EA’s FIFA series is undergoing some changes. On the one hand, it’s no longer FIFA at all. The series has officially made its transition to the new EA Sports FC brand with its recently released 2024 installment. This isn’t the biggest surprise on the horizon for football fans, however; The sport is getting a surprising new mobile game with a left-field tactical twist.
EA Sports FC Tactical is an upcoming free-to-play spin-off that turns soccer into Fire Emblem. Co-developed with KLab Inc, the studio behind the animated sports title Captain Tsubasa: Dream Team, the mobile game distills all the action of FC 2024 into a turn-based RPG. Each game is its own little tactical battle that pits attackers against defenders.
This may seem daunting on paper, but it makes perfect sense in practice. In a quick hands-on demo of EA Sports FC Tactical, I quickly realized how intuitive a turn-based sports game like this can be. Placing more emphasis on mental strategy rather than controller-based action helps highlight the high-level decision-making that makes soccer such an impressive sport.
Before jumping into a match, players build a team using intuitive drag-and-drop controls. This is where it becomes clear that FC Tactical it’s not just an average football game; it’s a full-fledged RPG. Players have stats, passive abilities, and special skills that make it feel more like a group of adventurers than a sports team. This is the first area where I can feel KLab’s influence Captain Tsubasa touch comes into play.
I could see him in action diving into a match. At the start of each game, I’m shown a preview of the field, where I can see my players’ icons moving around. The camera dives into a familiar 3D perspective as soon as the player with the ball collides with a defender. Time freezes at this point, suddenly transforming the action into a turn-based strategy game.
As an attacker, I have several options available to me. I can shoot, pass, dribble or maybe even use a special ability. These options are presented in a simple user interface that isn’t too different from something like Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis. I simply tap a square to activate a move, although I’ll have to weigh my options first. Each ability has a number representing my stat in a specific skill. I have to compare this to my opponent’s number to decide my best option. Skills also cost energy, which is a limited resource each player has. To win a match, I have to make sure I manage my stamina until the end and know the right time to take risks. This loop of play continues when I’m on defense, as I plan for blocks instead of shots.
There are a few other factors to consider. If I shoot or pass, I have to pay attention to how many defenders the ball will pass through. I’ll have to pass a skill check for each of them, which can be tricky against three defenders. Moments like this make every play feel important, turning football into a game of chess.
When I choose my move, time thaws and I see the sequence play out as it would in a real FC 2024 match. As an added touch, KLab brings in some sound Captain Tsubasa experience in its activities. When I activate a special ability, my player lights up with colorful energy before unleashing their super skill as if they were an anime character. It’s a nice touch that highlights the RPG at the heart of the experience. FC Tactical even takes explicit notes from series like Fire Emblem, as it features its own “weapon triangle” to explain the strengths and weaknesses of player positions.
While this is all intuitive and fun, there is one question mark about the project: its use of microtransactions. We know that FC Tactical will be a free game with seasonal updates and a battle pass. In addition to this, it also uses an in-game currency used to improve player skills. According to the team members present during the preview, these points can be earned in-game or purchased directly with real money. One developer assured me that there would be no charge for the system, but I struggle to see how using money to upgrade skills wouldn’t meet that demand. We’ll have to wait to see how exactly this will be executed.
If these microtransactions don’t intrude too much, EA Sports FC Tactical could be a creative genre mix designed for those who want a more cerebral sports game. It puts me in the mind of a coach rather than a player, which is a change of pace I can get behind. I can’t keep up with the pros, but maybe I can outsmart them.
EA Sports FC Tactical will launch in 2024. Pre-registrations are now open via the App Store and Google Play.