Life on the ocean waves for landlubbers.
Simulator games have been commonplace since someone first decided that doing something in a virtual manner could be almost as interesting as doing it in real life. The reality is, however, that the majority of simulation games, whilst offering some kind of insight into whatever they are simulating, prove that their subjects are actually really boring. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. The Microsoft flight sim series was actually quite interesting. But for the most part, driving a tractor, forklift truck, bus, train etc., is quite dull.
Ship Simulator Extremes promises to bring the boating world to the masses by offering up some “extremeness” in what should be one of the more interesting subjects for a simulator. Let’s face it, more people would have dreamt of being captain of their own ship than driving a forklift.
The menu offers the player the chance to play through the campaigns, or enjoy a free roam mode. The campaigns come in three flavours; GreenPeace, which sets you on the trail of various ethically challenged ne’er do wells, Tourist Tales, offering the player a cruise ship, and the Core campaign in which the player basically gets to experience the less than glamorous side of captaining a towboat. Whilst the majority of these campaigns revolve around heading from A to B, there are some slightly more interactive opportunities, such as using water cannons in the GreenPeace campaign or towing a boat in the Core campaign.
The Free Roam mode gives the player the freedom to choose their own vessel from a decent roster covering pretty much every different type of watercraft available. They can then choose their starting destination and the date and weather conditions. It is then down to the player to find their own entertainment at sea.
I remembered my first time playing the Microsoft flight sim, where I took out a jumbo jet and tried to land it on my local airstrip, pretty much wiping out where my house stood in the process. With that mentality, and the desire to find something personal within the game, I jumped straight in to Free Roam mode and went looking for that stretch of coastline where my house could be found. Being slightly lacking in patience, I took the fastest speedboat I could find and set off from the closest starting point, which was still a fair way off.
It was at this point that I started finding problems. The first and most prominent, which can be found in every one of the campaigns aswell as Free Roam, was the sheer amount of time it takes to get anywhere. I had the fastest craft available, but I could still estimate that it would take over an hour of game time to reach my destination. Set the speed on full and point the craft in the right direction and there really is not much more to do. Obviously there is more happening in the campaigns, and the distances traveled are probably a lot less. But the long and short of it is that captaining a boat is a bit boring.
This lack of much to do is compounded by the fact that there is not really a lot to see either. There may be the occasional boat whilst out at sea, but otherwise you are just looking at the constant blue of the ocean. Don’t get me wrong, the ocean looks amazing and is beautifully recreated. But once you have seen it, you kind of know what to expect. Heading along the coastline should be a bit more interesting, you would think. But, with the exception of a few buildings, it is just as dull.
Still, I was just as determined to find something that I could recognise as being near to my little part of the UK. The game, as it stands right now, is a little glitchy. I experienced things disappearing and reappearing, times when by boat seemed to be hovering above the water, lag in the case of traveling fast through really bad weather conditions, and at one point my entire PC froze up (although I must admit to doing the nautical equivalent of donuts in a sightseeing boat during a storm at the time, so maybe that one was just my fault) But, as with all Paradox games, I am sure that this one will be heavily supported and patches will quickly come to fix the most annoying problems.
Heading around the south-east point of the UK, I decided to take a gander at the much publicised “wander around your ship in first person view” option. I soon realised that there is not much to see, or many places to go, within a speedboat. On the larger ships, where they should be a lot more to do, the effect is still somewhat underwhelming, with instruments and features seeming completely devoid of personality and function.
Anyway, I had dropped the speed of my boat from full, as I kept nosediving into the water and then bobbing back up and heading into a completely different direction. That’ll teach me to go and grab a sandwich while I should have been watching the waves. I would guess that I was about halfway through my journey now. The nautical map in the top right, which showed depths as well as the coastline, showed that I was heading into what looked like a completely featureless area of the ocean. Maybe that would update once I reached that particular area. Alongside the Campaigns and free Roam mode, there are also downloadable missions. With aÂ mission editor on the cards, you can be sure that this will soon be overflowing with downloadable missions to extend your enjoyment, if you are that way inclined.
At this point I discovered why the nautical map was showing no features. As I sailed into that featureless area, I was greeted by a delightful “mission failed” screen. What I did not realise until now was that only certain areas of the seas can be navigated. My area of coastline simply did not exist, which left me more than a bit disappointed. I guess I have been spoilt by Microsoft flight sim and the ability to travel anywhere I chose.
I am sure that sailing enthusiasts and fans of the previous Ship Sim outing will have a great time with this title. I am equally sure that, knowing the support that Paradox games receive, the game will improve over time to clear out the majority of the problems listed above. But, at the end of the day, captaining a ship is just not as much fun as you would imagine, and the majority of gamers will find little in this game to enjoy.
Ship Simulator Extremes, from Paradox Interactive, is available from GamersGate