Naval Video Games

Naval Video Games (1988-2022)


Given the combined budget of Video games, worldwide today, from A class games starring at E3 to one-man indies far outweights the global movie budget: 200 $ billion dollars in 2022 (280 expected 2025), versus 40 billions for the Box Office value in 2021: Almost five times. The first video game ever, Higinbotham’s 1958 ancestor of “Pong” (1972) and the arcade era, followed by the PC era in the 1980s and at last the console era in the 1990s, and today the rise of smartphone/pad games apps and soon the awaited global rise of virtual & mix reality, are as much platforms that denote hardware capabilities first, and the game subjects, trends and tastes of the public over these many years. As of today, games are more colorful than ever, addictive, diverse, trans-generational, casual, genre-friendly and multi-platform. This is now a fully-grown, mature industry with big players and wall street backing.

In all of this, the sea was not well represented. The game ancestor of them all however is still the good old “naval battle”. Played on a simple numbered grid pattern, it allows players to have a match with simple squares-categorized vessels (you know, five for a CV, four a BB, three a Cruiser, two a DD, one a sub ;)). Some toy manufacturers jumped in the bandwagon of Japanese electronics in the late 1970s to propose screen versions of these and later some U-Boat games, which rose to popularity on the new market of “individual consoles”. At the time a game was not overly complex, a good old pirate story secured sells. Not so much today. Outside pirates, the Navy was privileged above civilian-oriented games, wether it was a virtual sailing simulator or a shipping line manager… The good old shoot-em-up is still the biggest seller, and strategy/simulation behind.

In this catalogue we will concentrate on the latest, largest and currently available ship-related video games, with details, links and review, through a “pinterest” like presentation. In the future, more and more will be added, and hopefully tested. For now, the first and only one i’m currently testing is world of warships, but i will also join Total War strategy games naval battles i know of, and test many others if possible (demos gets rarer as of today, due to the games sizes).

Join me in this new adventure !
David Bocquelet, May 2022.

20/05/2022 Review: World of Warships™

World of Warships™ – Full analysis

Edited by Wargaming and first released in 2014, World of Warships is the third installment of the basic recipe started by the company in the early 2000s, with tanks and planes. As recently the game revendicated 30 million registered users and a million players daily with at least three servers, in US, Europe and Asia. It is a free real time MMO, Tactical Shooter/Vehicle Combat Game featuring aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, torpedo boats, sloops, and submarines on capture the point or mission-based scripted games modes. Is it really worth your time ? – Brutally Honest Review.
⚔ Wargaming™ was founded in 1998 and released in order, world of Tanks™, it’s flagship in 2010 with est. 90,000,000 players* 2022, world of warplanes™ (2013) and eventually world of warships™ (2015). *In 2011 WoT had the Guiness world record for the most players (75,536) on the same MMO server. it’s still the main driving force for wargaming, closely followed by the 120 million of WoWp, not the most applaused by the way. WoW attracted as of 2018 30 million registered users, a “small” country like Malaysia. The game is notoriously different from the others in terms of demographics, less popular with teenagers and more with the 20-40 and even seniors, probably due to it’s longer average play time and richer, more complex tactics.

It is definitely deeper and less “casual” than the others. It is also more hardware consuming due to the larger maps and large, highly detailed ships models. Of note, due to the war in Ukraine, Wargaming decided in April 2022 to cut all links with Russia and Belarus and move the siege to Cyprus. The company’s links to notably anglo-saxon speaking influencers, social media production (notably on youtube) and intense marketing partnerships built over the years in the anglosphere was worth the risk of moving away, keeping both the majority player base and all media assets. So far, the company is less propular in Asia, but it’s gearing towards a better reception yearly, notably in China and it’s massive potential, reflected by an entire ship’s tree and a special event, the lunar year.

☆ About the Game ☆

☖ Authors/siege Home Cie Victor & Vladimir Kislyi (Belarus) siege Nicosia, Cyprus. Founded 1998 in Minsk, Belarus.
☼ First public release September, 17, 2015 PC Windows
☐ Lead dev team and staff Lesta Studio, Boris Sinitskiy. Lead Designer: Anton Oparin, Composer: Artur Tokhtash
☐ Main platform PC, pad/smartphone (2017)
⚙ Type Real time MMO, Multiplayer Online Tactical Shooter/Vehicle Combat Game/TPS
☃ Player Base 2019 (est.) 1,000,000
♕ Awards 2014 Rookie Silver, Discovery of the Show, Best Online Tactical Shooter
★★★ Metacritic Score 81/100
★★★ IGN Score 8.3/10
★★★ Gamespot Score 8/10
☎ Contact Wargaming Chicago

A famous “what-if” reconstitution of the French Battleship Normandie if completed in WWI modernized in the interwar. World of Warships (WoW) is famous for these, sometimes resurrecting obscure (or “very obscure” .cough .cough) paper projects and simple propositions.

It is a secret for nobody which paid attention to this website: Along the articles you have found and will find many in-game screenshots of various ships from Wargaming’s World of Warships. You can find the full list here.

I’m a player since many years of this game. That’s why i feel confident enough for this deep review. I’m not an authority in video games either, not played enough due to the lack of time. But i went into modding in a very serious way and seen the market evolution ince the last 20 years with great interest as close to my core trade. Also tried planes and tanks from Wargaming, but i find WoW real deeper and less “casual” in its approach. More strategies, more different gameplays: For planes, there is the only choice between bombers and fighters, and for tanks light, medium and heavies plus the occasional self popelled guns. In WoW, which in scale has the largest maps of all due to the ships themselves, you have at least six ships type to choose from, plus aviation types and submarines, many threats to deal with above and under water. There is even a land asset: Fortifications, only encountered in a single mode, “mission of the week”, basically defending/attacking bases and escorting convoys against all odds (see later).

