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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Leviathan: Warships (PC)

Paradox Interactive specialises in strategy games, and it does those very, very well. It would be easy for the studio to find a formula or two that leads to success and milk it for everything it is worth, but quite frequently they do take some calculated chances. Like anything, sometimes those chances pay off, and at other times they do not. In the case of Leviathan: Warships, a lot more works than does not.

As the name indicates, this title is all about naval warfare. Some might argue that the scope is a bit limited by not having some sort of land or airborne representation, but I think the focused approach works very well here. There are a handful of different modes, including a campaign, competitive multiplayer (with a couple of different, albeit similar flavors) and a challenge mode.



I probably spent the bulk of my time in Campaign mode, which gives you a large variety of missions that slowly up the scales in terms of enemies as well as your own resources. Each map is a standalone experience, usually with an objective that is not easily completed by yourself. The Challenge mode is much harder - almost to the point of being unfair. Some of these you are just too ill-equipped to handle and really have to be creative in order to win (I suppose that is why it is a challenge). For me personally however, I enjoyed the Campaign mode more.

Leviathan: Warships is designed, to be a multiplayer experience however. This shows up in that modes are certainly more fun with friends, but the multiplayer games can be a bit hard to find. There just are not many available matches out there so far. I have tried quite a few times, at different times of the day, and can usually find one eventually, but it can take a while not only to find a match, but for everyone to go 'Ready' status so we can start to play. It is worth noting that there was a bit of lag in almost all of the matches I played. Since the game functions basically the same online and off, I definitely noticed a bit more of a hitch in the online during moves.

While the game runs $9.99 on Steam, but in order to get the most out of the online play, you will want to spend a few extra dollars to purchase the in-game DLC that gives you access to more ships. It adds variety to your tactics, and gives you a better fighting chance against those that have done so themselves. I know day one DLC is a sore spot for a lot of people however, so I wanted to mention it since it feels more important here than in a lot of titles.

The music is pleasant, if somewhat repetitive after a time. The visuals are simple, but also easy on the eyes. Maybe it is the use of color, or the nice reflective water effects, or just that it is easy to tell all of those little units apart on screen, but while this game hardly taxed my graphics card, I could blow it up to a nice full screen resolution and play without any real performance issues either.

However, the best part of the game is the actual set of strategy mechanics. This is a turn-based strategy game, but it is far more similar to Frozen Synapse (a game we liked a great deal here at Digitally Downloaded. You can read the review here) than more common strategy games. Instead of one side making moves while the other sits there waiting to get walloped like an armored Whack-A-Mole, both sides make decisions, press the button to commit them, and then the scene plays out over several seconds. You never quite know what your enemy will do - especially in multiplayer. Against the computer's somewhat more limited AI, you can usually figure it out - they tend to run straight into a fray.

It is a lot of fun to see the moves committed, playing out in a sort of real-time environment. Then you examine the field of play, and try to outsmart your opponent on the next set of moves. All in all, this game provides a solid framework that could be expanded on and grow - especially if there is more of a community to support it. At least in the early going however, that lack of robust community does hurt a bit, since this game feels like it was made with multiplayer in mind.




- Nick H
 Senior Journalist
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Review: Leviathan: Warships (PC)
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