Victory At Sea Review – MOUSE n JOYPAD

Victory At Sea Review




The first thing you do in Victory at Sea is choose a character from several presets. They all do the same things, play the same missions and the Big Cheese simply refers to you as “Captain” regardless. Once you’ve chosen your character, a tutorial video pops up. This has to be one of the weaker parts of the game. The voiceover that tells you how to play sounds not only disinterested, but slightly lost, as he takes a two second pause between each sentence. This happens a few more times as more elements are revealed to the player, so I was treated to his dulcet tones throughout the beginning of the game.

The controls are simple and easy to grasp, to begin with. Clicking on the sea to the left or right of the ship will turn it in that direction. When engaging an enemy ship, click the ship to fire at it. You have to aim slightly in front of it for the shot to hit, so flashbacks of the last alien in Space Invader flooded my mind. Clicking an icon in the top right takes you to tactical mode, where you can see the entire battlefield (including friendly and enemy units) in a grid, allowing you to plan ahead on where to intersect the enemy. The bottom left allows you to change the ship’s speed, while the bottom right allows you to change the flow of time. This makes traversing large bodies of water slightly less monotonous. Ship combat actually happens in instances. You have a large overworld map to explore to your heart’s content, before you run into an enemy ship, RPG style. You then choose which units you want to send into battle, then you’re both whisked away to a stretch of plain ocean to battle it out.

However, these simple controls will not stop you from failing when you have to control more than one unit. Ships that are in your fleet have little or no AI when not being controlled. Some may say that this is a good thing, since we are supposed to be the ones controlling the ships. And while this is true to an extent, when you both are circling around a much larger enemy, you long for an auto attack option. When your ships are close together, this isn’t too much of a problem, since it’s a simple case of a couple of clicks. However, the game has a habit of starting you off with your ships on either end of the battle (for whatever reason) so you find yourself wasting time trying to click to your ship, or turning in a direction you do not want to go. Now, this can be avoided by going into Tactical Mode, but this takes time and breaks flow. I don’t want to see my ships as specs on blue paper, when I was just controlling my mighty vessel. However, there is an easier way to switch between units: just click on the health bars of your units and you switch between them. However, the game advises you to choose the two prior, more time consuming and cumbersome options instead of the easiest and most convenient option. Also, one thing that really annoyed me is the fact that the retreat button is right next to the Tactical Mode button. So let’s say in the heat of battle you make the unforgivable error of clicking on the retreat button instead of the Tactical Mode button. Can you undo this? Does the game give you an “Are you sure” option? No. You will retreat and you will take damage for retreating. There’s no excuses for this. It’s just poor game design.

Now, there are different reasons for you to get into naval battles. Some of the ships are patrolling and guarding certain areas, and will try to engage you upon seeing you. Others are supplying resources to your enemies, and also have a ship guarding them. The variation of scenarios is refreshing. Taking down supply ships also makes it easier for you to invade and take over the settlement in the future. Taking ports is also very satisfying, as you see an island bear your flag amongst the sea of enemies. It also gives you an area to repair and buy new ships using the war bonds you acquire by destroying enemy vessels.

Different ships also have different weapons. Destroyers have the most early on in the game, with main cannons, torpedoes and depth charges. Main cannons affect other ships that are on the surface. They recharge quickly and do decent damage. Torpedoes are slower, and leave a visible stream when racing towards a ship, so they may be avoided if the captain is good enough. They do massive damage and affect those on and below the surface. Depth charges are only effective against those below the surface, but do a fair amount of damage to them. Torpedo ships are incredibly annoying, since they’re definitely the glass cannon of the game. They can’t take a hit (which is why I hate playing as them) but they can cause huge damage to larger ships (which is why I hate playing against them).

Speeding up the time makes the battles more interesting, since your reload speed, speed of the projectiles and movement speed, which injects some much needed pace into this game. It also makes it more difficult, since your enemy gets the same bonus. Plus their AI is relative to the speed of the game, while we think at the same pace regardless.

The gameplay only uses a top-down perspective. The developers took this as an opportunity to slack a little on the graphics department. While grey boats moving against a blue screen can only be improved to a point, it could have definitely looked better. A lot of ships of the same type look very similar if not the same as each other, which just emphasises how much this game would have benefitted from customisable ships.

The music is orchestrated for dramatic ship battles, so it serves its purpose well enough. The sound effects are passable, since there’s only so many bangs and booms in the world. And apart from the world’s most enthusiastic tutorial voiceover, there’s no voice acting at all, which I found very jarring, since the Big Cheese always gives you feedback about how well you’re doing.

All in all, Victory at Sea is a decent title. It has an idea of what it wants to achieve, and makes some good steps in getting there. However it’s a little rough around the edges and between the learning curve and the unique mix of gameplay elements, this might be a little uninviting for those who don’t even like RTS. This title is for those who love those massive battleships from the past while having a passion for micromanaging.