Reviews// Leviathan Warships

Posted 13 May 2013 15:39 by
Leviathan Warships might be a pretty fun and accessible turn-based strategy game - especially when compared to similar titles on the PC platform - but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t got its fair share of depth. Against the right opponent, it can be a rather tense and nail-biting naval battle experience.

Paradox Interactive likens its seafaring combat to ‘Frozen Synapse, but with ships.’ I’d go one step further than that and say that playing Leviathan Warships is ever so reminiscent of the classic game, Battleships. The general idea: you select a fleet of four ships of varying size and capabilities, and attempt to blow up human or CPU opponents in a turn-based fashion.

Where it gets less traditional is in how the game executes these turns. Each player issues their commands at the same time, in what’s called a ‘Planning Phase’. When everyone’s done, the second phase kicks in which plays out everyone’s directions in real time for around ten seconds, before the next stage of planning begins.

It’s a unique way of micro-managing your ships, allowing you to react to every single event that happens during play, offering a dynamic that a standard turn-based strategy simply can’t. Every player begins in a corner of a map, with limited field of view, so the smart move at first is simply to inch forward and establish a tactical position, in case the enemy makes a false move and gets caught in your sights first.

A large part of the game’s accessibility comes down to its rather intuitive controls. Commanding your ships works using a simple drag and drop mechanism, which allows you to direct your boats by ‘drawing’ a line on the map. Directions are colour-coded so that you know exactly how far you’ll get by the next turn, and you can also use the dragging option to directly target an enemy ship if they are in view.

There’s plenty of fun to be had in multiplayer. Up to four players can engage in deathmatches, and there is a variety of options to tinker with when it comes to map sizes and win conditions. The more humans involved in each game, the better the surprises and laughs as you deal with unpredictable tactics of all kinds.

While Leviathan Warships shines in multiplayer, the same can’t be said for the campaign experience. It isn’t as tight, relying little on tactics and more on randomly generating enemy ships in places you least expect. The challenge here lies purely in the player’s reactionary skill - bad guys spawning right behind you at inappropriate moments, for example - rather than precise tactical planning.

There's a boatload of options available to the ship tinkerer. An extensive Fleet Editor mode allows you to completely customise each of your units, with the ability to spend points on weapons and gadgets that best suit your style of play. Most importantly, you’re also given a choice of where to place these items, opening up a world of tactical possibilities before you’ve even hopped into a game.

Placing a tonne of weapons on one side of a ship, for example, can give you great stopping power against the odds if you position your fleet perfectly. However, if you like taking your foes head-on, placing some beefy wide-range beam lasers at the front while using shields to protect the sides is also a possibility. Each weapon has a specific degree and distance range, so toying around with placements can often result in some interesting combinations.

Not everything is based on skill - there are a few luck-based elements thrown into play, and not all of those are intentional. Your guns can misfire or fail to hit a target completely, and when you’re attacked there’s a chance that one or more of your engines and weapons will get crippled. When you’re on the back foot, a situation like that really doesn’t give you much headroom for a comeback.

But for its niggles, Leviathan Warships is an enjoyable little combat sim. It’s probably the closest we’ll come to an accessible, fun and engaging videogame adaptation of Battleships. The real replay value will come in its multiplayer mode, so be sure to gather some like-minded friends.

+ No frills gameplay
+ Good fun with friends
+ Extensive customisation options

- A lonely experience on your own
- Weak campaign
- Reliant on luck in places

SPOnG Score: 7/10

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