Hands-On with the beta
Naval War: Arctic Circle is a real-time strategy game dealing with the fight for resources in the far north. It includes all the great powers of the area and focusses – as the name reveals – on warfare at sea, rather than land. The developer Turbo Tape Games is a small independent company in Norway and Naval War: Arctic Circle is their first big game.
We received a beta copy of the game and took a long, hard look at it to try to find out if it has the potential to become the next big naval strategy game. The reader should remember that the hands-on impressions described below, describe the beta version of the game, and the final game may offer a different experience.
Ice caps melt and seas grow bigger
Set in the 2030, the game map is focussed on the arctic area where the ice cap has melted and opened the region for exploitation. The game area comprises of 35 million square kilometres, allowing for truly long distance travel and vast seas to explore for enemies. It also includes a day & night cycle that can affect the game mechanics in certain situations.
No mention is made of the rising sea levels and how the nations of the world have avoided most of their inhabited land mass from sinking into the seas. Even if we assume that only the northern ice cap and the ice covering Greenland melted, the sea level would rise about six or seven meters. Such rising of the sea levels would have changed the world map by more than just removing the ice cap from view, but the game map shows the shorelines of Russia, Northern Europe, Greenland and Canada the way they are today.
The ships, submarines, planes and helicopters are all vehicles that exist in the real world and they have been taken from those serving in the modern navies of the region: Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Danish Navy, Finnish Navy, German Navy, Royal Netherlands Navy, Royal Norwegian Navy, Polish Navy, Russian Navy, Royal Swedish Navy, Royal Navy and United States Navy.
The developers state that they have modelled the units very close to the real-world counterparts, with the same weapons, same ranges and sensor platforms. The long range weaponry allows the player to aim, and launch, missiles at targets that are at least a thousand kilometres away and the active and passive sensors allow you to detect enemy vessels across vast distances. But, on the other hand, you will also have stealth technology, which allows some of your and your enemies' vessels to avoid detection until the very last moment before they launch their weaponry. It will be essentially a game of cat and mouse with powerful war-machines, where you, for example, deploy sono-buoys with your helicopters, hoping to detect lurking submarines and then attack them with everything that you have – unless they get you first.
The game interface and graphics are very Spartan and therefore somewhat disappointing in this day and age. The main view is that of the Arctic Circle map and underneath, you get three info screens, the first showing you a mini-map of the entire area, small outside view of the vehicle you have activated, by having clicked on it, and a control panel pertaining to that vehicle. You can switch the main view and the outside view with each other, getting a bigger view of the active vehicle, but there is really little reason to do so, since the graphics are relatively poor and the information value is extremely low. Personally, I hope that the final game will improve this area and either use the outside view of the vehicles to offer some actual eye-candy or at least make them more informative. A simple smoking vessel tells you very little of the actual condition of the vessel, other than it has been damaged.