Release Date: April 30, 2013
Platform: PC, Mac and iPad
Developer: Pieces Interactive
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Category: Strategy, Naval Warfare
Full cannons, err machine guns ahead! Leviathan: Warships seeks to capture the turn-based strategy of traditional naval-focused gameplay, but brings with it just enough action to keep those waterlogged conflicts at a constant head. The game comes from Pieces Interactive, whose past claims to fame include a few spin-off titles of Paradox Interactive’s Magicka series, such as Magicka: Dungeons and Daemons and Magicka: Other Side of the Coin. So how does the modest naval warfare strategy game hold its own at sea after Den of Geek had a chance to deck out our warships with the most devastating arsenal and sink some battleships?
Each round in Leviathan: Warships is divided into two different stages: the planning stage and the outcome stage. In the planning stage, you can either choose to move your warships into position by clicking and dragging with your mouse to create way points on the screen or align your weapons to fire on approaching enemy ships. Your warships can move forwards, backwards and rotate around in a circle for more strategic maneuvers and certain weapons will fire automatically whenever an enemy is within range. Everything regarding these mechanics is explained in a quick and simple tutorial, before allowing you entrance into the meat of the game. This is both a good and bad thing, as it makes the entry bar into the game fairly easy, but it also leaves some major holes in the total experience as the sense of depth you will find in the tutorial is about as deep as it gets.
One thing I can’t really fault Pieces Interactive for with this release is the amount of different game modes included to take to the seas. In addition to the more advertised multiplayer bouts, Leviathan: Warships also features a campaign full of Challenge Missions, which can be completed entirely offline or cooperatively with a friend. There are also some nice customization features that let you personalize your fleet with different ship classes and a large arsenal of both offensive and defensive weapons. But even so, the objective of most of these missions and online skirmishes is always the same: destroy the other ships. Whether sailing it solo or fighting alongside a first mate, prepare to be destroying lots and lots of ships and nothing else.
Story wise, Leviathan: Warships falls about as flat as the lazy open waters you’ll be floating on for the duration of the game. The main campaign centers on the fight against an increasing threat of Marauders, but the execution is ill-focused and makes it seem instead like a series of loosely connected trial runs more than anything else. This was a little surprising to me, considering that Pieces Interactive’s debut trailer was full of fun humor and “Holy ship!” references abound. But all of that personality is stripped away here in the final version and it leaves the game feeling hollow and rigid as a result. Mission objectives are typed out in the same monotonous and instructional writing as the game’s tutorial. The sound also leaves something to be desired and besides a few navigation system beeping noises and the occasional sloshing of waves, little else about the soundtrack really stands out or becomes all that memorable.
As it stands, one of Leviathan: Warships’ biggest selling points, regrettably, turns out to be one of the game’s biggest weaknesses once you’ve finally had a chance to experience the strategic naval gameplay for yourself. Pieces Interactive developed the game to support seamless cross-platform play between PC, Mac and iPad users. But in doing so, it leaves the PC and Mac versions feeling like a mere shell of the epic seafarer adventure this game could have been. Maybe it’s because I was strictly playing the PC version to write this review, but everything about the $10 offering feels more like a glorified demo than a full-fledged release: simplified in spades to better translate onto handheld systems, where the lack of lasting appeal might make for a more forgivable excuse.
While the visuals in the game are fairly nice and the animations are all fittingly smooth, every map or mission scenario looks roughly the same and there are never any interesting landmarks to find besides a few patches of tiny islands accentuated by narrow currents or straights. Even though I get that this is a naval warfare game and that the emphasis SHOULD be placed on the water because of this, it still would have been nice to see the occasional inland city or beach community or something. Most of the mission maps are fairly small, but this actually turns out to be a good thing, as some of the larger maps force you to sit through quite a bit of maneuvering your ships until you are finally put within range of your opponent’s pieces; and the placement of islands only encourages enemy camping in multiplayer scenarios. With that being said, the controls are extremely responsive and moving around the screen and zooming in on your warships was one of the early highlights for me during my time with the game.
But for what it’s worth and for what Leviathan: Warships sets out to achieve for itself, it does well enough that the other missing features can’t really be looked at as glaring flaws, but rather wasted opportunities. The core gameplay is tight, albeit incredibly simple for a strategy game; and the visuals, though strong, are seriously lacking in the variety department. It’s just that I think the overall ambitions were set too low with this one and that maybe the game functions stronger in the sense of an iPad release with limited features, than a heftier, seafaring adventure. While destroying enemy ships is certainly fun, it won’t be long before you get tired of the same old formula and start setting your course for more exciting waters.
Story – 3/10
Graphics – 7/10
Gameplay – 7/10
Music – 6/10
Multiplayer – 8/10
Replayability – 6/10