Sometimes the bad guys should win
Strictly naval games are fairly small genre in computer games… as soon as anyone thinks of putting ships in a PC game, starships just seem so much prettier. Usually such games never reach their potential, and use a 2d map… making them really just a naval game in space.
Thus I was interested in Leviathan: Warships, since it wasted no pretense on space combat, instead being a naval combat simulator game. It scored bonus points for my interest by being turn-based—too many strategy games turn into clickfest “real time” games, as much missing the point as when battleships get put into “outer space.”
While the premise and type are good, the execution has some issues. On your turn, you really just order course and heading for your ships, they handle all the firing on their own, for the most part. Once orders are given, you click on “end”, and then the game proceeds in real time as you watch. It’s a fine enough idea, but the ships are so myopic that it’s easy for enemy ships to zoom onto the map before you even know what’s going on (at which point you’ll be happy that firing is automatic, although your ships will cheerfully fire on each other if they’re in the way of an enemy). Damage is basically a point system, with ships mostly fully functional until sunk.
The campaign mission is horribly paced. In the first mission you take a handful of ships through a section of sea, completely infested with enemies. The second mission will likewise pit your small fleet against a massive horde. The third mission is a challenge against a huge swarm. The fourth mission is the same, and so on. Ok, there are some variations in mission goals, but the game never provides why so many enemies are willing to build ships and throw away their lives flinging themselves at you… or why you’re working for such a horribly outnumbered naval command. With nothing to fight for, the missions just become endless grinds of slowly inching your fleet forward, dealing with a handful of enemies, and repeating the process.
There is the ability to customize your ships, but it’s actually pretty limited; only certain weapons can go into certain slots, and a point system further restricts possibilities. The ships, for what it’s worth, are science-fiction ships, and you can install lasers and cloaking devices and whatnot… I find this rather a shame, since perhaps the game would have some value as a naval simulator if there was token effort to use real world weaponry. One thing painfully missing is the ability to organize a naval formation. The missions always begin with your ships in a clumsy line, forcing the first few moves into organizing the fleet into a credible formation, and formation maneuvers during combat are out of the question.
I suppose the game was really intended as a mini-multiplayer game, and it works as such, though I once again am hard pressed to have motivation to play. It has neither the intensity of RTS, nor the excitement of FPS… and the strategy options just aren’t as deep as most any other strategy game.
Overall, this is pretty lean fare, and I’m not convinced the DLC for it can really save what is a pretty minimal system.