In game shot Outright i can broadly say i like the game for all it’s good and bad. It’s one of my absolute favorites since 2017, and a highly addictive mix. The business model is based on the accumulation of credits and XP or purchase of “doubloons” (see later) to gather a certain number of resources, wether it is ships, equipments, camouflages, flags, thus taking competitive advantage and go further down the tree. But the casual gamer generally is progressing through experience, by just playing enough to accumulate XP and credits.

A game could mix various tier players, but in general tier mixing and maps are limited depending on the player’s level: In short, if you start with the free ships roster (six gunboats and sloops to choose from) as a first time beginner, you’ll only meet players with similar vessels and about 3 random maps. The more your experience grow, the more you gain Free XP.

To purchase a new ship you need to accumulate enough credits and XP to afford it. You can, of course short this by purchasing it with credit or premium ones with doubloons at all tier. Not purchasing the game itself, you purchase assets and ships with real money. The game is addictive enough for most players to do just this after banging for some time at the “high tier ceiling”.

How to obtain credits and XP ? Play, play, and play again. Different modes, win if possible, get achievements along the way. There are currently four main modes easily accessible: Co-Op and random (which differed in the way you interact within the team), operation of the week (seen above, port warfare and convoy escort, scripted scenarios), and ranked battle for high-tier players, and other less easily accessible modes: training battle (depends on server avilability), Brawls (duels, high tier), and Clan Battles (if you are part of a clan, defined at dates and hours).

☵ Type of Ships ☵

Rating for difficulty.

★★ Aircraft Carriers Introduced in 2019, CVs mostly shine by their air group, and you can manage one type of aircraft at the time, while your ship is still, or moving on “auto” when setting a path. It defends itself in case of attack with AA and guns against surface threats when you are busy with a squadron. You can also manage it like other ships manually. There are four tiers, and three aircraft types for each CV: Fighters (rockets), dive bombers, and torpedo planes. Depending of the nations, the size of the squadron varies, as well as the way to attack (single, in pair, or more). You can do several passes each time and boost or lower your speed. Aiming is not easy while dodging AA and losses are heavy.
★ Battleships The great favorite for beginners. Heavy firepower and enormous resilience, including the possibility of repairs along the way. Not very fast or agile, it’s suitable for players that think more in strategic terms more than pure action, or just test the waters of the game taking less risks. DDs and subs are their worst enemies, although they can resist many hits. They also have planes and radars at high tier to see far away on the map.
★★ Cruisers A nice compromise for already experience players and all-out favorie of most players. They are fast, agile, with reasonable firepower (often two shell types) and range, torpedoes and many options, such as repair, speed boost, smoke, ASW depth charges, AA boost and onboard air defence/recce. Only issue is their resistance, to torpedoes and high caliber. A single battleship volley on target and it’s over and one lucky hit in the citadel means sometimes 70% strenght is gone in an instant.
★★★★ Destoyers Probably the most difficult and challenging to play. For more experienced players, especially at high tier, they have two main advantages: Speed/agility) and their torpedoes. The first are used for evasive action from cruisers (their worst enemies) and battleships, as of course other DDs. Their torpedoes however are their main assets against all kind of targets. Depending on the nation/type and tier, with more or less powerful and long range torpedoes and low vibility (plus smoke !), DDs are often used for reconnaissance and take points, or to sneak into the rear and sink an aircraft carrier when possible.
★ Gunboats/Sloops At the very low tier, 1st level, beginners all starts with puny little ships, ideal to learn the basic trade against similar opponents: Shoot on a moving target by anticipating it’s position. They often have a single shell type, no particular option but basic repair. They are not resistant, but this matches the small caliber used here. These ships are not fast, nor agile, so that you can concentrate entirely on firing on target while evading volleys and locate dother players, make basic tactical choice etc.
★★★ Submarines Tested for years but introduced in 2021, subs cannot be purchased (for now) but are won over time by just playing. Three tiers, U-Boats or US subs for now. Hatred, arguably, by many players since their introduction, they can indeed sneek their way on the map, then fire their torpedoes (guide dor not) and evade attacks. They have however a limited time underwater, a limited surface speed, bad agility, and plenty of threats, notably the cruisers and DDs depht charges (most have some), or the ASW planes that can be pointed on target on demand by many ships, battleships and cruisers. Hunting down other submarines is a lot of fun too.

Ship Customization: Now any kind of ship could be upgraded and improved in many ways: More powerful engine (speed/agility), better “hull” (often this goes to AA capabilities)/full modernization, fire control, main artillery (accuracy improvements, traverse, etc.), and torpedoes. Once all acquired (costly at high tier!) which makes doubloon-paid ships -all included- more attractive, the ship gain the “elite status” which gives some advantages.

Player Customization:Note that the player account’s avatar also comes with a badge, that can be also personalized over time, and in battle, also comes with the player’s clan, if any. The player can also personalize its “homeport”, background to display it’s ships (about 20 to choose from).

Appearance: All players loves to personalize their ship, using camouflages and/or flags. They are not just for show here: The first improves the ship’s stealthiness, lowers the detection range as it should be, but also augment shell dispersion of the enemy and even add XP. They are of two kinds: Permanent and specific for ships acquired with doubloons or resources (like coal), or acquired though the game through containers. Signals could be also “purchased” with resources or doubloons and bring some statistical advantages: Less chances to be hit in some conditions or better chance to cause a damage, etc. When well used for some ships type in combination they could be deadly. “Flags” however are mostly to show off achievements, not bring extra stats.

