SUBSIM Review: SeaLance – The Bermuda Triangle

No other sim has the sci-fi angle down as well as SeaLance.

COMPANY: Jason T. Bauer (shareware)
PLATFORM: WIN95/NT    CD-ROM/3.5 disk

SeaLance is a sim with a twist: it features a fictional submarine caught up in a science fiction plot. As the CO of SeaLance, you are briefed on a mission that includes some rather startling details. It seems that a rejuvinated German and Japanese naval allaince have discovered a secret time portal in, where else, the Bermuda Triangle. Rather than settle for the acclaim and laurels of announcing such an earth-shattering find, they intend to exloit the time warp. They have amassed a considerable modern fleet to enter the portal and travel back in time to the years leading up to World War II. Now they can really put the surprise in their surprise attacks.

Here is the status control panel, one of five featured in SeaLance.

The sim consists of two types of missions; a sci-fi campaign, and the single mission. The sci-fi campaign runs along the theme described earlier, where you command the SeaLance and your objective is to curtail the nefarious adventures of our former enemies/allies/enemies. The interface consists of five control stations: SENSORS, CONTROL, WEAPONS, STATUS, and DAMAGE. Each station is loaded with hardware choices and features. The control station manages depth, speed, and heading. The damage station allows you to inspect and appoint damage control parties to the sections of the boat that take hits. You can only effect two repairs at one time, and fix-ups are really slow, so if your boat really catches hell, you could be out of action longer than your patience will allow.

The sensors station features torpedo avoidance countermeasures, including a nifty little projectile that converges on incoming torpedoes and takes them out. Naturally, you have a limited supply of these beauties. In my experience, they seemed to have a 100% kill ratio, which very nearly makes SeaLance impervious to incoming ordnance. Until you exhaust your cache, that is. Then you rely on decoy/jammers to lead the enemy torpedoes away. But keep your eye on that circling cluster of enemy torpedoes as they swarm around your decoy. Every now and then one of them appears to get loose and sneak up on you.

SeaLance packs a slew of weapons. Tomahawks, Harpoons, and Mark 48 ADCAPs are the most common. You are allotted ADCAPs in abundance. One mission gave me 48 torpedoes. I was lobbing quite a few Hail Mary’s just to keep the enemy guessing.

SeaLance doesn’t have any waterfall or TMA screens. All targeting is done via a map view screen. The contacts do fade and appear properly in relation to your speed and thermal layer proximity. You have information available concerning the thermal layers, their depth, temperature deltas, sea states, and salinity. I found it a very effective tactic to ride the thermal, target and fire, and duck under it for evasion. In keeping with reality, the thermal layer depths often vary, so you must check every so often for updates.

The sound effects in SeaLance are very elementary. You will hear “SeaLance detected” in a soft, bedroomy female voice at the outset of most combat encounters. Crash dives will initiate a klaxon. Sink a target and you’re rewarded with a funky “ker-plunk” sound. In contrast to the big boy sims that feature explosions, mechanical sounds, creaking, and shouting crewmen, not to mention moving themes, a la Aces of the Deep, SeaLance has a Tiny Tim singing voice.

Graphics aren’t a strong point in this sim either. Given the coding complexity required to enact real 3-D battles scenes, SeaLance makes do with mostly static displays. Your sub or enemy vessels are rendered in the view screen as static models. There is a selector button for more/less detail, but the only difference I could see by changing detail was the number of stars in the sky. The layout and detail of the control screens and their buttons was pretty good, even if dated.

The program was pretty reliable, which would indicate the coding is on solid ground. I lost two games due to GPFs, but I think I was to blame–I often try to do too many things at once and this can crash some programs. I wanted to utilize the Save Game/Load Game feature, but upon loading the game, my viewscreen refused to display the SeaLance or the enemy contacts. An e-mail to the designer prompted him to investigate; he characterized it as an unknown occurrence.

The game play and action is slow-paced. A time compression feature is included but even at full tilt, the pace is deliberate. SeaLance is more of a strategy game than an action-oriented sim. The enemy aircraft carriers and battleships are toast once you unleash SeaLance’s weapons. The enemy destroyers and SSNs are a different matter. They are equipped with smart torpedoes that will hunt you down and blow your rudders five ways to Sunday. You can’t outrun them and SeaLance is about as nimble as a large aircraft hangar, so stealth is really important in your strategy. Avoid detection, use the thermals, administer your countermeasures carefully, and get those destroyers before they get you.

My version (1.0) came with a detailed operations manual, written in a stilted style. Most of the features of the sim are discussed thoroughly and the manual includes some interesting data about submarine weapons and tactics.

In summary, this sim has some novel things going for it–good attention to detail and environmental realism, and a shareware price ($12) with outstanding personal tech support. I salute the creator for his ambition, talent, and determination. And it has its drawbacks–low-grade sound and visuals and the lack of TMA or waterfall gear. You can’t compare SeaLance with the premium price SubSims like Silent Hunter or 688(I) and expect it to emerge favorably. The money and resources needed to construct a simulation at the highest level is considerable, and upper scale quality require teams of programmers, writers, analysts, testers, musicians, and artists. SeaLance is shareware, created by a single individual, and sold at a proportionally minimal price. Still, no other sim has the sci-fi angle down as well as SeaLance. How many of you have wondered what it would be like to go after the Bismarck, or warp back to Dec. 7, 1941 and tangle with Admiral Yamamoto’s fleet in a high-speed nuclear attack sub armed to the teeth?


Rating:  59

Realism Historical Accuracy Graphics Sound/ Music Game play Repeat Play Program stability Multi- play
5/20 5/10 4/10 2/10 11/20 5/10 14/15 0/5
BONUS: +5: Value     +5: Originality; 



AI Bot running SUBSIM, what could go wrong?!