Damage modeling is individual per ships and reflects the relative makeup of these ships. Armor levels of warships, weapon penetration of individual weapons and effects of sea, weather and time of day affect overall performance of each individual ship. While the weapons of the period were becoming increasingly powerful, the sighting systems were still relatively crude. This means that long range battles tend to result in a lot of shooting but no hits. To be successful you have to get close.
Graphically the game looks good for a wargame. This game isn’t on par with something like Silent Hunter III but is fairly close to Dangerous Waters in graphic fidelity. Ships are well represented in the game and look good from a distance and close up. Crew at guns is rendered in the game, smoke comes from the stacks and on full settings the ships look good enough to bring you into the game.
Water looks OK but isn’t up to SHIII level as well. The latest water effects are not with this game although surprisingly this doesn’t detract from the overall game. Wave effects are well done and look good. It would be nice to have the latest effects but it isn’t life critical and the water looks good enough to keep you in the game.
Smoke from stacks looks pretty good although it should last a little longer. These ships were coal fired and as such tended to smoke a lot more than the oil fired ships found in WW2. In fact an advantage that the Japanese had in the war was their supply of low smoke coal which helped them gain a first site advantage against their Russian counterparts.
Land is pretty rudimentary which is expected in a tactical level wargame like this. Don’t expect a realistic rendering of Port Arthur. It would have been nice but this is a limited asset project and glamour shots of these places really don’t matter. The land does have an effect on gameplay since ships can run aground and shore batteries are present in the game.
Overall the game looks decent graphically. It isn’t cutting edge in some effects but it doesn’t have to be. It looks better than similar games of its type and as a wargame super graphic fidelity is not something that is the goal of most wargamers. The things that are important, the ships and the water, are rendered well enough to give you a real feel for battle. Some of the graphic effects appear to be placeholders and some of the fire effects may be changed on release.
The only ding I could possibly give the game graphically is the damage view. Ships look like they take damage, you can tell when and where you are hit, but there doesn’t appear to be any visible destruction of things like the bridge or even visual representation of guns being destroyed. I know it is nit picking but it is nice to see your enemy ship reduced to a mess, with funnels shot off, masts falling over and guns pointed in funny directions would have been a nice touch. Who knows, maybe in the future?
The game will ship with nine individual battles. This may seem somewhat small but some of these battles involve close to one hundred ships so trying to control these ships is a feat in and of itself. You will find yourself repeatedly going back to refight battles. Most battles take several hours to complete and the largest ones, which recreate the Battle of Tsushima itself, take hours to complete and will result in some serious butt kicking with you providing the gluteus.
The AI in the game looks to perform well and executes commands intelligently. Fighting against the AI has proven to be a challenge. The AI will try to perform naval maneuvers to gain advantage over your forces so you have to constantly keep your eye on your formations to make sure someone isn’t crossing your T. In some respects the AI may be a little bit too good. Most of the Russian fleet was demoralized and poorly trained and this more than poor tactics led to the defeat of the Russian Fleet. I haven’t seen this yet in my battles with the Russians.
That’s OK; it means the game is a challenge. Part of the problem with the real battle of Tsushima was that by the time the Russians engaged the Japanese their ships were worn out, their crews were exhausted and their lack of training (they had to preserve ammo during the trip and as such rarely fired their guns — the Japanese weren’t hampered by this) meant they fared terribly against the well trained and fresh Japanese.
The game will also ship with a multiplayer component that allows virtual admirals the chance to match wits. Any battle can be played via multiplayer. MP modes include TCP/IP and network games. I suspect that once this game is released you will see quite a few battles among players.
Disappointingly there does not appear to be either a quick mission builder or a full mission builder with this game. I hate to say this but without either of these options I think the overall playability of the game may be limited, especially in multiplayer. I could see some real virtual sea battles develop with a custom mission builder. This really limits the multiplayer capability of the game. I have no idea how hard it would be to make an instant action type of game with certain ship classes engaged in battle but if it is possible I highly suggest that Norm look into introducing something. A nice hypothetical battle between two or three battleships would be cool. It would also be short enough to allow players to play against each other without getting spousal grief over ‘all the time spent on the computer’.
As for the campaign, well, the answer I can give is there will be one for the game but it probably isn’t going to be released with the initial game. The campaign looks to be a doozy, with the entire area from Japan to Vladivostok in the game. This could really be the ticket for the game. A full campaign where you have to actually manage the entire war on either side would make this game one of the best wargames ever created. To actually plan a path of attack and then actually see it through down to the sinking ship level would really be cool. I am not sure how ground combat will be rendered in this game, if it will at all, but even without it the naval aspect of the game could be very good.
Info on the campaign is somewhat sketchy at this time. In talking with Norm Koger he hasn’t made a final decision in regards to this campaign. He stated it will be released but he isn’t sure if it will be a straight add on or if this will be an extra cost to the buyer.