The biggest FIFA game mode has some changes coming.
Regardless of what you think of FIFA's gameplay and EA's practices, it's undeniable that the game offers a lot in terms of content and game modes. Among those game modes, Ultimate Team Mode tends to be king, allowing players to create their own teams with the cards they get from packs or the online auction. Among Ultimate Team Mode alone though there's a lot of variety and games types to go through, and this year there's quite a few changes coming.
Among them, there's a total redesign of Division Rivals. This competition will now work on a seasonal progress system, "designed to be less demanding and keep players at the right skill level", according to Azlan Mustapha, FUT producer. With this new system players can earn reward on both a week and seasonal rate, that seeks to be more intuitive and rewarding for all players. While the goal is to make Division Rivals more intuitive and accessible, the 'top tier' players were not forgotten, and they can now compete in a new Elite Division.
The redesigned system and interface will now show more clearly what division you're on, and what you must do to guarantee promotion to the next division. Imagine there's now a roadmap of games you need to win to get promoted, but with checkpoints in place. If you reach those checkpoints, you won't get set back past that checkpoint in the roadmap even if you lose matches, making it a bit easier to grind your way to promotion. The roadmap also has rewards goals in-between checkpoints, allowing you to earn weekly rewards, and if you reach further goals, you will upgrade those rewards.
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As for the Elite Division, once you reach it, you won't get demoted, and instead of fighting for a promotion, you will try to achieve a better standing in a ranking of the best FUT players. And of course, this division will also get you the very best rewards, plus a chance to qualify for the FIFA Global Series.
With the introduction of a seasonal structure, players can also try to reach several milestones (like play X number of matches, or win Y), being rewarded in the end of the season for reaching these milestones. Each season is said to last "several weeks", and the end of a season will also reset the Divisions roadmaps, including the checkpoints. In other words, if you failed promotion, but were half-way through the roadmap, you will need to start over in the next season.
EA Sports has also made changes to FUT Champions, and again, the focus is to make it "more accessible then ever before". The Playoffs can now be played at any time, and not in the restricted window from before. If you do reach the finals, the new structure "will take the best parts of the weekend league format while reducing the total number of matches needed".
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Here's how it will work: you will qualify for the Playoffs by earning qualification points during Division Rivals matches, and there will only be a limited number of invites per season. You can then play 5 Playoff matches whenever you want, and if you gain enough points, you will qualify for the finals. The finals can only be played during weekends and can go up to 20 matches (both Playoff and Finals numbers of matches are still being tuned).
Moving to other areas, FUT will also include more customisation options, especially regarding stadiums. You can now have a VIP Area and customise details like flags, tifos, and banners, with either real club content, or EA's own seasonal cosmetics - now shared between FUT and Volta. EA also claimed to have "significantly improved" the search and management of stadium itens in FUT.
EA is also introducing matchmaking for co-op play in FUT, meaning you can now share the glory - or the pain - with a total stranger (you can still do it with a friend, like before). This matches, however, are all played as friendlies, although they still count for some seasonal milestones.
Lastly, there's FUT Heroes, a new type of item linked to specific League and club chemistries. Robbie Keane in Tottenham, Milito in Inter-Milan, and Mario Gomez in Stuttgart, were the examples used by EA. It sounds a bit like Icons, but with a league/club spin on it. And yes, there will also be new Icons being introduced, although none were revealed by EA so far.