Naval War: Arctic Circle Review
I enjoy the 2nd World War for a number of reasons. A lot of the technology we have available today, was not present at that time. You did not have long-range missiles, jet fighters, satellite images or Spy Planes. You were down on all fours wondering whether the force to your left was still your ally, or already the enemy. Everything was crude and basic, with tanks making their first proper appearance via Blitzkrieg. Naval warfare also took a wide turn with the use of Aircraft Carriers, and the development of even deadlier Battleships. Even though planes played a crucial role during Naval warfare the ships themselves still held a role. When I played Navy Fleet I could gaze upon different giants of the Époque, firing off their salvos at incoming enemy ships, while smaller ships tried to protect them from torpedoes or enemy planes. What Naval War: Arctic Circle managed to do is snap me out of this dream world into the harsh reality of Modern Warfare.
Despite this awakening, Naval War: Arctic Warfare suffers greatly from a number of problems I will explain in detail. A game with a great concept, but with a sub-par performance.
Naval War: Arctic Circle, the future is now.
What is it that Naval War: Arctic Circle made me realise, in relation to Modern Warfare? The Navy, as a force, lost its previous meaning. It might still be used for blockades, or fighting off smaller ships, but in this age they are now focused on entirely different roles than their World War 2 counterparts. The reason for this is the technological advancement today. We have missiles which can with extreme accuracy fly from one country to another and hit almost exactly where you want it to hit. Planes that can travel stealthily around the world and provide one military with enough intelligence to perform a precise attack.
In the Tutorial alone it becomes apparent how minimal the role of your ships is. Your frigates are slow, in comparison to the planes and choppers at your disposal. Submarines are even slower, taking them hours (in-game) to reach any reasonable destination. The only quick and effective “Rapier” that you can use are planes. Planes travel vast distances quickly, and they do not even have to reach their destination because the range of their missiles covers most of it. The added futility of moving your ships is that it usually takes very little to sink an enemy ship with your missiles. When you do manage to get past their defences a single missile should usually resolve the problem. The only equal threat to your own planes are enemy planes. You must pay careful attention to incoming enemy attacks, and respond to them immediately, or you will lose your aircraft.
Aircraft will not only reach a destination quicker, but its effectiveness will usually be much higher than that of a Frigate or Submarine. Despite this “limitation” using your aircraft is not as simple as in DEFCON: Everybody dies. When your aircrafts are waiting in their HQs (Airports or Aircraft Carriers) you can prepare them for specific tasks, depending on the foe they might be facing and the distance they will have to travel. The problem is that any change in the layout of your aircraft takes time to finalize. Time management, as well as the managing of your limited resources makes Naval War: Arctic Circle a very challenging wargame. However, the experience is riddled with small flaws and in some cases poor design which makes the game less than what it could be.
A very rough gem
Naval War: Arctic Circle had an excellent idea. Set the player in a modern setting, where combined Nato and US forces fight against the Russians. Time management, the challenge of limited resources, and deeper strategic thought. All this and more are part of Naval War, but the game suffers from its own ideas.
Time is precious. In Naval War this becomes apparent when you have to react quickly to a changing situation. The problem arises when you want to save some of your own time. The final Nato mission lasts far longer than what you would expect. The objective is simple, escort two “Invasion Groups” to their respective landing areas. What made me almost fall off my chair was the distance I thought they had to travel. The distance showed on the map was short, but when I checked how much time it would take to reach their objectives the total was 4-5 hours. Of course, I knew I had time compression. I could jump ahead to the action, while giving my plane squadrons appropriate orders ahead of time. It worked, in part. I jumped ahead only a few minutes when the first Russian missiles appeared. After about half an hour I was still resolving the issue, only to realise even more were arriving. Having been overwhelmed eventually (I only had to lose one of my transport ships to lose) I noticed that the “Invasion” groups had aircraft carriers of their own. During that mission alone I had access to a number of aircraft carriers and airports, with about 30 Air Superiority Fighters alone (if not more).
The AI is not bright. The just presented example was in essence a Spam tactic of surface missiles. If I had deployed all of my planes at the same time the mission would had been won with only a single yawn. In any mission where the enemy uses missiles or planes their strategy is predictable. Most often you have to provide enough anti-aircraft defense for your own missiles to destroy the enemy. As such, against the AI a player could be more annoyed than bored. Annoyed, because not only will he have to face a simple, predictable foe, but also because the mission will drag on indefinitely.
The 3D view is a great idea, but poorly designed. The sea is as flat as any mainland you have to gaze upon. The ships and planes are enjoyable to watch, but their animations are limited. While they float through the flat sea, and explode in a burst of orange fire there is little fun about that. If the developers tried to stick to a more DEFCON look I believe the game would have been much more enjoyable. Wargames do not always need visualisation to help in knowing what is happening. And when you are playing over a vast section of land and ocean it might be easier to stick to simpler visuals. On the other hand, I did enjoy looking at certain ships and planes close-up, as they moved forward.
The between-mission dialogues are fine, though the story itself does not feel engaging. The newspaper snippets help you keep track of the events in the game. The dialogues do not seem necessary in that respect, even though the different characters respond to each other in different ways. I almost expected a “RP” element of having optional responses during a dialogue, which might have had some influence on the next mission. That was not the case, but it might be an interesting new angle in wargames. Speaking with your intelligence officer and ordering to focus his research on a specific area or specific type of enemy preparations. Perhaps having to send some of your troops to another operation zone, and you have a choice of which troops you send. Little things which might have a big influence on the mission itself and the story.
Naval War: Arctic Circle is a decent Wargame. It has all the elements that a wargame should have, and for me it was a very satisfying experience with realistic modern combat. On the other hand, each mission can take a lot out of you, in terms of patience and time. Naval War: Arctic Circle is not a game you will finish during one sitting, but surprisingly enough it is not hard to learn from your mistakes. The interface is simple and user-friendly. The player will learn most of the necessary rules and controls of the game through the tutorial. If that fails, you can always play around during one of the single missions.
The Multiplayer scenarios play out almost like chess. Each side has the exact same tools at their disposal, and the greater military genius wins. You can try each of the multiplayer scenarios through Single Player, and even though the AI might not pose much threat, it will be a good training match.
In the end, the mark I am giving Naval War: Arctic Circle is 7.5. I do not normally resolve to fractions, but between a poorer design and a very good idea I am stuck between the two. As such, if you want to try a challenging Naval/Air warfare wargame with your friend(s), this is a good game for you. The singleplayer experience might be limited, but I hear word of future patches improving the gameplay. We will have to see if that indeed changes.
Alex “WriterX” Bielski
|Pros:||Challenging, yet easy to learn.|
Balanced multiplayer scenarios.
Easy to Use interface.
Poor 3D Visualisation.
Lacks a Random Mission Generator (Skirmish)
|Game producer's website:||http://www.turbotapegames.com/index.html|
|Game available at:|