Captains: Over time a ship is gaining more XP, for both itself and the captain. It’s a capital that has value, especially when selling the vessel. Therefore, if some captains with extra experience and peculiarities can be “recruited” (purchased), they are just recruited by default by purchasing a ship and gain experience over time. When a ship is sold, the captain goes into a reserve (not unlimited) and it is thus very sound when purchasing a new ship (ect. the battleship of the tier above) to recruit the same battleship commander as before, with all its accumulating experience, and purchasing extra training. A very experienced captain could really bring some positive statistics to the ship in battle. Also, when gaining particular achievements in battle, captain’s experience points are gained, to be spent in a skills tree which varies among ship’s types.

Resources: During the various games modes and tiers, a player can obtain resources over time. Some are event or permanent campaign-specific (as well as ships and other goods), through containers gained in victories, and could include (outside collection items, flags, signals, badge symbols, camouflages and free XP), but also coal and steel. Ships in the armory could be purchased with those, or various kits or items (like signals and camouflages) and with the event-specific currency and doubloons. The latter can only be obtained by real purchase or gained as gifts over time and specific events, and credits by converting XP with doubloons.

Other Remarks

-There are hundreds of ships from 12 nations approximatively. The main original ones (USA, Japan, Germany, UK, USSR) have full trees of battleships, cruisers, destroyers and aircraft carriers, while “new” factions are more limited (France, Italy, The Netherlands), and some “generic ones” only have destroyers (Europe: Sweden, Poland, Austro-Hungary…) and “pan-asia” a chinese-flavored semi-imaginary tree of destroyers and cruisers.

-The ships often offers different gameplays and options per nation. For example, most avid destroyer players takes Japanese ones for their torpedoes. Each players uses some national types depending on their own playstyle, abilities, experience rather than by nation bias. The more it goes, an experienced player could have more than 50 ships in inventory (extra space can be purchased) of various tiers. It is clear that battles at high tier requires more experience to survive and better skills, knowin the map over time, as well as using at best the numerous option each ship possesses (and teamwork !). Some are very unique, like the Dutch cruisers such as the Kijduin, which can call an air strike… It goes with a lot of coordination and reflexes. This makes the game hardly boring and someties quite intense, in particualr with destroyers.

-The maps playable (about 50), grows in quantity with tiers. They have a lot of variety of climates with arctic, tropical, mediterranean, atlantic and others, but also landscapes. But also sea states, from a lake to storm, reducing visibility and making small ships rocking. If could be surprising to speak of “landcapes” for naval battles, but it probably appeared very soon to the team working on the beta version of the game that fighting on a flat landscape limited to just seeing the enemy and firing would have meant a boring gameplay on the long run. Adding rocks, ciffs, mountains and hills which georlogical styles were defined by the climate/location of the map, brought mich more fun, if ships can be hidden from view. Knowing well a map means finding new tactics using the “terrain” and adpating them on each map. For experiences players, they are clearly “no-go-zones” where a player can be seen and fired at by practically the whole adverse team’s battleships right at the beginning.

-Aesthetic quality is of course easy to setup for all PC configurations and is downgraded naturally for pads/smartphones. And the game is aesthetically glorious at all max. The water is realistic, the effects along the hull, the ambiant light effects (varies with the maps, weather and climates) are perfect, they are nice detailed villages or towns, lighthouses, airfields, ports, to marvel at on the landscape, that makes the whole map richer and more enjoyable.

-There are many effects when firing between the smoke and shell trail depending of the type, and… the ships themselves. They are just gorgeous. Very detailed down to the rivet, a pleasure to zoom in. In fact they are regularly featured in this website… In addition, they often have rust and fatigue effects, but also damage and burning damage effects, and also changes with the weather (snow and water pools on deck) to with the camouflage chosen and signals. Some country/ship/game mode specific packs also bring fancy thematic appearances as well.

-The sound immersion is quite good too, between numerous watery effects of the ships going through the waves (even the sound of water going though the subs ballast’s vents!), the turbine whistles, the steam engines rythm, the metal growls, grinds and vibrate when the ship is moving hard over. The numerous artillery sounds depends of shell and caliber. Planes catapult-launched, innumerable engine sounds, bombs and torpedoes falling or splashing, concussion of shells and torpedoes, raging fire, everything is there and fit the ship type use (aircraft sounds, underwater sounds.). There is also an enjoyable music style which fits well the action, before and during the battle.

Tactics-wise, there is a lot to say. First off, it’s a multiplayer game. You play within a team, with two opposing team on the map starting on opposite sides. There are two (main) ways of winning: Sinking the adversary fleet obviously, or win by capturing all trategic points on the map, which includes taking and defending them. If the battle time is over (about 15 min.) a team wins by points accumulated during the battle and related to the damage inflicted by the opposing players, which also includes capturing a strategic area. Teams on each side comprised generally a well balance mix of at least three types, battleships, cruisers and destroyers, and also in addition CVs and subs, but the composition should be the same for each team. For balance also, there are more of less high tiers mixed at some level.

❉ Some advices for beginners

On this topic, with experience, a player -basically free to do whatever he wants to- start to discover in time the best adapted goal for each ship type in a “paper-rocks-scissors” kind of logic:

➀ A destroyer would do reconnaissance and try to capture strategic points. Prized targets are battleships and Aircraft carriers (more so), but they are always hidden well at the rear, out of harm. They are almost always provided with speed boots and smoke which are quite handy to survive, and that must be use liberally when and where it matters.

➁ A cruiser would go after and hunt destroyers and harrass battleships, especially with incendiary shells. Burn, hide, torpedo when close enough. Avoid presenting you tiny citadel (if any) to far away BBs, it’s just too tempting fom them and dodging volleys is not always possible given other ships and relief around.

