Overall the campaign is maddening and enjoyable at the same time. I haven’t gotten very far every time I try the thing, mostly because I really stink at the campaign but I am going to keep trying.
I have 2 complaints about the campaign, and to me one of them is significant. Most of the campaign runs in the campaign screen, but when two task forces meet it reverts back to the battle screen that people who play single missions are familiar with. It would be nice if a screen would pop-up letting you know where the combat was at and the ships involved in the battle. The progression from campaign screen to battle screen is somewhat abrupt and you often are dropped in wondering… what do I have…? where am I at…? and, what am I fighting…? It certainly isn’t a deal breaker but a pop-up saying campaign at “x” location involving your “x” ships and “y” spotted enemy ships (at that time) would be nice. You could then click ok and go to battle. Just a suggestion. You can pause the game instantly and get the same info but that is time consuming.
The biggest complaint with the campaign right now is automatic battle resolution. Let’s say you are running the scouting unit for the High Seas Fleet (Hipper’s battlecruisers) and you run into a force of destroyers and light cruisers of the Royal Navy. Now you will slaughter the enemy ships with your battlecruisers, but if you decide that you want to go ahead and let the computer end the battle you will probably be in for a world of hurt, especially at night.
The battle resolution setup in the campaign really seems to hate the smaller ships in this game. Many times I have had over a dozen destroyers sunk by one or two light cruisers in the game. While I understand that a light cruiser is nothing to be underestimated, the loss rate at times is somewhat ridiculous. It’s been explained to me that in general ships light cruiser and smaller carried only HE rounds and that HE does very little to a light cruisers side. To sink a light cruiser it takes torpedoes and when a DD is out all it can do is shoot to take out enemy guns and searchlights and such. I understand this but unfortunately the extremely aggressive nature of the AI in battle resolution mode means your smaller ships will continue to run into a hail of gunfire without realizing that it is time to break off. I have seen every single ship of a small group cut to ribbons because it decided to not break off. The AI in automatic battle resolution needs to
be tweaked so that smaller, faster ships won’t bang their heads against the wall against more powerful ships.
Interestingly the AI does not do these kinds of maneuvers when the game is in standard time mode. In fact, the smaller ships controlled by the AI do a fantastic job of realizing that they are outnumbered and out gunned and many times they will make a hasty retreat in the face of superior firepower. I have only really seen this in the automatic battle resolution phase of the campaign.
The Grand Fleet
In reality, if a force of two cruisers and six destroyers ran into Hipper’s force it would try very hard to skirt it and radio positioning back to the fleet, not surge forward and get slaughtered. That would get thousands of sailors killed for no real advantage. The AI doesn’t seem to know how to break off when the battle starts to get out of hand. In fact, if you disengage your ships and have them head off at high speed away from the enemy, then hit the battle resolution button, you will often find that your ships turn around and re-engage.
What results is some ridiculous losses in your screening ships that really aren’t realistic. Even during the main battle of Jutland only about a dozen destroyers and light cruisers were lost on both sides. In the campaign you will lose 25 smaller ships in one night if you aren’t careful.
In other words, right now you have to play out each battle to the end if you want to keep your light ships safe. This is okay (I suppose). But lets face it, many times we want to skip every destroyer and torpedo boat battle and watch to see what the big boys do. If you don’t watch out though you will end up losing your entire destroyer force and then your capital ships are exposed. The last two campaigns I have played I have had to restart due to this resolution system and it is frustrating to say the least.
Other than that I absolutely love the campaign system. This has the potential to be one of the best naval campaigns ever implemented. It is completely dynamic and no 1916 campaign will ever play the same way every time. This gives infinite replay value to the campaign. It addition, you get the opportunity to receive ships as the year progresses. The Brits get the ships historically that were put into service after Jutland (like the Repulse and the Renown) and continue to expand their lead over Germany.
I’ve only played one multiplayer game in the game so I won’t claim expertise in this section, but the game seemed to run well using the provided missions in multiplayer. You can only play missions so no multiplayer campaigns. It would have been nice to have a multiplayer campaign, but I’m not sure how it would be handled. The multiplayer ran smoothly on my test computer, but can’t comment how well it works with a minimal spec system.
One thing of note. While the standard and professional versions can play single missions together, you cannot play user made missions with the standard version. The mission editor only comes with the pro version, and as such you can’t create missions to play against others unless the buyer also has the pro version. In addition, there are occasionally some problems found with some created missions not running properly in multiplayer.
Another thing I should note. Kudos for the patch support that you will find for the game. One of the advantages of having the game check in every time you start it is that the game will look for the latest patch(es). If you have a crash or a technical issue, there is a server that you can post your problems on and someone will get back to you. Sometimes it isn’t as fast as you would like (is it ever with any game?) but someone has always contacted me regarding problems I have encountered. I think there have been something like16 patches to the game within the first month of the game’s release. While that’s a lot, it does mean that when something crops up the team tries to get it resolved quickly.