In terms of modes the central addition to MLB 12: The Show comes in the form of Diamond Dynasty. Similar to Ultimate Team in EA Sports titles Diamond Dynasty puts additional focus on team personalization and introduces more depth to the structuring and building of them. Conceptually the mode works but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
In general Diamond Dynasty is overwhelming and confusing. From the very start there is no sense of direction given and the menu structure is not conducive to learning on the fly with various tasks split up in different sections. There is no explanation of what should be done, when, and the benefits of doing so or even what is already available to take advantage. Unfortunately those early struggles alone will make the mode inaccessible for many.
The first thing done in Diamond Dynasty is setting up a team. The name (of which no duplicates are allowed), colors, and location are the options presented initially. Once into the mode the ability further personalize with logos and uniform designs become available.
There is no web application or way to transfer images so logos and uniforms must be completely created in-game. There will be some detail oriented or graphically talented individuals who will love the depth offered in this regard. Others though will find it to be discouraging. It took some digging just to find where generic logos are located and even then I struggled with placing them and getting them to look right. In the end I just decided to craft the color scheme and be done with it and I suspect many others will do the same.
There are so many options that have to be changed with the uniforms too. Again, this is a plus for those who want to tinker with every option, but for others there is no simple way to copy things across the various configurations making it an incredibly tedious process to complete.
Like in Ultimate Team “card packs” drive advancement in Diamond Dynasty. They can be purchased with “coins” that are earned by playing games in the mode (whether against the CPU or head-to-head online) or with real world cash. There aren’t tiers of card packs so no guarantee any certain quality will come out of them. After gaining additional players they can be placed on the “active” roster where generic players have a longer shelf life than MLB players who will only last 10 games. Replenishing talent will be constant as there are no “contacts” that can be extended. Coins can also be spent to “train” generic players and improve their stats.
One of the biggest gaffes in design is that pitchers lose a game of eligibility even if they don’t make an appearance simply by being on the “active” roster. What this means is there’s no reason to have anyone but the best starting pitcher active and only a handful of quality relievers – and then to use them at every opportunity. There’s no incentive given to actually utilizing a rotation of active starters or conserving players in the bullpen.
New teams do get some MLB player cards to start while the majority of the roster will be populated by generics. Since the mode doesn’t make the inclusion of MLB players in the card collection at the start especially evident – one has to dig into the manage cards option and go through the sets – my first game I played with all generic guys not realizing I could have had a number of MLB players in the lineup.
Adding players involves activating the cards to the roster in one menu section, moving to another and choosing players to go from “active” to “reserve” so those new ones can go from “reserve” to “active” and then heading to another area to set the lineups. It’s a lengthy and unintuituve process that is just a pain to manage with so many changes expected to be made along the way. Moving players into lineups is also incredibly frustrating. Each lineup (vs RH/LH/wDH/woDH) has to be set individually and there seems to be no way to change defensive positions. Maybe some creative maneuvering can be done to get the players in their proper positions but I was unable to do so. The result was guys like Miguel Tejada playing center field.
When playing the CPU the difficulty level and quality of MLB team faced determines how many coins are earned from a win or loss. The coin rewards seem to be fair enough that teams should be able to constantly churn their roster as intended.
There is no option to sim games and once started there is no way out but quitting (no in-game saves) making for another downside to the mode. There also doesn’t seem to be a way to play a friend online but instead only the ability to play random opponents.
In what would be a devastating problem for Diamond Dynasty users are finding some games are not recording. When that happens the time invested in playing the games was essentially wasted. So far half of the games I’ve completed have failed to register. That means no stats updating and no coins earned – all progress goes out the window. This would seem to be a server issue since a constant online connection is required for the mode. Poor online performance will also affect how much enjoyment can be had in Diamond Dynasty.
Baseball would seem the ideal sport for a card collecting and team management heavy mode. Diamond Dynasty shows some of that potential but its confusing nature and the lack of direction makes it fall apart almost immediately. Nothing about it is user-friendly and results not recording could be enough to turn users away from investing their time in the mode.
It comes across as though Diamond Dynasty was maybe just dumped now to cut losses after having been worked on for a few years. For those that do stick with it there will probably sufficient value to be had long-term with the worthwhile variety it provides compared to a standard Franchise mode but its appeal in general is more limited than anticipated.