First Impressions – Naval War: Arctic Circle

Wednesday, I was lucky enough to participate in a live stream demonstration and chat for Turbo Tape’s upcoming title, Naval War: Arctic Circle.

Attempting to realistically portray modern naval warfare, the game depicts a fictional conflict taking place in 2030 between Scandinavian powers.  As the title alludes, most of the fighting takes place in the Arctic Circle.

The developers, some of whom were on hand to answer live chat questions and demonstrate the game’s features, stressed the story-driven RTS aspect of the game.  In this way, Naval War looks like a fairly standard scenario-driven strategy title, and unfortunately that means there will be no engine-determined political fallout; everything that happens in the main campaign (there will be two) will be the result of scripting.  Failing to achieve an objective or abysmally failing a scenario will just lead to mission failure.

But nobody ever said a traditional RTS has to be boring.  Since it’s a modern sim, the developers have put a lot of time into making each ship, submarine and aircraft unique.  Aircraft are separated by type, such as fighters, strike aircraft, command and control platforms, and bombers. Within those categories, they also have their own specializations, therefore a Eurofighter will have different capabilities than an F-22, and both will be distinct from a MiG-23.   This type of attention to detail isn’t limited to aircraft either; ships and submarines are just as diverse.

The devs delved a bit into the multiplayer plans as well.  Owing to the fact that scenarios would take place over weeks or months of game-time, time compression in the single player is a must.  However, to tackle that aspect in multiplayer, Turbo Tape hinted at an in-game voting system between the players to decide on their preferred time compression.  If both players vote for a time compression of 5x, the entire match will run at that speed.  Based on what I’ve seen, it seems like this will be a title played primarily for the single player, but time will tell if the stopgap measures they have planned for the multiplayer will pan out.

It does look like the single player is going to provide a lot to do.  Though in many ways the game is a macro simulation (much more along the lines of Fleet Command than Silent Hunter), there are a variety of features for the micromanagement-inclined.  You can turn aircraft and ship sensors on and off, select between active and passive sonar arrays, set formations, and a plethora of other subtle actions.  There’s not really a satisfying way to play a single fighter or direct a single boat, but you’ll have your hands full with so many other tiny, but critical, options that you won’t even feel it’s any loss.

It’s hard to say at this stage whether the interface – which looks like a war room display pulled from the collective minds of anyone who’s seen Dr. Strangelove – is intuitive enough to handle all the minutiae, but the devs didn’t seem to have much trouble with it.  Also, for a game with so many possible actions for each unit, it seemed admirably clear of clutter.

Naval War: Arctic Circle is still under heavy development and is slated to release in Q2 2012.  Stay tuned here for more.

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February 10, 2012 - 3:25 pm