Captain your own submarine in ‘Steel Diver‘ for the Nintendo 3DS.
If you recall we first saw the game demo when it was originally unveiled at E3 2010. Steel Diver takes you for some nautical side scrolling action which combines aspects of simulation crossed with strategy and first person interaction. I’ve never played anything remotely close to Steel Diver, so I was keen to see what kind of experience I would have.
The main gameplay takes you through a selection of campaigns in which you have to complete the mission objective. Before you even begin you’ll have to learn the very basics of piloting submarines and each submarine has different controls, unique strengths and abilities. There are three submarines to familiarize yourself which include; Compact ND-01 Manatee, which is a small, but highly maneuverable submarine that fires missiles vertically, ND-03 BlueShark is a medium submarine which is an all round performer, and lastly the ND-05, the largest submarine which is very powerful but has limited maneuverability. In most of the missions you will be navigating through winding and twisting deep dark caverns and blasting away with your torpedoes to destroy enemy submarines or blowing up various rock structures in order to navigate your submarine to the destination.
The top screen shows your submarine underwater, while the bottom touch screen is where all the navigational skills take place. Moving and guiding your submarine requires two controls – the speed slider which controls the horizontal direction and the depth slider for vertical movement. You can use the speed slider to reverse, stop or guide your submarine forward. On the right side, players can control the depth slider to adjust the vertical movement of their submarine or to bring the submarine to the surface of the ocean. The controls took a little while to adjust to because you’ve got to jump between the two sliders whilst gauging how fast and how deep you want to explore.
Your submarine comes fully equipped with weapons to destroy mines that block your path, sink enemy submarines or blast away at incoming homing torpedoes. You’ve got an unlimited supply of torpedoes, so there’s no worry about running out. While you’re trying your best to wind around the curvy and narrow paths under the ocean, avoiding being spotted by enemy submarines, you’ll be pleased to know that you can activate a masker button, which briefly hides you from incoming missiles. Although using the masker depletes your air supply so you have to keep a constant watch on your air supply. Missiles can be activated and fired vertically and horizontally, but be aware that missiles do more damage than torpedoes, so there is some degree of strategy involved when choosing your weapon of destruction. The submarine can navigate to the surface of the ocean, which is ideal if your submarine is damaged in any way. Resurfacing will replair any damage that has been done to the submarine’s hull and replenish the air supply. Believe me, you’ll know when you’ve been hit by a missile or submarine due to the slightly irritating voice of the crew who shout out ‘Ships damaged’ continuously and water starts spraying into the bottom screen from a leak, which you have to frantically tap to repair.
Time trails mode allows you to choose from a selection of eight courses to navigate through. The courses comprise of anything from a basic course with curves and straights, to testing your steering skills as blocks fall from above to crush you, sea currents push your submarine in the opposite direction and trying to avoid mines that have been placed in your path. Weaving and winding your way through the tight tunnels is very difficult at times, with only one minute and fifty seconds on the clock to do it in. It’s fun, but all the time feeling a little tense and stressful.
Periscope mode uses the Nintendo 3DS gyroscope’s motion sensor capabilities. In this mode the player has to look through the periscope and hunt for enemy ships. In this section the player has the option to destroy enemy ships, enemy ships in a storm and enemy submarines. You’ve go to search the sea for eight different sized ships and submarines and blow them out of the water while trying to navigate through a precarious and stormy ocean. Moving the 3DS around me while trying to spot the enemy is good fun, although trying to zoom and dive with the controls proved to be difficult at times. It’s not the kind of game you can sit down with as you need to be moving around for this section of the game. Spotting enemy ships is a fun element, but determining their speed along the choppy waters is essentially down to timing. The game has a selection of unlockables to be discovered such as decals which can grant you special powers. You have to collect a set number of each decal to activate it’s power, which is a little fun extra.
The last mode of this submarine game is Steel Commander which is kind of like a turn based strategic board game played on sea maps which are divided into hexagonal spaces. The map is then divided up into two areas; friendly and enemy environments. The enemy units are not actually visible on the map until you’ve discovered them. Players enter the same space as an enemy unit to discover it. You can use your submarine’s sonar to spot your prey. There are three types of units in this game mode which include; subs, escorts, and supply ships. Players take turns moving their units across the map, with movement and ranges varying depending on unit type. Basically destroy all the enemy’s supply ships to win the game.
My final and overriding thoughts about Steel Diver are that it offers something a little bit different from your regular games. I personally enjoyed some elements of the game, but did find myself surprisingly stuck at various points. You need the patience of a saint to navigate your submarine through some very tight tunnels, trying to avoid being blown up by mines or being detecting by enemy ships. Having said that though, I actually thought it proved to be quite a bit fun, if a little frustrating at times. Occasionally I would find my submarine surfacing and easily emerging from the water with little stress and other times it would plummet to the deep dark depths of the ocean like a complete wreck.
Can you navigate and captain this submarine to victory or will you sink in hostile waters?
The 3D Effect
Playing Steel Diver through the 3D effect function didn’t offer anything amazing and showed little in the way of 3D effect. Steel Diver is enjoyable with and without the 3D on. I saw no real significant difference between the two.