goal of every game is to entertain the player. To provide a challenge, some
mental stimulation, and a few pleasant hours. Pacific Fleet does this by being
instantly accessible in times and places where you wouldn't normally be able
to play a naval game. In the library, on a bus, while waiting at the laundry mat, between classes, while on a break at work.
lot of sub and naval games since 1997, but for the most part, they have
been PC platform games because they deliver the best simulation experience.
But I never got a single minute of gameplay from Sub Command or Aces of the
Deep while waiting for an hour in the doctor's office. Pacific Fleet came to
the rescue for those unproductive hours I was stranded away from home.
Mobile games for phones and tablets are abundant, but finding something that
is easily playable on a 5" screen and still not Pac-Man with propellers is
the trick. Some years ago I reviewed a title called
ShipHunt for the Palm Pilot (if you know what a Palm Pilot is, you can
thank me later for making us both feel old). It was very primitive compared
to Pacific Fleet. Developed by a two man app dev team, Paul Sincock and
Nils Dücker, Pacific Fleet first came to life for
phones. Being an Android user, I had limited contact with the game by
borrowing my daughter's iPhone (I should get a medal for bravery--have you
ever tried to pry an iPhone from the hands of a young woman?). When I
recently bought an LG G2 badass smart phone, and shortly after Pacific Fleet
was released for Android phones, I became close friends with the game. I've
found numerous opportunities to play it several times a day when I would
have otherwise been forced to make conversation with people.
Pacific Fleet is mission based strategy/sim game. It doesn't crowd Silent
Hunter or Dangerous Waters out of the simulation arena, but it really has
too much detail and logic to be dismissed as an arcade game. You play as the
US Navy or Imperial Japanese Navy in Pacific WWII naval engagements. All
battles start with random placement--sometimes you are in great position,
other times the enemy has the upper hand. Either way, it adds to the
gameplay. Engagements can vary, single ships, military convoys, escorted and
unescorted merchant convoys.
The battles are played by turns. You get two turns per ship, the first of
which you can use to change heading and select speed. The second turn can be
used to dive/surface if you are a sub, dive bomb if you are a plane, fire
torpedoes (in single shots), guns, or depth charges. After you make your two
moves it is the AI enemy's turn. Torpedoes reload over three turns, so if
you start firing from long distance on turn 1, you may be waiting on a
reload by the time you get into close range. This is one of the ways the
game design compels you to employs sound tactics to be successful, and that
makes any simulation or naval game a lot more fun.
The targeting model is a simplified design where you set a line where you
want to send your torpedoes or shells. It's not automatic, getting hits does
takes some skill. The longer the range, the more likely your torps will
simply miss the target. And of course, the US subs have to deal with dud
torpedoes. Frustrating! Ah, but that's part of the historical aspect of the
war, and again, it makes the player work to get his tonnage. Firing shells
from surface ships is a matter of judging the range--frequently you will
bracket the target, as the ranges changes and ships maneuver, so when you
score hits, it means something. Yeah, you can really get a sense of
satisfaction from your efforts.
The game also features a random battle generator where you can engage
cruisers, destroyers, battleships, light and heavy
cruisers, planes, and of course, submarines. The first impression of Pacific
Fleet comes from the really crisp graphics. The ocean, the ships, planes,
and sky all rendered in lovely detail. The explosions and smoke are far
better than I would have expected from a mobile game. In night engagements,
the gauges and keys have a rigged-for-red hue that really adds to the sense
of atmosphere. Not all the visuals are perfect--the wakes are fixed in
straight lines behind the vessels, even when they turn. But niggles aside,
Pacific Fleet is a great looking game.
The game AI is adequate in most cases. Ships will react when you strike one
with a torpedo. The merchants will zig-zag in their turns, but, being this
is turn-based, it does not seem to have an effect on your targeting
solution. It does, however, add to the sensation that these ships are being
crewed by men who fear you. Once the chase is on, you can surface with your
sub and chase the convoy (if it is unescorted), firing away with your 4"
deck gun. In the case of IJN naval ships, more often that not they will
detect you when you close the range and they react aggressively. High value
targets like carriers will seek to evade you, destroyers and cruisers will
fire at you and move in for the kill.
The game does have some design limitations that hold it back. There is no
periscope view, where you can see the enemy the way a submarine would, with
visual limitations. And torpedoes are fired once per turn, where it would be
more interesting and realistic to fire salvos as needed. There are only two
depths for the submarines--surfaced and periscope depth. The player cannot
take his boat deep and try to slip away from an angry escort--it's either
sink or be sunk. The game developer, Paul Sincock, says by design the sub
may chose to "disengage", which would signify going deep and evading the
escort, ending the battle. Finally, the game could use some pop-up alerts
and messages, such as damage and other bits of info that would make the game
The game has a renown feature that
rewards an ambitious and skillful player, unlocking new patrol zones and
battles. A musical score very reminiscent of Silent Hunter 3-4-5 accompanies
the game. The sound effects include explosions, sirens, howling shells and
roaring aircraft engines filling the air. This little game has big sounds.
But let me suggest using earbuds while divebombing Japanese island
bases--the whistling bomb sounds will really freak out the other students in
Pacific Fleet is a game that is so easy to like, and it comes at the very
slight price of $5.99. They call these type of mobile games "time wasters",
but all Pacific Fleet did was take time I had to waste and turn it into fun. It's a great investment for your smartphone. It beats
the hell out of Solitaire, buddy, I can tell you that. The game shows a lot
of time and hard work went into it and it really feels nice to reward the devs
for it. Who knows, this may be the small acorn that could grow into the next
Silent Hunter-level game. It certainly is headed in the right direction.
Pacific Fleet for iTunes/Apple platforms
Get Pacific Fleet for Android devices