➂ A Battleship, well, is the great equalizer. Its main role would be to take control points later in the game when smaller vessels are eliminated. Stay afar, opportunately use your good range against careless cruisers, avoid destroyers at all cost. If they are close enough, manoeuver hard and count on your own secondary battery (which like AA is fully auto by the way). And deal with other battleships when visible.

➃ Aircraft Carrier commander ? You “dominate” the map and your initial role is reconnaissance. Find the destroyers, the cruisers, battleships of the enemy and more so, the opposite CV. Start with fighters. They are fast, and use boosters to get faster. Other players will aprreciate. Attack the weak (destroyers) first. When the battle is well engaged, go for torpedoes against cruisers. They are fast but not that agile. Reserve the torpedo bombers for the battleships. They are bigger targets, slower to react and damage can be good especially with those pesky incendiary bombs. For the CV, stay hidden, and look at the map to see how the situation evolves, to run away if possible. Don’t trust the crappy AI auto path.

➄ Submariner ? Start with some recce, perhaps take a strategic area, avoid destroyers like plague, ambush cruisers if you can and prefer battleships. The slowest and most pounderous the better. Carefully manage the distance so as your torps will not loose their aiming and look at the relief. Surface to pause in a safe place for the batteries; Help the team chasing other subs in depth but don’t get too close due to friendly DCs. And if you can, prey on the enemy’s CVs.

➅ And the beginner’s sloop/gunboat ? Nothing, it’s just a “brainless brawl” on a small map, everyone for itelf. Learn your trade there, play, play, play. Anticipate tour shell’s path. and next try to do that and avoid incoming volleys, learn to repair when needed, when to choose to engage or stay away.

❉ Personal experiences

➊ Choosing the ship type largely depends of the player’s style and skills. Some would stick with a type they are more confortable with, but just for the sake of spicing up the gameplay, it’s better to acquire and test all types. One can sometimes achieve spectacular result with a “difficult” type such as the destroyer. Perhaps the best players around each time are those playing destroyers, which have the advantage of unlimited torpedoes. If i want a good casual quickup to start the day, i play DDs. It’s fast and intense like a good coffee. Later in the day, i’ll go with cruisers and if later in the day and a bit smoky, i’ll choose the slower-paced CVs and BBs.

➋ I saw some of these amazing vets on mid-tier battles playing Yubaris like devils until the end, to tell the tale after inflicting 150-200K damage, laughing at the burning wrecks. Battleships seems “boring” to beginners and they will often just go forward in the “damn the torps” mode, to be lambasted by the rest of the team by being ambushed by a DD after a couple of minutes or take a combined guns beating. Cruisers for intermediate players are the best school. They are good all-around and fast pace, a good balance between aggression and evasion.

➌ Learning how to use each map is also essential. Tactics must be tailored for each feature. No need to be reckless, but not too timorate either. For time to time, check the map and how situation evolve, be ready to anticipate bad situations developing, warn other players.

➍ If you’re on a cruiser, keep an eye on evading stealthy DDs preying on your CV. Avoid ambushes and “torpedo valleys”. A battleship commander should still hae a clear view around, never getting too close to choke points. And as a DD or cruiser under smoke, don’t present your flank. You are pretty sure to get torpedoes after a while coming you way to “clean the cloud” on blind. Also when charging a smoking destroyer, better to use another DD and be super-quick to launch your torps, keeping some in reserve.

➎ How to avoid aviation damage ? DDs are almost immune to them but fighters, cruisers must manoeuver quick, watch and follow the path of incoming torpedo bombers and predict their run to take a 90° turn and dodge the drop. In some case if the planes are close enough, close yourself as the torpedoes need distance to level and could just pass under you. Againgst torpedo bombers you’re a narrow target, just manoeuver hard. If you’re in a battleship that’s not much you can do. Same as the cruisers and count on your AA (upgrade !) and general resilience. Also stay in “pack” close to other BBs to mutualize AA.

➏ CVs rarely targets oneselves mutually: They are distant, harder to spot, have good AA and a devastating CAP when in the air, and if using well the terrain, staying in between mountains would just make any torpedo run impossible. DDs are by far your worst enemies, as submarines.

➐ How to deal with subs ? As a DD you are basically almost invulnerable and possesses DCs aplenty. When spotted, fire, rush on them to drop and stay on faction until it’s running out of batteries like the real deal. A cruiser will also be at sea with them, also with grenades for some, plus the ability for some also to use the ASW strike. Try to not miss in that case the sonar ping starting point and dodge torps, preying they are not guided. And for BBs, well, jusy stay far away, use the ASW strike liberally and count on the team to hunt them down.

➑ Use the options setup to manage your mouse wheel rotation speed. It’s important when you zoom in and out to avoid obstacles and see the relief coming: It’s no use to fire in a hill whereas you see your enemy in the binoculars. The faster you zoom in and out, you can more rapidly engage the enemy, that’s precious seconds.

➒ A battleship is slow-moving and its turrets too. Try not to choose a side when starting to move forward, keep them axis-aligned, neutral as long as possible in order to be ready to move them left or right depending of the target spotted, sometimes very briefly. Then turn for a broadside and try to anticipate the moment you’ll have to turn and change your broadside sense entirely, it could take ages. As a BB you should prioritize AP shell and try to target citadels for the most damage. You can use HE only to start a fire and then swap to AP.

