A hero is made
History is rife with great battles, both on land and at sea. Some nations are better at remembering them than others, and when they do, it is usually the ones that they have won. Oddly enough, the Dutch remember one particular heroic action by a sea captain more than others, and it is one that can hardly be called a win. After being captured by Belgian separatists, Captain Jan van Speyk preferred to blow up his ship to taking down the Dutch flag as ordered by his captors. Mind you, the ship had been blown off course into the Antwerp harbor by an unfortunate gale, so he wasn’t even partaking in a battle. Casualties? The captain himself along with 31 of his own crew. As the list of Dutch heroes is frighteningly short, it is easy to see how this man ended up a national hero, even sporting his own lighthouse in the picturesque town of Egmond aan Zee.
Looking to add to my nation’s list of heroes (it should not be that hard, really), I set sail with Leviathan: Warships, Paradox’s new naval battle game in which both ships and men are made of steel.
Sinking the enemy, one turn at a time
In Leviathan: Warships, digital captains take command of a small fleet of made-up ships that feature made-up weapons that fight made-up enemies. Strangely enough, the ships themselves feel very familiar despite all the made-up stuff. The hulls painted grey up top and red along the waterline, wooden decks, mounting points for weapons along familiar places... they almost feel realistic. That is until you see these ordinary looking ships fire rail-guns at each others’ energy shields... So you shouldn’t expect any “Battle of Midway” kind of realism here, but that’s alright. Leviathan is not about realism but about having fun destroying enemy ships on a turn-by-turn basis while struggling to keep your own intact.
The general gameplay is not that unlike a game of Worms where players bombard each other with a plethora of fantastical weapons from afar. The only two differences are that you are bombarding ships rather than animated invertebrates, and that your ships can move freely in any given direction as long as that direction does not cause you to run your ship aground.
Bang for your buck
The somewhat confusing tutorial initially conspired against me getting really immersed into the game. I must admit to having played the first few campaign missions rather halfheartedly, not quite understanding what the game was about. On my first mission, I commanded a single ship and managed to sink my targets without too much of an effort. Easy peasy. The next mission, I lost horribly, despite having seen my fleet extended by an additional ship. Not quite sure what I could have done differently to come out victorious, I noticed that I had ship points that could be used to design my own ships as I saw fit.
Suddenly I found myself creating highly specialized ships that were based on my own insights rather than those of the game’s creators. Using a hull of my own choosing, I distributed the remaining points by placing shields, rocket launchers and artillery on various mounting spots that were all on the same side of the ship. My strategy, aimed to reduce the amount of maneuvering of my ships while making them more potent, paid off handsomely. With almost double the firepower on one side, I formed a wall of, admittedly, lopsided looking ships that made short work of the incoming enemy. The strategy failed on my next mission, but it showed me a level of flexibility that I had not expected to find.
From that moment on, I felt more committed to my missions, more attached to my ships and experienced a deeper sense of personal achievement when my strategy with my ships had worked out. In short, I “got it” and I was having fun.
Primarily marketed as a multiplayer game, I was a little disappointed to see that there are very few people playing online. Granted, I’m more of a single-player gamer and I enjoyed my time with the single-player missions but these are not fleshed out enough for me to want to play them over and over. The real Leviathan: Warships experience is meant to be consumed online where you compete against human players that employ ever changing tactics and unlimited surprises.
There are a few people playing online but unless you plan to purchase and play it together with a friend, it is difficult to recommend the game. Leviathan: Warships has tremendous potential to become a lasting co-op or versus hit and hopefully it will pick up momentum. If it does, it should stop feeling a little less like it is dead in the water.
Great ship designer, destroying stuff is always fun.
The interface comes straight from the tablet version and lacks logic.