While this franchise is still the reigning champion of baseball games, some of Road to the Show's changes need some more time in the minor leagues. While MLB The Show 18 could've rested on its laurels with its presentation, it instead revamped virtually everything from the batting stances for your players to almost 900 new throwing, catching, and tagging animations to make the game look more realistic. Not only does this provide additional realism to the game, but it gives you a bigger rush when you pull off a clutch double play or knock one over the fence to win the game. Another notable addition, specifically to the Diamond Dynasty mode, are the addition of stat-shattering legends that you have to work to unlock, like Babe Ruth or Nolan Ryan. It's really impressive to put in the time, and be rewarded by seeing outfielders move toward the back wall when they see a slugger like Frank Thomas walk into the batter's box. In fact, much of the game, particularly the in-game currency and the game packs, feel like its shifted its focus toward unlocking Diamond Dynasty and elements for franchise.
The downside once again feels attached to Road to the Show, which shows glimpses of excellence but feels stuck in its own concept of greatness. For example, this year, the newly created characters are forced into a game archetype to reflect the kind of athletic role they might perform on a squad, with caps for stats based on that position. As a result, speedy base runners aren't going to be power hitters. While this was meant to provide progress through your career based on your in-game performance or off-field training regiment, this system is flawed. First, progress seems arbitrary, and doesn't always seem to reflect how you play. How does the game accurately gauge how much to deduct in your stats if you miss two fastballs before knocking a triple into the gap in left field? There's no way to tell. Secondly, the training boosts in the off-field activities are pre-selected, so you don't always have a choice about what you can or can't enhance. It's a bit annoying to find that some of the training regiment options aren't really usable because the stat for that exercise is already maxed out. Finally, this year's version rarely provides stat boosting items in baseball packs, and barely gives a lot of in-game currency during play. As a result, you feel like both you and your created character are grinding away in obscurity, hoping (like many minor league players) that you're eventually recognized for your work. But if you can look past some of these rough edges, MLB The Show 18 shines as a fun, engrossing, and visually amazing take on our national pastime.