➓ And last and not least, even your are an experienced player with little patience, don’t be a dick. Don’t just throw at the team they are morons, or report players that do not do enough for your tastes. Try to look around to not collide while you are focusing on binoculars, engaging in an artillery duel. Don’t throw torps left and right as if there was no tomorrow. Look as what is going around you. Offer smoke blankets to other players in strategic locations, do recce if you can, for other players and especially BBs in the team, watch for any threat for the team’s CV, communicate on a degrading situation, especially if a wing collapse or your base is coming under threat. That’s no use everybody is away chasing after a lone cruiser like a lemming train… Remember the only morons in the game as bots actually, especially at low tier ! And if you want to evaluate these bots, try the mission mode and you’ll see a pattern.

❐ Realism vs Gameplay

Related to historical games as soon as hardware improved enough to bring extra realism, the balance between realism and gameplay is not always easy to find. There is a lot to say about WoW on that matter.
Ship’s wise, they look very realistic. However performances wise, for the sake of gameplay, they diverged in many ways:

  • They are faster than normal, it’s not “real” knots that are in the game but an accelerated version, to speed up action.
  • Damage is calculated on the ship’s “true” historical statistics and features but heavily balanced, notably with the area hit adjusted (ex. propulsion or rudder jammed, fire, flooding, and the casual citadel shakeing the ship and blurring sound and vision). Damage is not totally faithful to reality and can be mitigated too quickly. Otherwise a player would be wiped out and get frustrated.
  • Gunnery Accuracy is related to range, and some interference ratio (as when guns are firing close to each other) are relatively well rendered, but on an artificially shortened range: Indeed the 1940s battleships had a 40+ kilometers range, and the games creators soon realized it would have hampered the gameplay. Also, the artificial options and caracteristic of the ships, if based on reality at the start, are balanced for gameplay.
  • The numerous ways to improve the ship, from parts and technical improvements, signals and camouflages are great for gameplay but somewhat less appealing for history-nerds.
  • The landscape, although inspired by realistic setups are often more rugged and clogged, also for gameplay reasons. Statistically, most battles happened in open sea.
  • The weather, on the same topic, is moderate and even “storms” apart lowering the vision hardly have an effect on the ships rocking and rolling heavily and impacting speed and accuracy.
  • The way planes are used is clearly balanced for gameplay: A single dive bomber cannot burn to death an aicraft carrier, and the way rockets targeting is used is annoying, as well as the way to use a squadron. It is impossible to launch all squadrons at once and control them at the same time. However a CV has its own CAP managed by IA, which is nice.
  • Speaking of vision, from planes or other ships, it is capped the same way as the artificially reduced range for gameplay. Spotting an “invisible” destroyer revealed so close with a fast-moving aircraft squadron is downright absurd as shown in the game.
  • Collision effect between ships are also absurd for gameplay: If one can ram another vessel and indeed rob it from all of its “life” in an instant or loose a lot depending of the type ex- Cruiser vs destroyer is loosely realistic at least based on type, hard collision for “blue on blue” (same team) are not at all. Only penalty for the two players. In reality a very hard colision would have brought a more radical effect.
  • Friendly fire is depicted in the game too, and met with penalty or even a ban when repeated, even if the faulty player was just simply careful of its environment, especially with torpedoes. It’s not intentional most of the time.
  • The repair management is of course purely gameplay based. A damaged ship would take much, much longer to be operational again. A fire would rage sometimes for hours, as a flooding to contain, and repairing the rest would be a matter of a day or more. It’s unfeasible in such short game. One feature that could have been nice to introduce is counter-flooding which can be done quickly. The ship also don’t shows a list resulting from a flooding.
  • AA fire is somewhat too powerful, balancing the lowered offensive power of the aviation in the game, also for the sake of gameplay. What about a “kamikaze” option by the way for IJN vessels ? 😉
  • The ship’s tree, if based in reality, at high tiers flirts with more or less real paper projects and proposals. There are, in some cases, closer to fantasy and baseless, just in-house credible “fillers” to offer more choice to the players.

☵ Type of Ships ☵

Rated up for difficulty.

★★ Aircraft Carriers Introduced in 2019, CVs mostly shine by their air group, and you can manage one type of aicraft at the time, while you ship on “auto” by setting a path. It defends its in case of attack with AA and guns against surface threats. You can also manage it like other ships manually. There are four tiers, and three types: Fighters (rockets), dive bombers, and torpedo planes. Depending of the nations, the size of the squadron varies, as well as the way to attack (single, in pair, or more). You can do several passes each time and boost or lower your speed. Aiming is not easy while dodging AA and losses are heavy.
★ Battleships The great favorite for beginners. Heavy firepower and enormous resilience, including the possibility of repairs along the way. Not very fast or agile, it’s suitable for players that think more in strategic terms more than pure action. DDs and subs are their worst enemies, although they can resist many hits. They also have planes and radars at hig tier to see far away on the map.
★★ Cruisers A nice cmpromise for already experience players and all-out favorit of most players. They are fast, agile, reasonable firepower and range, and often torpedoes and many options, such as repair, speed boost, smoke, ASW depht charges, AA boost and onboard air defence/recce. Only issue is their resistance, to torpedoes and high caliber. A single battleship volley on target and it’s over and one lucky hit in the citadel means sometimes 70% strenght is gone in an instant.
★★★★ Destoyers Probably the most difficult and challenging to play. For more experienced players, especially at high tier, they have too main advantages: Speed/agility) and their torpedoes. The first are used for evasive action from cruisers (their worst enemies) and battleships, as of course other DDs. Their torpedoes however are their main assets against all kind of targets. Depending on the nation/type and tier, with more or less powerful and long range torpedoes and low vibility (plus smoke !), DDs are often used for reconnaissance and take a base, or to sneak into the rear and sink an aircraft carrier…
★ Gunboats/Sloops At the very low tier, 1st level, beginners all starts with puny little ships, ideal to learn the basic trade against similar opponents: Shoot on target. They often have a single shell type, no particular option but basic repair. They are no resistant, but this match the small calibers here, nor fast or agile, so that a rookie concentrate entirely on thr art of firing on a moving target at a distance and changig direction, as well as evade volleys, make tactical choices etc. Rarely used but over time by some frustrated experienced players loosing too frequently at high tier 😉
★★★ Submarines Tested for years but introduced in 2021, subs cannot be purchased (for now) but are won over time by just playing. Three tiers, U-Boats or US subs for now. Hatred, arguably, by many old school players since their introduction, they can indeed sneek their way on the map, fire their torpedoes (guided or not) and escape. They have however a limited time underwater, a limited surface speed, bad agility, and plenty of threats, notably the cruisers and DDs depht charges (most have some), or the ASW planes that can be pointed on target on demand by many ships, battleships and cruisers. Hunting down other submarines is a lot of fun too.

