If you own a Nintendo Switch, then there's a good chance you've heard of Golf Story - it's a popular sports/adventure game with RPG elements, and it's getting a highly anticipated sequel called Sports Story in a few weeks' time. Unfortunately, it's a Switch exclusive series, but Xbox Game Pass finally now has an alternative in the form of Soccer Story, which arrived on the service earlier today courtesy of indie publisher No More Robots.
Ahead of launch, we spent some time with Soccer Story for about two hours on PC (the Steam version) and came away with good impressions. The premise is that soccer (or football) has been banned across the world due to a mysterious event called "The Calamity", but a magical ball has chosen you to become the saviour. In true Pokémon fashion, you begin the game in your bedroom at your mother's house and must venture out into the world to complete quests, build your team and improve your skills as you attempt to "save soccer and restore peace and harmony to the world".
What we absolutely love about Soccer Story is the charm that it exudes. The environments look great and offer plenty of variety, and you can chat with pretty much every NPC you come across. We've only properly ventured into the starting area of Soccertown so far, but it's clear from the sizable map that there are a significant number of other regions to explore as you progress through the game as well.
The gameplay involves actual soccer, of course, but perhaps not as much as you'd expect. The rest of the two hours we played were spent performing fetch quests, completing mini puzzles, searching for hidden goals, kicking footballs at sharks (seriously!), and various other tasks. It's all fairly simplistic stuff but enjoyable all the same, and there's also the promise of competing in "a range of different sports" throughout the reported 15+ hours of gameplay on offer.
When it comes to the soccer/football itself, there are definitely some pros and cons. On the one hand, the basics such as passing, shooting and tackling feel good and are intuitive to use. The downside is that goalkeepers seem a bit too inept for our liking, which negates the need for much strategy. You'll soon realise that the best way to win is to shoot from anywhere — low shots are particularly effective as keepers seem unable to deal with them very well — which takes away from the enjoyment a bit. Again, we've only played Soccer Story for a couple of hours so this might improve as time rolls on, but that's our experience as of right now, including in the Quick Match mode which allows you to play with up to four people locally.
Overall though, we still think Soccer Story is a really charming adventure on Xbox Game Pass that you should definitely try if you have any interest in the concept. The service has been crying out for a game like this for years now, and if you're looking for something to scratch that Golf Story itch, Soccer Story is undoubtedly the way to go. Enjoy!