Co-op- Swedish sub game preview
May 28, 2016
by Neal Stevens
Read our disclaimer
was a time when a decent submarine simulation required a substantial team of
designers, programmers, and artists to make a decent product. Times have
changed, now really good sub games are being created by small indie teams
with as few as two members. To be sure, none of the games are in the Silent
Hunter/Sonalysts range, but they are generally quite good--entertaining,
enjoyable, and they usually focus some novel aspect of undersea warfare that
the A-Titles have not bothered with. And that, along with the boatloads of
earnest effort, makes them worth checking out. HMS Marulken is
definitely on that list.
It helps a lot if the guys in the small teams are
talented, smart, and dedicated, like the two Swedish graduates from
Stockholm University, Oscar Wiberg & Einar Lundgren. They are Skvader
Studios, and they began HMS Marulken as a project for their studies.
They quickly found that they had something interesting going, and they
rebuilt the game using the Unity engine, revamped the 3D graphics, and began
modeling many of the ship's systems in exacting detail. But the standout
feature of this sim is: it is intended as a co-op game where four players
will work as a crew to fight the sub against the German Navy.
Now if you're wondering, "What is a Swedish sub doing,
getting into scraps with the Nazis in WWII?", you are right. During
Hitler's war, the Swedes kept their heads down and were neutral. But in this
game, there is one sub that would have none of that, and HMS Marulken is all
about sinking the Germans in their own backyard. It's a bit of fiction that
adds spice to the game.
are four roles to fulfill, each with his own duties: Captain, Chief
Engineer, Soundman/Radio operator, and Navigator. The Captain manages the
observation, determines intersect tactics, operates the periscope, and
Torpedo Data Computer. His role directs the other three crewmen, just as in
real life. The crew lives and dies by his judgment and actions, because only
he can see the enemy.
The Chief is back in the engine room, he carries out the
Captain's commands for course depth, and speed. He manages monitors diesels,
the battery loads and recharging.
in case this has not become obvious yet, allow me to stop here and point out
something extraordinary about HMS Marulken game: there is no user interface
overlay or hotkeys where players can instantly zip between stations or
manage the sub with buttons, like we are accustomed to in Aces of the Deep,
Silent Hunters, and just about every subsim since Gato. No sir, here in the
Swedish navy, you have your role, and you do it hands-on. You move about the
boat in an SH5 fashion. You will manipulate the levers, switches, and knobs
right in the sub. And that means...yep, when the captain want to dive, he
gives the order to the player who is the Chief, and that player dives the
boat. When the Captain wants to change course, he issues the order to the
Chief play, and he gets it done. You can see how teamwork is more important
in HMS Marulken that in past games.
Radio/Sonar operator (I'm not going to call him the Funker, cause he's
Swedish and he wouldn't care for that) has his hands full. When he's not
managing the radar when the boat is on the surface, or listening for
contacts on the hydrophones and relaying that information to the Captain
when beneath the waves, he is searching for radio transmissions to
intercept. If he is given the frequency in the mission briefing, and he can
hear coded German messages, and he has an Enigma with which to decode them.
This is a really sweet feature in HMS Marulken. While some may find it a
smidge tedious, I thoroughly enjoyed setting the decoder keys and typing out
the message, and seeing what intel I could gain from it. Sometimes it will
help greatly in locating the enemy. Another method of locating the enemy is
through the excellent direction finding tools at his disposal. All in all,
the Radio operator will have to earn his U-Boat Cocktail.
last position is the Navigator. It seems he has a crucial role and that is
managing the Torpedo Data Computer (TDC) and target calculations. This is
the role you want to give to your smartest crewman. He and the Captain
can watch the map, where the course and location of the crew's boat is
depicted. Perhaps as the game progresses, he will have additional duties,
such as damage control and deck watch.
version of the game I previewed was labeled Alpha #144, but it was stable
and had many of the features operational. The TDC is impressive--once you
select a target and input the course, AOB, distance and speed, it clicks
along with steady updates, tracking the target. The periscope has a slick
stadimeter with the split image function that allows the Captain to input
the range accurately. And there is a Ship Manual where mast height ship
length will allow the Captain to use the stopwatch to determine the ship's
speed. There's even a rotating slide rule to solve the values quickly.
It is easily as good as the Silent Hunter series targeting functions and
ensures this game will not be for lightweights--no Red Triangles here,
brother. For more information of the ship's systems and crew roles, take a
minute and view the
videos at Skvader's website.
sub interiors are a bit sparse; there are no AI crewmen and there are but a
few valves, gauges, and pipes here and there. It does not have the cramped
feel of a U-boat, but the quality is generally good and since the game is
still in alpha stage, I expect there will be more added. The ocean textures
and motion are everything you have come to expect from current naval games.
And the sounds, while not complete at this stage, add to the ambiance of the
game. Skvader really nailed the underwater hydrophone sounds, they are a
pleasure to listen to.
The co-op aspect of HMS Marulken is what makes this game
shine. Unlike everything before, this time you have to rely on other players
to succeed. By adding a social element what has traditionally been a very
solitary activity, this game will have real longevity. Submarines are the
most team-centric of all military platforms--in the US Submarine force,
every man has historically been qualified to perform any of the other men's
duties, it is that critical. Playing HMS Marulken with your friends can be a
lot more fun that playing a sub game at home alone in the dark with nothing
but your cat to kick when you fire a dummy torpedo. As long as you don't go
crackers when your Chief flubs the dive or your Radio operator thinks he can
watch Game of Thrones while your in combat. I'm really looking forward to
seeing the finished version of HMS Marulken and you can help by visiting
their Kickstarter page and showing some love. Subsim is onboard, you should
Update: The Kickstarter deadline was 3 days away and
donations had only reached 65% of the goal, so it was cancelled and Subsim
will produce the game. HMS Marulken will continue as a U-boat simulation.
and features to be announced.
article began as a preview of the demo HMS Marulken, and at the time of
writing and posting this article, Subsim and Neal Stevens had no affiliation
with the developers of the game. As of June 21, 2016,
Skvader Studios reached an agreement where Subsim will finance and
produce the game.
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