Wrestling Empire (Booking Mode)
A lot of you guys may already know that I enjoy a good booking mode in a wrestling game almost more than anything else that wrestling games have to offer. I love being the "guy with the pencil," as they used to say. For this reason, I was very excited and surprised when I recently fired up Wrestling Empire for the first time in a while and noticed that MDickie added a booking mode! MDickie is amazing in what he creates as a one-man development team and I'm very interested in taking a deep dive into this mode to see what it's all about.
We find out right away that you are in charge of booking the Wrestling Revolution promotion as Ultimo Dragon or whatever his in-game name is. I honestly can't remember because I changed it to his real-life name of Ultimo Dragon and have since forgotten his "fake name" used in the game. Most if not all of the wrestlers in Wrestling Empire are like this - based on real-life grapplers. If you can decipher who they are then you can correct their names a la Fire Pro Wrestling style. Regardless, we are now in charge of booking our own promotion. My first task was booking a show in Afghanistan (which seems like an interesting choice of location for my inaugural event) in front of a crowd of 1,800 or so people. I can only assume that as you build the popularity of your promotion then the live attendance goes up and up but I assure you; there were sadly, many empty seats in the arena on this particular night. Even if it isn't a full house, let's see what kind of show we can give these diehard fans.
When figuring out who to put on your card; all of the wrestlers have different stats and varying levels of popularity. You want to make sure to book similarly skilled combatants against each other because this isn't 1986 and no one really wants to see a squash match anymore. Faces and Heels also have different color schemes on their stat bars. Faces are green and Heels are purple. It obviously helps to book standard face vs heel matches as opposed to randomly just throwing two guys together. Finally, everyone has an appearance fee to perform so it helps to keep track of how much you're spending to put on a card. It's nice to let everyone see popular superstars battle it out but if there aren't many people in the audience on that given night; it might be wise to hold back just a bit and let some "cheaper talent" have a chance to take the spotlight.
You have a lot of options when it comes down to setting up the matches for your show. You can change the participants and the ref involved. I like that in this game there are no "generic refs". All of the wrestlers pull double duty by refereeing a match if need be and you can assign whomever you want to the position. There are also tons of options to tweak the setup of your match. There are different rule sets like having the referee call things very much by the book or make them be lenient and allow weapons and dirty tactics. You can even go all out and make it a falls count anywhere match. In fact, this game is so detailed that you can even control how fast you want your ref to count ring-outs and pinfalls.
You can also change the reason why the two battling behemoths in this particular match are facing off against each other by having them cut a pre-match, in-ring promo. Maybe one of the boys is coming back from an injury and is seeking revenge or maybe they're feeling a little disrespected and want to prove themselves to the people. Doing things like this can help the excitement level going into the match and we'll soon find out the fans are very fickle so you want to get them fired up as much as possible. You can also help do this by choosing different stipulations for your match like putting a title on the line or even by making it a hair vs hair or mask vs mask match. Come to think of it; when is the last time you saw a hair vs hair match? That sadly seems to be a thing of the past but it lives on in this game if nothing else.
I mentioned the crowd is fickle and once the match that you set up starts; you'll see what I mean. There's a "star meter" that shows the crowd's excitement and it starts off as being very low. You really have to get them invested in what's going on. Just like a real live crowd, even if you get them interested, you've got to keep them hooked on the action taking place in the ring. If there's a lull in the action or a wrestler is doing too many repeated moves; you can lose the crowd at any minute and it's hard to get them back. However, there are some meters to help you judge your progress.
For each match, there is a "scale icon" to show how evenly matched the participants are. If one of the wrestlers is an underdog then you better get him to work extra hard to get the crowd invested. There's also a "chemistry icon" that shows whether or not the crowd is excited about these two guys facing off just based on the match-up alone. If two guys are in the middle of a hot feud then flames will be seen around the match's "star meter" and this helps to excite the crowd as well.
I've loved this game since I first started playing it. Just the randomness and chaos that happens in-ring and backstage before and after the matches is enough to keep you hooked. Maybe a wrestler approaches you backstage and demands more money for appearing. Maybe someone is going to set a TV camera on fire and then smash it across their opponent's head. Maybe someone dies after being German-suplexed from the top ropes through the announcer's desk to the floor... you never know what may happen. I would strongly suggest any wrestling game fan should pick this game up, especially with this new mode now being available to play. Truly the best over-the-top wrestling game that there is right now. At least until MDickie creates his next masterpiece.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!