That’s about it, see the game page for more details. All in all, worth the try. The balance between gameplay and realism has been preserved to some extent as to make the game more user-firendly and attractive to all sorts of players demographics. Introducing aircraft carriers and submarines had been criticized for some hard-core players. But i think personally they have been balanced down enough to still allow a player using them enough fun and not be a complete annoyance for other surface ships players. For example, fighters had an far easier way to attack with rocket. The new system which includes a strafing before launching when on target causes a delay allowing the target to move away (DDs in particular) and damage is reduced.

Gameplay-wise, apart recurring annoying login problems after an update and loosing connection sometimes due to local issues, it runs smoothly, with extremely rare bugs, if any. Something the team could be proud of. The community is relatively healthy, friendly, with rare case of players reporting abusively others or being injurious/obnoxious to others. There is plenty of tolerance and good spirit and often fun discussions in the chat when the situation is not too tense while in game. Only regret, it’s not always easy to remember all the talk quick tabs or shortcuts. Never heard of seen cheating in this game by the way.

The forum and all the communities seems to draw a lot of interesting dicussions related to the “real thing” in between tree speculations and comparing a real ship and it’s traduction into the game. I’m not a fan personally to the sci-fi/horror periodic sub-games but it care quite well to some, more indie players in search of more fanciness. Overall, i can understand why WoW does not makes that much volume compared to the two others franchise game (made by different teams and with different UI and options by the way).

Ships and the sea and stranger to most people. They prefer stuff closer to them. We are land animals, not fishs, and professionals of the sea are not that common. The game itself is also perhaps more demanding and complex than the others. More options, more to care for underwater, in the air as well as on the sea, and many options to consider. For planes it’s more “point and shoot”, and with some hiding for tanks. WoW is less appealing to the casual shoot-em-up gamer, yet still pretty casual compared to a strategy game. On that chapter a “game” could last for months on end and the player involvement in “empire-building” is on another level entirely. There are naval games mixing genres that will be covered here in the future.

Personal Rating (on five stars)

Fun: ☆☆☆☆☆
Gameplay: ☆☆☆
Progression: ☆☆☆
Graphics: ☆☆☆☆☆
Historical Accuracy:
Replayability: ☆☆☆☆

About the business model and game industry today

WoW’s KMS Ruprecht, a .cough cough. secret german battlecruiser project of the BS class .cough cough.: It costs 13,200,000 ingame credits, or 8,800 doubloons, and based on an “average” equivalent of one euro for 700 doubloons (it changes with the purchased chest size mind you), costs around 29 € of “real money” (30 $).

As for the business model, it’s pretty clever and has been imitated since a lot. It’s free, so easy to access, hardware-friendly, but at some level when climbing tiers, the nicest ships and their improvements are so costly that tentation is great for the player to purchase with doubloons (real money) the ship of his/her dreams. And that’s when the beauty kicks in. The ships are priced according to a ratio between the number of free players that would go to that purchase, recoignise its merit in a “pay per win” manner, and perhaps buy more. For example, a nice 1940s battleship such as the Iowa is around 65 €/$ (let’s call these “bucks”). A basic low tier destroyer starts at 4 bucks. 65 bucks is below the standard cost of an entire A-class game when launched. The industry knows since many years that a full game price per player, with ever growing budgets and teams, due to more powerful hardware, as well as more demanding players, and should be largely above the traditional “symbolic price” of roughly 50 bucks, the same since decades.

So here’s the catch: How to make a video game bankable ? Not making it more pricy, but just use the business model already thought of for printers. The latter is cheap, not the cartridges, and the parts are carefully designed to fail beyond the extended guarantee, securing with the right marketing, the purchase of a new “improved” one. It’s basically the whole perversion of our actual profit-based, infamous consumer society, highly detrimental to a planet seen like another expandable commodity.

For games, even though with the advent of Valve’s steam™ and other online platforms, the player no longer pays for a concrete, material product (the box, disk, book… are a distant souvenir) but a download, game editors found a way to “split content”. This goes from launching at day a relatively “unfinished game” which does not contain at first all the features asked for, later sold as addon items to make it complete, or various in-game items. Some MMO shoot-em-up like battle royale for example heavily invested in player personnalisation fancy. It does not make the game more “complete” or extend it, but just fills the player’s egotistic need for in-game differenciation, appearance to other players, for untold in-game shareable selfies. It’s something already thought of in permanent universes like Second Life.

Back to WoW and other MMO free games, the highly praised items are the main protagonist there: Ship, tank, plane, car, spaceship, or whatever is the focus vehicle. It’s just making high tier playing more rewarding as a whole, and between several ships and personnalisation/improvements items that cannot be sustained by just playing to accumulate credits, it’s making more experienced players frustrated by their experience at higher tier more likely to purchase statistically. An average ship on the premium shop is about 63 € or 65 $ (just call the currency “buck” shall we ?), those on the “regular” game are about 15-40.

