For years now, we (a few dozen of us in Serbia) have longed for a good hockey manager, and then in space of one year we’ve gotten three excellent ones. And now we’ll explain why the latest being one is the best yet. For a couple of years, in certain circles, Out of the park Development has been considered the creators of the best manager simulation. No, not the great Football Manager, but Out of the Park Baseball. Last year they expanded to another sport that’s not too popular in our country, and again succeeded in making a top-notch game. Franchise Hockey Manager 2014 had the depth, addictiveness and that ‘something’ which makes a game great. But it also had some growing pains.
Franchise Hockey Manager 2 alleviates many of those, while keeping everything that made it’s predecessor a cult hit and gets out on the ice ready to enthuse both hockey and simulation fans alike. Already upon first starting the game we were promptly bodychecked by the game’s interface – instead of the amateur look from last year, this time we have a polished, professional version before us, which reminds us of the one in OOTP Baseball. Although there’s a short adjustment period, anyone who’s remotely familiar with manager simulations will even before his first match easily grasp the full control of their hockey team from one of the many world leagues.
As is tradition, we set out on a task of leading the Pittsburgh Penguins, growing them from their many playoff disappointments of last few years into a true hockey dynasty that’s winning the Stanley Cup for a few years in a row. The first step was to set the budget straight, i.e. sending away a few spent but overpaid players, and bringing in some young talent to support Crosby and Malkin. Fortunately, that wasn’t as easy to do as in the previous game (although still easier done than in reality), so the desired trades have cost us many picks from a couple of future drafts. And additionally, we have failed to one up Edmonton by snatching Connor MacDavid from them.
Finally, satisfied with our first team and somewhat satisfied by the state of the farm at Wilkes-Barre, we thundered through the pre-season, and we scheduled all possible tactics and training – which isn’t an easy job, because there’s a lot of options, so we’re still not 100% sure that we’re doing everything that we should. It isn’t easy being a young manager on such a responsible position…
And it’s finally time for our first NHL match. The first small disappointment is the looks of the match itself, which resembles last year’s FHM more than OOTPB, i.e. it lacks the presentation that we enjoyed in it. Still, although it’s not visually outstanding, it manages to provide all desired information and leaves ample room for us to react to what’s happening on the ice with a multitude of options. The legendary descriptive text that has kept us glued to our monitors since the Championship Manager is present here as well in all it’s glory, and it has helped us enjoy our first match and many more after.
The OOTP crew is hard at work day after day, working on providing small fixes and ironing out the bugs that are still present. Although we haven’t encountered anything that might ruin a career run, we did have issues that had caused the game to crash and forced us to load a saved game. Those small issues are also the game’s biggest flaw, but we can at least expect that the biggest of them will be resolved.
After being thrilled with FHM14, everything that we hoped for has come true, and perhaps was even surpassed. FHM2 is the best hockey manager yet (and in a fierce competition), even though it still has room to grow and progress. Alas, many of our readers who aren’t hockey fans will now shake their heads in disbelief and think “Is there anything that these whack jobs from Play won’t play?”, but if they’d only try Franchise Hockey Manager 2, there’s every chance that they might join us on a bench or a lodge of one of legendary NHL franchises.
Author: Luka Zlatić