Originally Posted by herodotus
Wow, Joe I did not see that coming, so I will think out loud as I write my observations. Granted I have so far found the game wanting in various area, but you've obviously found it wanting in every area.
I've spent untold hours on "Harpoon" (1,2 and 3) and played "Jane's Fleet Command", "Ticonderoga" and "Aegis" for seemingly just as many. "JFC" received scathing reviews when it first came out, as did "Ticonderoga" but they are still firm favourites with many.
This one, I agree can be a fickle game/sim/RTT. There is a lot of messing around and far too much micromanagement at the start of a scenario (the lack of setting sensors, radar and flight characteristics prior to launch is a bugbear), which in itself is not bad. What IS bad, is that while the player is doing this there may be many incoming missiles from a hidden enemy who has already sighted your squadron/ fleet from the get-go. It can take up to 5 mins to "sight" these aggressors, while attempting to take evasive action in a quite often limited space and with no idea what you are reacting to. What am I facing? Aircraft, ships or a land-based facility? All very confusing.
My two biggest gripes (as the AI is continually being tweaked and worked on) are Time Compression (which is flawed) and the UI which is far too big, ugly and impractical. Leave Flight-deck open, and you cannot give movement orders etc. What it boils down to is that I am so busy finding my units and giving them orders after the fact (setting speed, altitude, radar and RoE for aircraft) that I rarely have any time to admire the 3D engine. The lack of duty officer assignments and pilot intelligence is also a problem.
You cannot trust that your ship will defend itself against incoming Surface to Surface missiles, that your fighters will dodge incoming SAM's or that once a foe is sighted and manually identified the aircraft/ship will actually engage the target. Unless directly ordered to do so by right-clicking you might be on the losing end of an Exocet attack as you have a sleeping "Do Not Disturb" crew. Even when alerted only one missile is fired at the target, and you must right-click again to ensure a follow-up salvo of one follows the first.
Also if a submarine has fired a torpedo it will often refuse an order to fire again if the tube is re-loading, which you must guess it is doing. Instead the user is notified that it has no weapon available to attack the target (which it actually does). After a few minutes (presumably the time it takes to re-load) the sub will accept new attack orders once more.
Helicopters likewise will drop sonar buoys when ordered but fail to engage a positively identified hostile target unless manually ordered to do so. It will also return to it's ship after making an attack (as with fighters/bombers) even with ordnance aboard. Very frustrating and requiring that the player babysit each attacking unit.
Ultimately there is a load of work yet to do, but with the dearth of Naval Sims these days and "Harpoon 3 ANW" costing around $65 from Matrix Games this is still a worthy purchase. If you've never played a game like this before, it will be a steep learning curve for all the wrong reasons. Until the AI is attended to and an Editor added the scenarios can be difficult and very confusing. Without deck officer assistance and intelligent piloting I agree with the score as the game stands now. I would like to see what Turbo Tape do with this title, as the patches so far have addressed only minor issues. One thing I will say for them, they are listening keenly to the feedback from gamers and with the Naval Gaming genre, while small, having a mature, serious attention to detail, and vocal approach Turbo Tape will have much feedback to sort through.
A fair score Joe, for how the Sim is now. I'd like to see how you'd score it in 12 months, particularly if/when an Editor is added and the Mods come in.
Game on release: 5.0
Game Potential: 8.0