Five premium ships (“only” 1-2 per class/country by the way) that’s about 300 bucks, much more able, even for the small percentage of players to make it bankable. For those that would go there with (less painful) widely spaced purchases, compounded by with the blurring effect of the ingame doubloons, an editor would be able in the end to pay its dev team, the marketing, and pays for the MMO hosting. It is risky and more difficult to predict, but it just works, it’s a proven model so far. Also there is no cheating because the system is well locked, also ensuring no free community modding and therefore, ensure paying extensions, even indirect ones. That’s all the rage with the gaming industry since the last 15 years.

Don’t give me wrong -insert disclaimer here- this is NOT a criticism. Just explaining something not always well understood. i worked (and still work) for video games publishers, i created and participated in game modding for many years in the past, and if i had my own company now, i would probably use EXACTLY the same business model.

100K damage is good, and beyond destroyers, the use of torpedoes also for cruisers is a gift’s end. The latter lacks in agility what they trade for firepower. Oh, by the way, “gangbangjack” is indeed my avatar. Rendez-Vous at Sea to fight with/against me ☻

Empire TW


Created by Ceative Assembly inside SEGA, Empire TW was a well-awaited installment of the turn-based strategy game following almost cult-classics that were Shogun, Rome, and Medieval TW. Featuring a now classic mix of turn-based strategy with city builder aspects, with real-tome battles, the game featuring 18th centruy wars introduced for the first time Naval Battles. But also delivery via Steam, which was rocky at its start to say the least. Here is the full review, focusing of course on the naval battle aspect. Napoleon Total War (2010) just pushed a bit the era and stuck with naval battles, but now a bit refined. They will be seen in the same page. Are they worth all the talk ? – Brutally Honest Review (to come soon).

The full naval sim equivalent should be the hardcore “Naval Action”.

Shogun TW


By Creative Assembly (SEGA), this game came as a succession to Empire/Napoleon by going back to a classic of strategy, back to the roots, the first Shogun TW that really in 2000 placed the small British studio on the map with it’s unique combination. Now with empowered, superb graphics and modelling, the creators generated not only a worhy successor, but for some fans, the best installment in the serie ever. Not only that, but with the XIXth cent. extension “fall of the Samurai”, the game went to Renaissance style Japanese vessels battles to the age of steam and ironclads, for the first and last time in the serie. How they compared ? How fares the gameplay ? – Brutally Honest Review.

Like other Creative Assembly strategy games, Shogun II TW was essentially the same turnbased as the very first one, the original Shogun: TW that really launched the company as a game developer. Resurrecting this title after five more titles and ten years after (Medieval, Rome, Medieval II, Empire) was a gamble, but mostly directed at swamping the effect of the massive backlash after the sortie of Empire:TW. It was to be also purchased on Steam, and between the complicated and buggy beginnings of the first title, which in addition went for a completely new kind of warfare, musket-based, and introduced naval battles, wanted to reinvigorate a damaged fanbase with a familiar and beloved title.

It was going back to the roots, the very core of what made the success of the company in the first place, but with modern technologies. It reused the same Frostbite engine, but with arguably better models and textures as on Empire, better landscape light effect (mind-boggling even), and introducing new mukltiplayer features and complex animations, emulating complex, artful melee combat. It was a resounding success when launched in 2011, now ten years ago. Some critics still denounced bugs, some streamlined mecanics compared to the original game, and factions which feels a bit “samy” with lack of diversity in rosters. Compared to Rome TW for example, it was difficult to find the same kind of landscape and culture diversity. But by restraining this diversity, CA hoped to give the fans a return to the very basic land combat tactical simplicity of its debut… with a twist: Naval Battles, which did not existed in the original title and reflected the company’s capabilities. The Budget indeed of the new “Shogun 2” was indeed about fifteen time superior to the original “Shogun”.

And as for the lack of diversity, the new title would make for it a dozen DLCs, now common for the video game industry, all downladable. New factions and assoviated units, and then two massive expansions, like the original game which called for a Mongol Invasion setting. As for the expansions, they almost carried the sens of a brand new game all by itself. These two expansions were, in order, Rise of the Samurai, 500 years in the past, and Fall of the Samurai in 2012, in the 1860s. And as much as the first one draw mixed reviews, as very close to the main game, O boy the second one made quite a splash with the community. For the first time, CA embarked in a time period like no other dominated by rifle and cannons, and of course this was reflected in the naval part.

General Reflection about the game and its naval component

The game was in straight line with all previous titles, with the same recipe of world-building with a tech tree, and diplomatic schemes of alliances, spying and influence. Balance between economic priotities grants better capabilities for the army and increased population. Now, this coukd have been a repeat of countless other “Age of Empire” successors, without the spice of it all: Real time battles. Each time, the player is free to leave the strategic level to enter the tactical one, or stays at statistic stage and never command a brawl in person. That really depends on each play’s tastes. Though the AI being what it is, most players prefer doing the thing in personal rather than trust auto-resolution, and personally i follow this trend.
In all this, the naval component, although present, is almost an afterthought. Ships are costly to built and maintain, and only valuable if they brought significant damage to the enemy. That is, blockading a port and hunt down its trade lines, but also participate in land strategy by landing troops.

Naval Battles in this game are a repeat of the previous Empire: TW, but without all the thrills of broadside gunnery passes; It is back to a more dull close quarte combat type, never done before by CA, with bows and muskets depending on the era. On this particular field, both the basic game set in the Sengoku Jidai, with cannons and muskets, and Rise of the Samurai campaign and pretty close.

Top, a “rise of the samurai” custom naval battle, and the standard game below.

