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Naval Battles Simulator, in development by  Anarchy'97 , has recently appeared on Steam Early Access. Although it's not going to be ...

Early Access: Naval Battles Simulator Early Access: Naval Battles Simulator

Early Access: Naval Battles Simulator

Early Access: Naval Battles Simulator

Naval Battles Simulator, in development by Anarchy'97, has recently appeared on Steam Early Access. Although it's not going to be a game for everyone, NBS is an ambitious project from a small team that I wanted to give you a look at. So what Naval Battles is the game simulating exactly? That would be the battles between the Axis and Allies in WW2. The game features scenarios depicting notable battles, and a campaign mode, which is the meat of the game. As the Allies, you'll need to protect shipping as it moves from the US to the UK and other locales. If you choose to play as the Axis, you'll be trying to intercept those same convoys.  

Although I have only dabbled in the campaign mode, I've seen that it has a lot to dig into for any wargamer interested in the setting. As the Allied player, you'll be setting up convoys, escorts, and patrols to keep supplies flowing for the war effort. Just as in the real war, the key step towards destroying the Axis raiders is finding them in the first place. How you go about this is a big part of the strategy. Do you dedicate ships to directly escorting convoys, spread them out to cover more ground, or try to pen in the Axis at their ports? Likewise, as the Axis you'll need to dodge enemy patrols and hunt down those convoys. You only have so many ships available, and the oceans are vast. To aid you in this effort, you will receive some intelligence from various sources that will give you an incomplete, but useful, picture of what sorts of enemy task forces are out there, and where they were last seen.

If you don't want to handle the big picture, you can leave it up to the AI and only engage in the tactical battles. The reverse is also possible, directing the strategic efforts and leaving the battles to the computer. If you do choose to control the battles directly, the game switches to a zoomed in tactical view. While the visuals are pretty simplistic, they do convey what is going on well enough. Various icons on a blue field show the location and direction of the ships, with shells flying and back and forth once combat begins. If you want, you can get pretty nitty-gritty here, selecting targets for individual turrets on each ship and manually ordering them to fire. Most likely you'll want to keep it simple, but it's nice that the option is there. NBS models many details relevant to naval warfare at this time. A display shows the flooding status of different compartments in the ship, pumps can be manually directed to correct listing of the ship or save critical systems. If the magazine takes a direct hit, the ship might be gone in an instant. Every major part of the ship you would expect to command has a screen that can be opened or closed. Once you play around with things a bit, it becomes easy enough to direct your ships, and then you can enjoy watching the rain of shells flying back and forth.

However, controlling the ships is where you might run into some frustration, as the UI still leaves something to be desired. Having a half dozen small windows cluttering the screen isn't the most efficient system, but it is customizable at least. One thing that really got me (unless I'm completely missing something) is that I couldn't simply click on the icon of a ship to select it, I had to the use the "next ship" button/hotkey to cycle through them all until I got the one I wanted. Additionally, there's not much documentation for what is a fairly complex game. There are only a couple of short written tutorials going over the absolute basics. This sort of thing can always be fixed with time of course.

I plan to keep an eye on this game as it continues development and will do a more in depth review when it reaches an official release in the future. At only $15, it certainly won't cost you much to give it a try yourself.

Naval Battles Simulator is available now on Steam.

- Joe Beard