Naval War Arctic Circle is a pleasent blend of RTS and military simulation developed by Turbo Tape Games and published by Paradox Interactive. WARNING: Naval War is definitly a simulator first and an RTS second, so if like me you looked to this game as an RTS gamer you might be disappointed. Other than that, as a naval military simulation game this could be the best ever made and as such I'm sure it will have a cult like following in the near future.
The year is 2030. Global warming has melted the polar ice caps, revealing a wealth of resources desperately needed throughout this future world. NATO wants these resources. Russia wants these resources. Everyone wants these resources. Conflict breaks out throughout the globe and the Arctic Circle becomes the battleground for a next world war. Naval War tells its story first through the perspective of the world media, and then through the admiral giving you your orders. The delivery of the story through the newspapers is rather like how the Hitman series used to, but without the same sort of satisfaction. In Hitman it was all about sitting down with your morning coffee, reading about the repercussions of the previous nights work whereas in Naval War its simply just news. There are two campaigns. The NATO campaign and the Russian campaign. This provides a good amount of missions to play through however some missions are exactly the same in both campaigns, except you are playing as the opposite army. The tutorials available on the main menu are pretty poor. They just don't seem to prepare the player properly for the game ahead. They don't explain enough about the mechanics of the game or how to plan or develop your strategy going into each mission. As a result of this the learning curve for this game is very steep and players who are new to this type of genre should definitely think carefully before purchasing.
What's different about Naval War? As I said, Naval War is a military simulator first and an RTS second. Sure, you order your units to scout across the map and attack enemy units just like any RTS game, but Naval War, unlike other RTS games, requires you to plan ahead and decide all the intricate details of battle, such as, what altitude should my planes fly at? What distance below sea level should my submarines be travelling? How fast should they be travelling at? How much ammunition should I use to fire at the enemy? What radar should I be using? The game is in depth. Very in depth. Comming from a backround in StarCraft, this was a shock to me and I struggled throughout the game to decide the best way to use my units effectively. As I said the tutorial was poor, it didn't provide any sort of indication on the benefits of changing the depth of my submarine or what my submarine could actually do for that matter. This lead to me struggling quite significantly throughout the game.
For military buffs, this game would be excellent. The game doesn't hold you by the hand at all, even throughout the tutorials which lead to some embaressment on my part. But if you know what a Boeing P-84 Poseidon is, or mabey a Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk then you'll enjoy this game guaranteed. As I had no idea what either of these things are, and also what they could actually shoot at, this meant I was immediately annihilated in my first couple of missions.
Now for the bad in the game, for some reason the game does not allow you to pan the camera across the 2D map by moving the mouse to the edge of the screen. This has been a standard feature in every RTS game that I can think of and for good reason. It is incredibly frustrating needing to carefully click on the mini map just to move a couple of inches to the right. Stupid. An unforgivable problem with the game however is the atrocity that you cannot save your game during a mission. Why? Why when your game is so unpredictable in length would you not allow mid-mission saving?? Really stupid.
The graphics are not great, but thats forgivable with the amount of depth the game goes into in terms of game mechanics. The game comes with a 2D view of the world map and a smaller 3D view of your units. The 2D view is where you'll spend most of your time controlling your units and planning your attacks. The 3D view is largely pointless, it serves no purpose other than to point out the awful texture quality of the games terrain and units. The 2D map however has a nice charm to it. I can imagine admirals in the world's naval forces pouring over battle plans that look similar to this map. It captures the feeling I think every game of it's type should. I was in control. I had the might of the NATO naval force at my command.
There is a multiplayer option available but there are only 6 scenarios that support it. It's basically just like playing the single player missions but the AI is unpredictable as it is a human. This is how the game was designed to be played. This was the vision, but alas the AI does the exact same thing every time you play a certain mission, it feels more like trial and error rather than strategy. The multiplayer is a good way around this.
This is a great effort as a first game by Turbo Tape Games. They have developed a very niche product which will appeal strongly to those in its target audience. Naval war is a very good simulation game but everyone other than military enthusiasts may find it a difficult game to get into. Naval War Arctic Circle is available for a fair price of £14.99 at certain online retailers/