I received the email, informing me that the 2008 version of this game was now available. I was very happy with this news, as I'd thoroughly enjoyed the previous 2006 incarnation. This program probably doesn't have appeal for the masses, but for the few that are into this kind of thing, it delivers in spades.
And what is this kind of thing? Slow. Relaxing. Role playing. It's slow. Everything about drive hugely heavy water vessels is slow! But of course, that's part of the appeal. You wouldn't come to a game like this if you're after lap records; they already have those games covered and covered well. It's relaxing! Set a course and 25% throttle and go for a wander around your craft. Check out the stern, or the bow and watch the scenery meander by, with the occasional bob to and fro. Listen to the dulcet cascades of water being sliced by the pointy end of your boat, as you cut a path to wherever you like. It's role playing. The whole idea of a simulator type game is to pretend you're something you are not. I'll never be at the helm of an oil tanker, or probably any sea going vessel for that matter! But with Ship Simulator 2008, I can fulfill any aquatic water craft fantasy. And they're all there:
- Patrol boats
- Tug boats (medium, large, and HUGE)
- Ferries (normal, large, sea cat)
- Container ship
- Pascha Bulka
- Oil Tanker
- Sea taxi
You simply select the vessel of your choice, the location:
- New York
- Great Britain
- Atlantic Ocean
..but see below for screen shots of all of the available configurations:
There are three modes of game play, Free Roaming, Missions and Customisable. Free roaming allows you to select a boat, a location and what the weather will be doing. And the weather can do quite a lot! The maximum swell is four meters, and that's enough to be readily felt, even as the captain of an oil tanker. Got a bucket??
Graphically, the game is more than adequate, with the dockland scenery superb, in my opinion. Cruising up the Hudson, you get the sense that you're alone in a big city. Until another boat comes along! And the live chart alerts you to any other vessel activity, along with channel depth guides. Make sure you check the depth of your bow before negotiating any suspect areas!
Once you've got your ship moving in the direction you want, you can leave the helm and have a wander, or use the fly around camera to watch your ship from above. This is handy for mooring and crane operations. The controls can be displayed down on the bottom left of your screen at all times, for mouse control, or you can use a joystick/wheel. The keyboard is default, but for first person exploration, it's disabled.
Onto missions! Completing a mission involves following little green arrows on your dynamic chart display. The chart indicates water (and it's depth in meters), land, landmarks and other water craft. The little green arrows lead you to each check point along the way to completing a mission. Once a check point has been reached, and the required actions at the point carried out, the next check point appears. You also receive a message briefly describing what the next stage of the mission will be.
All through a mission, you need to be aware of other boats and ships! Usually, the missions take place in a busy port and strategy comes into play as you plot the best way around oncoming nautical traffic.
Sounds good! The audioscape is rich but subtle. There's the shusssh of water against your bow, and the gentle, but menacing rumble of giant diesels somewhere below! You also get the full assortment of crashes and bangs when things go wrong! Wind, rain, thunder and splashes are also well represented in the sonic arena. I like the sound. It's just right for an immersing experience.
I have yet to look into the Custom mission, but will add to this once I do.
All in all, I can see myself getting hours of pleasure from this oddity of a game. It's truly the sim we didn't have, but should have! This version is certainly worth purchasing over the 2006 version, as most aspects have been improved for the better. Things like realistic waves, first person exploration (only on the Titanic in 2006v), customisable missions and customisable weather modeling were not previously available.
Overall, I'd give the game a 94.4% rating: