Immediately following an introductory video, you’ll be assigned a quarry and will have to work your way through several single-player missions, assassinating people and stealing certain things. The single-player portion of the game is rather short, but I did mostly enjoy it. The Northern Star is equipped with several guest quarters, a sick bay, clothing stores, a grand dining room, a jail, has several art displays, two kitchens, etc. It will be to your advantage to try walking around all the different floors on each of the levels of the ship in order to get familiar with the layout because you’ll need to find things quickly in order to relieve several needs that will increase depending on what you do.
The needs, which players of The Sims series will find familiar, include: sleep, cleanliness, hunger, thirst, play/fun, socializing; you will also need to use the bathroom. The needs system may very well be the make-or-break point for several players. For example, I found it very annoying that every time I would eat or drink something, my character would need to use the bathroom after only about two minutes. Not only did I find these needs unrealistic, but they left me waiting near the bathrooms after eating/drinking to take care of them between or during missions. The other thing with the needs is that you have to watch your character do the action to relieve the need, which is short, but seems long when you want to keep moving. When you eat a meal you have to watch your character eat at a table for a number of seconds; when you sleep you just get a black screen with game tips also for a number of seconds; and so on. In addition, the bathroom sequences were very long and noisy, and probably embarrassing for players who live with others. Thankfully, this was toned down with the recent patch. I know some players will enjoy this needs system but it really became frustrating to me after a while. I’d rather have the character sit down at a dinner table and just get right back up. I’d rather just pick up a book and either read it while moving, or pick it up and put it down instead of watching him flip through pages and just stand there statically. If I am getting the correct impression from the developer, the game is supposed to be a thriller, a-la The Most Dangerous Game, but the time requirements for need fulfillment just plain kill the mood.
"The needs system may very well be the make-or-break point for several players."
Of course, to kill your quarry and possibly the person that is hunting you, you need weapons. Thankfully, there is a good variety of them in both the single and multiplayer portions of the game. However, it was difficult to find certain weapons in single-player, and I found it somewhat difficult to find any weapons at all during multiplayer matches. I think the possible addition of an on-board armory or some shady black market weapons dealer, where players could purchase weapons for a high price, might make the game much more intense and would reward players for earning money. The time it takes to hunt for good weapons, which seems to be especially high in multiplayer matches, would also be greatly reduced, if I had my way. By good weapons I’m referring to the “money for kills table” which is created by Mr. X himself. This table is simply brought up by pressing a key (default M) that changes as X sees fit. For example: if a weapon has been used for several recent murders, the money you earn for using it will go down. The weapons are also switched around while playing the game: for instance, during the single-player mode there were a couple times where I found a Tommy gun and a shotgun in the men’s locker room to the pool but after dying and looking again, they would be replaced with other things. You’re much more likely to come across swords, axes, knifes, umbrellas, pool cues, etc. in-game than firearms. This fact makes both game modes more challenging.
The in-game AI is a bit daft, especially in the arcade mode, which gives players a chance to try multiplayer modes while staying offline. The single-player AI doesn’t seem too bad, though, and puts up a challenge. You’ll rarely be able to sneak up behind someone unless, of course, the mission requires it, such as the one where you have to poison the captain. It’s much more likely that you’ll find people running at you with a weapon in hand. Security is another big part of the game that players need to be aware of. In several of the areas on cruise liners that are more public, there are security cameras and police officers. If you pull a weapon in one of these areas, you’ll be sent to jail, where you have to spend a certain number of seconds and, depending on what weapons you had, will be fined a certain amount. This leaves players with a secure area but it also rewards pathetic people playing in the servers that just sit in them and pop out to kill their quarry when they happen to pass by. I didn’t see much of this, but maybe limiting the amount of time in these areas would be a good way to avoid the occasional idiot.
The game’s graphics are good and come off looking rather cartoon-like. I really enjoyed the different number of outfits which you can find and purchase throughout the maps. They really set the time period and came off as being quite vibrant and fitting for the roaring twenties. I would say that when I first started playing the game the graphics were about average but the recent patch fixed and enhanced a number of things to make the game look better. They’re not stunning, but good nonetheless.
Sounds and music in the game are great, and also fit the time period, but there is something very important that is missing: constant background music. I believe that putting in some tense background music that would play when you are in a quiet area would greatly heighten the sub-par thrilling atmosphere. When you finally see your quarry the game’s intensity levels rise, but including the music mentioned would make the game more intense at all times. There is music in the elevators, at the bars and restaurants, etc., but when you leave, that music will turn off as well, and those songs are light and happy. There needs to be music that sets the dark underlying mood. Other sounds seemed very good and definitely emphasized the time period and cartoonish feeling of the game.
"There needs to be music that sets the dark underlying mood."
The multiplayer portion of the game includes four different modes: hunt, elimination, deathmatch, and duel. Elimination and hunt modes seem to be the popular ones. Here are brief explanations of each from the official site:
In Hunt Mode the game is divided into rounds. Once anyone kills their quarry a timer counts down to the end of the round, before everyone is assigned a new quarry and the next round begins. The winner is the one with the most money in their bank account at the end of the game.
In Elimination Mode you are knocked out of the kill loop if you are killed by your hunter. If you kill your quarry, you get a new quarry. The winner is the last one left alive.
In Duel Mode you can challenge another hunter to a duel, without the interference of other players, to settle arguments, or to prove who is the best hunter.
In Deathmatch Mode players can kill anyone but must still avoid security and take care of their needs. High paying weapons can be found on the “Money For Kills” table.
With a total of six multiplayer maps there is definitely enough variety, and after playing on The Northern Star for so long, players will likely welcome the change of environments. However, while the concept may seem fun on paper, you can see by the current number of servers and people online that it just didn’t work out. The game has been out since the beginning of July and it really hasn’t gone anywhere online. If you decide to play it, or as you might have experienced during the recent free weekend, the first couple of rounds of multiplayer matches are fun. You desperately try to find a weapon then kill your quarry before time runs out (in hunt mode). This feeling runs out of steam very quickly, and I basically just found it boring after a while. Plus, the needs system seems even more distracting during multiplayer, which is faster paced than single player and leaves you vulnerable if you need to relieve a need that isn’t covered in a secure area.
Overall, I have to say I enjoyed single-player more than the multiplayer portion of The Ship, even though the former was rather short. If the right enhancements are put into place I can definitely see room for additional missions and would actually like to play more of them on different ships. The multiplayer seems innovative but it just doesn’t stick for one reason or another. It’s kind of like throwing a Sims game at the action genre and hoping action fans will appreciate it. Action fans want intense action and don’t want to stop to chow down on the chef’s latest creation. Fans of the Sims games and that genre want what they’re used to. It works in single player for the most part but the mix is just too much for multiplayer.
"Overall, I have to say I enjoyed single-player more than the multiplayer portion of The Ship..."