the extreme of Madden’s Longshot or anything like that, but it’s a contained single-player experience that doesn’t persist into the deep future like Franchise can if you want it to.
Your objective is to adopt one of the teams in the MLB, as favorable or dire as their situation might be, and turn them into a World Series contender. Teams are divided into categories such as Contenders (like the Brewers) or Longshots (Marlins, Orioles).
You’re not controlling what games you play or sim throughout season. Instead, you’re thrown into key moments from the season and depending on whether or not you succeed, your path to making the playoffs, and ultimately winning the World Series, is made easier, harder or impossible if you end up failing too many.
You build up momentum from your performance and this momentum effects how well your team performs for the games that you aren’t playing, or how favorable/dire the situation is when you do get to play. You might need to mount a big comeback from the 6th inning if your momentum is bad, for example.
If you succeed in your ultimate goal, depending on the difficulty you chose, you’ll be rewarded with valuable items that you can use in the other game modes including powerful Diamond Dynasty diamond cards potentially.
It’s unlike anything I’ve played in MLB The Show before, and I found myself hooked by the challenge of trying to take teams I wouldn’t normally play as in Franchise (because they aren’t the Yankees), to the World Series in a one-off experience.
The fact that good Diamond Dynasty cards can come from it is just the cherry on the top. It’s a solid new game mode that I can see being expanded upon to be made even more intricate in future iterations.
Moments is the other major new addition, and the one more directly tied to Diamond Dynasty as it will serve as the backbone of new premiere card acquisitions throughout the season.
Moments are a series of challenges themed around either a specific player’s career arc, such as Babe Ruth or a present-day player like cover star Bryce Harper. Completing these challenges will earn players Stubs (the game’s currency used to buy enhancements for the major game modes), experience points for your profile (which by the way leveling up actually gets you good stuff for DD now too), and higher rated Diamond Dynasty cards.
They feature short vignettes explaining the historical circumstance behind the moment such as Babe Ruth’s called shot, and ask you to replicate or defy history.
In the case of Babe Ruth, the color is even changed to black and white to give it an old-timey feel. This would have been a nice touch if it wasn’t immediately ruined by seeing the crowd on cell phones and modern-day advertisements around the stadium which killed the immersion.
The challenges can be quite difficult and sometimes grindy, but the reward is usually worth it as long as you’re into Diamond Dynasty. If you’re not, it’s still a fun set of objectives that you can challenge yourself with and come back to throughout the year as Sony San Diego Studio adds more of them as the MLB season progresses.
I’ve mentioned Diamond Dynasty a bunch, so let’s just talk about that now finally. Diamond Dynasty’s economy and card acquisition methods have been completely overhauled. Gameplay is pretty much the same, as your teams are used to play in ranked seasons and other game modes like Conquest, and Events. However, the way you obtain new cards and future Diamonds are centered around completing challenges like Moments.
This replaces the souvenir-based economy and the need to mindlessly and excessively beat up on crappy teams like Chicago White Sox on Rookie difficulty to grind out stat-based challenges from last year, which is an extremely positive step in the right direction.
There’s still a grind, of course, to get all of these diamond cards, Moments and other similar Programs as we mentioned aren’t short or easy, but it definitely is more interesting than playing the Marlins on Rookie difficulty a hundred times trying to get three doubles with some crappy bronze player or finding ways to game the Community Market to have enough Stubs to buy 100 otherwise useless team jerseys and hats.
Cards are more generously given to the player, and as a result, Stubs are less important than they have been in previous years which will likely be welcome news to most fans of Diamond Dynasty. As a result, Stub prices for cards on the Community Market are down as a whole, and it’s much easier to just save Stubs for a top-tier card you have your eye on.
All modes, especially online ones like Diamond Dynasty also benefit from better hitting and pitching mechanics this year. It’s a never-ending battle, especially in a timing-based sport like baseball, but power has been brought down to more realistic levels, contact is better valued than last year, and fastballs received a much-needed buff.
In fact, fastballs might be too good now as I find myself being constantly late on pitches. The fact that they were aware of the issues from last year gives me hope that Sony San Diego Studio is paying close attention, and will tweak aspects about hitting and pitching if it really needs it throughout the season.
Switching gears, Road to the Show has also received a shot in the arm too. Sony San Diego Studios has struck a balance this season between wanting force players to fit into an archetype and many players’ desire to create an unstoppable MLB superstar that can do everything… like Mike Trout.
Now instead, player archetypes make it easier/slower to progress in certain statistics rather than capping certain qualities completely. While I didn’t mind the more realistic approach from last year, this seems like a fair compromise as it appears I was in the minority last season, and lots of hardcore RTTS fans had a problem with not being able to be perfect at everything.
In addition to that, there are even more RPG elements to consider. You can now progress through a branching skill tree to unlock new perks to enhance your player, and can build chemistry with players that you’ll need to establish and build on whenever you are placed on a new team; adding a bit of strategy/intrigue to hopping teams or being promoted through the minor league system.
Finally, we arrive at Franchise, arguably the one thing that holds MLB The Show 19 back a bit. First off, there’s no online franchise anymore and this is going to be a major disappointment to those who enjoyed creating custom seasons with their friends.
The additions to Franchise, such as more finely-tunable and accurate MLB contracts, and the addition of a sideline reporter, are just minor things that really should have been in the game for years.
There are still major issues such as trades being so limited, a broadcasting crew that has been due for a shakeup for practically a whole console generation now, and hideous auto-generated faces that appear on scoreboards/player cards whenever a photo isn’t used which rip players away from the immersion of an otherwise beautiful game.
While the offline Franchise mode is still fine, and is going to be fun for those that consider it their main game mode (I’m 50/50 between it and Diamond Dynasty personally with a little RTTS dashed in when bored), I didn’t find that there was anything that really got my juices going. It feels like more of the same once again.
What would get me excited you might be asking yourself right now? I would love to see some kind of poll presented to Franchise players, similar to what Rare has done with Sea of Thieves, and see Sony San Diego Studios attack them all in one fell swoop for next year. That would be a real treat. That and bringing back Online Franchise of course.
Aside from Franchise fans which have been left in the dark this year, every other mode especially Diamond Dynasty has benefitted from either a major improvement or an entirely new feature.
Moments and March to October are not only fun modes to play all on their own, they are interconnected in an ingenious with Diamond Dynasty, greatly improving the experience of the latter.
Because of all these positive changes, I feel quite confident in saying MLB The Show 19 is the freshest and most polished iteration of the series we’ve seen in years.