The ships are row-powered only, but that gave them unlike Empire some autonomy in moves, although these are slow.
On the graphic side, CA did well with the sea, a bit refined since Empire, but with the basic same animation and some bugs corrections like the waves going through the 3D structure (frostbite and its poor collision management), but overall, same stuff. Cutsom battles offered a dozen of sea maps, and various conditions settings, including night, early, mid or evening daylight, and four seasons combined with various sea forces, from a light breeze to a gale. These all affect somewhat the gameplay. Like in the real life, ships are simply slower in rough seas and visibility could be even further reduced by adding fog.

Ships in the game are of various size and roles, mostly dependiong on the troops type they carried: Archers and Musketmen, or foor troops, up to Samurai. They basically could do little but manoeuver, pepper themselves at a distance (and ideally using flaming arrows), with one or two armed with cannons, which could ravage their wooden hulls. And they can board themselves out, which transform the odds into a more classic, albeit uncontrolled “land” battle where experience and units type counts.

Little is now however overall about ancient Japanese ship’s type. They were “all fune”, meaning a local adaptation of the 1,000 years old Chinese Junk. Flat bottomed, but without sail and instead with the peculiar “standing twist” rowing system unique to Japan. Therefore the creators went into their way “making up” most of the ten types covered or so, the same for all 20+ factions or so, to the exception of very large Ships with four decks and towers reserved for some like the Mori. Apart their mines and muskets, naval battles differs little between the standard and “rise” campaigns, with an exception: The “Black Ship”.

Historically correct, this “black ship” belonged to the Portuguese, which tried at first through Jesuit influence, to gain power in Japan, and secure exclusive trade agreements, soon contested by the Dutch. I forward you to the excellent book of Cornwell and derivative 80′ TV serie “shogun”, in which several ships types are shown in action, built, and discussed, starting with the Golden Hind. The “Black Ship” was a carrack, enabling by the relevant DLC naval battles between these Fune and a massive Carrack bristling with guns. In the game it is unplayable by default and can only be captured in campaign. To my knowledge, this makes Shogun II the only “recent” video game featuring a naval battle with a carrack (although many world-building games have carracks in their tech tree). As for equivalents for the same era in a naval sim, featuring japanese X-XVIth Cent. Fune, there is simply none.

Fall of the Samurai and XIXth Cent. naval warfare

USS Roanoke and FS Océan in Fall of the Samurai
Oh boy this one was really something. Not only for CA but for naval sim in general. No other game features the naval side of the Boshin War, which is the main setting of this standalone expansion, not campaign. And it is required as the number of changes are considerable, starting with the addition of dozens of riflemen types, including foreign “mercenaries”, respectively the French “Troupes de Marine”, Royal Marines and US Marines. The guns also are way more devastating, long-range, accurate and firing explosive shells, rifled/smoothbore Dalghren and Armstrong types, and …machine-guns, in that case, of the Gatling Patent. The expansion very much surfed on the souvenir of “The last Samurai” featuring Tom Cruise and nine years old when “fall” was released. The title brought many new features, including naval bombardment and railways.

So, this quite unique expansion is still the only one in CA’s list to feature modern gun-armed steam-driven ships, but it is contingent to some realism. Apart the small ironclad Kotetsu, which is relevant, the dozen types available are mostly wooden corvettes and frigates, including some large and armoured. But also three “wild cards” echoing the western marine troops: The French ironclad Océan, the mighty HMS Warrior, and the Monitor USS Roanoke. Not enoough to make a solid naval sim set in the mid-XIX cent. But that would be it’s own game entirely.

Now, warfare-wise, this brand new setting changes also a lot the gameplay. Ships can pummel themselves at long range with devastating effects, and with many new options, like forced heating, incendiary or AP projectiles, the return of Empire’s delayed command or auto broadside, and others. They also can retire and be repaired out of range if needed. Of course the “wild cards” that are the ironclads differs from the rest of the pack (they could take on an entire squadron by themselves), and also differed between them, as one is a broadside ironclad (Warrior), one is a later central battery ironclad (Océan) and two are turret ones (Kotetsu and Roanoke), allowing to fire in nearly all direction without pointing the ship each time.

Sow, how feels these battles ? Well, fresh, but quick and deadly as soon as an ironclad is part of it. Long range artillery as said is devastating for the wooden structures, but the few armored ones, and battleships, add to the sound effects, a nice metallic bouncing, steam engines and modern artillery effects. Instead of mines, little “gunboats” can carry a single torpedo tube forward. So yes, night and day compared to the first two opus. Still, these naval battles must be understood as a logical tactical side of the grand strategy game, not a perfect naval sim. There are just too few models to be interesting on the long run, although in campaign, they can prove decisive. If you really crave for realistic XIXth cent. naval combat simulations, rather go for the serie “ironclad”, starting with 2009 Ironclads: American Civil War, up to “high seas”, schelswig wars, anglo-russian war, Chincha islands, Victorian admirals and up to Shogun II equivalent, the Boshin war. Although the latter came from a much smaller, almost indy design team, the combat is much more realistic, albeit less fun, on this particular timeftame.

Rome II TW

Due to the success of the first Rome: TW in 2004, Creative Assembly was pressed by SEGA to do a reboot, with a rocky development and even rockier start. However after a lot of patching over time the same’s reputation greatly improved. There is something which did not though: Naval Battles in this game. And thats a shame because ancient galley warfare is total under-represented in video games, it’s a complete rarity. Later, thanks to extensions like the Barbarian Invasions and the age of Charlemagne, they even drifted towards early medieval. Were they improved ? Are they that bad ? – Brutally Honest Review.

And now some eye Candy

World of Warship’s renditions.