I was really looking forward to checking out Victory At Sea: Ironclads. I had previously review Victory at Sea: Pacific a few years ago and was pleasantly surprised despite the amount of bugs that littered the game on launch. It was still fun to create and manage Task Forces, carry out operations on the high seas, and deal with both the strategic and tactical layers at the same time. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick with the game for very long, opting to wait until enough problems were fixed before continuing with any meaningful campaign.
I never went back. Things happen, and I guess it was a valuable lesson in the importance of launching without major game issues. Perhaps Victory at Sea: Pacific is better now, perhaps not. I don’t have the time or inclination to find out.
Blocking Blockade Runners: Victory At Sea: Ironclads and the American Civil War
So it was with some excitement, and some trepidations that I downloaded the demo for Victory at Sea: Ironclads that released along with many others during Steam’s Spring Festival. The focus here is on the American Civil War and the naval battles and skirmishes that happened along the East Coast of the US. Not my favourite period, but interesting enough.
I am, however, a big fan of mid-late 19th century naval history. When navies were trying to figure out how best to modernize technology, strategic doctrine, and tactics. From the ill-advised dip into the possibilities of ramming, to the development of ironclads, it is a fascinating period and produced some beautiful ships.
The demo for Victory at Sea: Ironclad starts players off with a tutorial that takes them through the basics. The same mechanics from Victory at Sea: Pacific show up here as well, and in general I like that. It is simple to organize squadrons and give them orders. The AI is alright at handling basic orders, though they stumble elsewhere. The graphics are pretty and the ship models well done.
So Why Did I Not Enjoy the Victory At Sea: Ironclad Demo?
Well, I saw some of the same problems of AI that I saw way back with Victory at Sea: Pacific. During the tutorial, there is a section where the game suggests you attack a fort with a squadron. No problem. But as the ships enter the tactical area, they were behind a little jut of land. I thought it was a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that AI has gotten better, and ordered the squadron directly to the base with an attack order hoping to see the pathfinding at work.
Three of the Four ships successfully found their way around the jut of land and made it to the fort to attack. The fourth ran aground as it tried to drive directly towards the fort. This was a problem in Victory at Sea: Pacific, and I’m really sad to see that it hasn’t bee solved. It may seem minor, most battles will occur in the open sea of course, but where one problem has persisted, how many more will rear their ugly heads once I purchase the full game?
There were a couple other foibles as well, like ordering a ship to fire on a target only to have it pull close and unload directly into the water far, far short of the enemy, but I can chalk that up to a terrible commander, I suppose.
I want these games to succeed. I wanted to see Charles give high praise to War on the Sea in his review. I want naval games to take off. But I don’t know if we’re really there yet. It makes me sad.
I guess I’ll just have to go back and replay Clad in Iron 2: Sakhalin 1904 again for the hundredth time.
All Images taken From Steam Pages (I deleted the demo and therefore lost my screenshots. Meh)