by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Sparse interface (cntd)
The left-side panel allows you to view your available units, see a shortlist of the detected enemy craft and bases, read your mission log and alter the mission settings. On the right side, you have options to check your Movement Planner, Battle Planner, Flight Deck (for vessels or bases), Sensors, Special Orders and Formations. These options affect the currently selected unit and allow you to, for example, set waypoints, choose flight altitude and aggressiveness of the unit, launch other units, use active and passive sensors etc. Overall, you get the feeling that you are in full control of your fleet and if a unit makes a mistake, the mistake was made between the chair and the keyboard, rather than by some silly AI helper.
At the top of the screen, above the operations map view, you have the time compression menu, allowing you to play in real time (prepare a cup of coffee and some reading material) or speed the time up to 1:120 if you so wish (does not hurt to have that book available even at this speed). In addition, you get information about the current temperature, wind speed, sea state, cloud cover and total light percent. The demo did not explain the effect of some of these factors on gameplay, but one assumes that the wind speed and sea state will affect the abilities of some units to carry out their orders (sono-buoys may be difficult to deploy in a storm, for example). Hopefully, the final game will shed light to these issues.
For a beginning commander, Naval War: Arctic Circle offers four tutorial scenarios that are supposed to help you get a hang of things and how they operate. These are very simple operations, but introduce you to the intricacies that the game will have to offer. The first beta left some of the operations rather badly explained and you have to figure a lot of stuff out by yourself, such as how to increase the cruising speed of your ships or alter their aggression level etc.
The Single Mission menu offers a very nice selection – for a beta version – of single missions that you can try your hand in. These include basic reconnaissance missions, patrols, escort missions as well as small skirmishes and battles. At the moment, the main Campaign Mode offers two options: Arctic War: Nato and Arctic War: Russia. Given that many of the navies included in the game do not belong to either of these great powers, it is probable that the final game will offer more options at this stage. The campaign starts with a newspaper splash and then with the commander-in-chief giving you, the commodore, the assignment. Rather surprisingly, at least in the beta, these assignments begin with the very same tutorials you probably began the game with and continue into the single missions. These are all bound together with newspaper splashes and some briefing discussions with your commanding officer. It remains to be seen if the final game will somehow make the experience more epic, instead of offering separate single missions to carry out.
For the real strategists out there
Although Naval War: Arctic Circle is basically a real-time strategy game, it is definitely not the sort of RTS that the players of Command & Conquer and the ilk are used to. This is a more hard-core strategy game for those who grew up with games like Red Storm Rising and Fleet Command.
There are only a few weeks to go before the final version is released, so it’s plausible that not much will be changed to the game before then. But some things still might, so if you are interested in the game, do not take any of the above as gospel and wait for the real thing. Personally, I was slightly let down by the poor graphics that seem to have been lifted from the mid-90s and the slowness of the game even at maximum time acceleration, but it may be that I just do not have as much time on my hands as I used to, when I last played this type of games. For those who enjoy the hide and seek gameplay that comes with modern naval warfare type of games, this is definitely something to look forward to.