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UBOAT Early Access Review

Edited by: Tiffany Lillie

Creating a simulation game is always a tall order — not only are they challenging to create, but in order to be as realistic as possible, hours of research, fact-checking and more are necessary so as to get things right. How realistic a simulation is depends on many different things, in the end, from historical or technical accuracy to writing and characterisation, and more beyond that. For an indie studio to attempt something as huge as a simulation like Uboat is quite unusual, and thus, developer Deep Water Studio and publisher PlayWay S.A. are reaching for the stars with their WW2 submarine sim.

Despite still being in Early Access on Steam, Uboat is more or less fully playable, and while some elements are still missing, there is enough there to make for a very fun playing experience. The angle you see this simulation from is a relatively unique one. Rather than a typical management game where you assign roles or duties to a crowd of faceless lackeys, here you individually pilot and manage every single crew member — whether you’re disciplining Dirk for ignoring his duties or cutting the rope on a diver to save the rest of the crew, it's all up to you to make the decisions. Individual aspects of the ship, such as navigation, torpedoes, and even the ballast tanks that help the ship sink or surface, are all controlled individually and can be viewed both in first-person perspective and from platformer-style side view that gives you a view into the submarine, letting you see a different perspective.

A yellow submarine

Amusing as it would be to imitate the popular Beatles song, the submarine in this sim isn't yellow. It is, however, beautifully crafted with interesting elements and details that really help replicate the cramped, nearly claustrophobic conditions that used to reign on these ships. With tiny portholes to crawl through and awkwardly tight passageways, not to mention the sheer number of crew on the ship, a certain eerie and stressful atmosphere is unshakeable.

This carries over to some of the chilling decisions you have to make. Quite early in the tutorial, you’re given the option to execute a crew member for disobeying his duties, and while that is entirely optional, not much later we have to make the decision to abandon a diver mid-dive in order to escape a British warship that would otherwise destroy the entire ship. While this was the sad reality of the war, the frankness with which it is addressed feels jarring and drives home the seriousness of it all — during the war, this sort of thing simply happened.

Part of the ship, part of the crew

While on occasion some of the men on the ship meet a premature end, there is no shortage of things to do with and for the survivors. In addition to assigning tasks to keep the ship functioning and ready for battle, things like fatigue, crew morale, and more needs to be kept in mind, to make sure the  men are at their best. This includes regular rest times, varied meals, and more.

Neglecting the crew means all but certain death. Even the most minor conflict becomes a potential crisis if the crew's heart isn't in it. With both the ability to play in third person and first person, it's easy to get quite attached to crew members. If you want, you can even customize their appearance and names. Beware of naming them after family and friends though — you never know when one of them may end up in a watery grave!

Stay in control of the situation

Keyboard and mouse controls are one thing where Uboat doesn't shine. While the controls are intuitive enough and button prompts help accomplish tasks, something as simple as climbing down a ladder can take several attempts. Different tasks and elements are cramped so close together it can be hard to click on the right one, especially when in a hurry. Forced perspective (e.g. when standing on top of the surfaced sub) can also make things more difficult. It isn't always possible to look at the right point in order to initiate whatever action you are trying to do. This can get a bit frustrating at times, but not game-breakingly so.

A little more on the annoying side are certain glitches. Although, on the whole, Uboat runs pretty smoothly, it's not unusual to see a crew member glitching back and forth or repeating an action multiple times. On rare occasions, glitches even affect the quests that you’re trying to complete. For obvious reasons, this is a problem, but it's also the sort of thing that should and hopefully will be addressed while the game remains in Early Access.

7

The Verdict: Great

This unique simulation still suffers from certain aches and pains that we have all come to know and loathe from Early Access titles, but it’s a solid concept paired with great attention to detail and a surprisingly in-depth simulation make for a stunning (if currently unpolished) submarine simulator. For sim enthusiasts, gamers interested in World War 2, or even anyone interested in management games, this is a must-play — and once bugs and issues are ironed out, even more so!

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Mel Hawthorne
Written by
Monday, 06 May 2019 12:58
Published in Strategy

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Mel is a London-based copywriter that has been writing about video games for a few years now. After growing up in Vienna, Austria she followed her dreams and moved to London. Said dreams took her through a few different jobs (which included working as a web developer, shopkeeper and translator) before she settled on what she really wanted to do – periodically anger video game fans by expressing her opinions on games through various online publications. When she’s not writing about video games, she’s probably playing them... or walking her dog in a park. Since that depends largely on the English weather, Mel has plenty of time to indulge in her favourite games. These include but are not limited to Ark: Survival Evolved, Skyrim, GTA V, and oddly enough, Amnesia: Memories. She loves Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. She thinks Star Trek is way better than Star Wars and isn’t afraid to admit it – Live long and prosper!

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