Leviathan: Warships review
Leviathan: Warships first attracted us with the offbeat humour of its trailer, a traditional-looking promo but with a cool jazz soundtrack and a voice-over full of brilliant boat-based puns. The game itself is a far more poe-faced affair though, a naval battle game which blends turn-based and real-time strategy - in a similar vein to 2011 indie hit Frozen Synapse.
The excellent trailer for this competent game
Set in a steampunk world of naval conflict, the ships are mainly big ironclad bruisers, bristling with armour and weapons. They may resemble the finest fighting vessels of the mid-nineteenth century, but they’re armed with beam cannon, lightning guns and even have force shields.
Each mission gives you a set number of points to spend on a small fleet of ships. You can choose between small fast gunboats, balanced frigates or hulking behemoths. Each has numerous mounts, mainly to the front and sides, which you can then drag and drop weapons and other equipment onto. As well as choosing between long-range artillery and short range volleys, her you can mount shield units or even radar. You can also switch between ship parts, maybe choosing a bridge that allows the ship greater line-of-sight at the expense of armour.
Here you can see how simple it is to grasp the controls, which work well on both PCs and tablets
Once on the water, a simple one-click interface lets you enter commands for your ships. You can drag an arrow forwards or back, and add waypoints as desired, and decide which way you wish to face when you arrive at your destination. You can also select weapons and target them, choose which direction you want your shield placed and activate special items. Once all this is done you press the Go button and 10 seconds of action unfolds based on your commands.
We’re not sure if we’re just terrible at it, but it’s rare you plan a strategy that lasts past the first 10 seconds before needing heavy rethinking to react to the enemy’s moves. Many weapons have big minimal ranges, so you’ll need to stay back from the enemy and use scouts in order to fire them, let a small ship dart in close and you’ll pay heavily.
Even once we got the hang of it, it all felt a bit niggly, with ships constantly having to change direction, rather than a smooth graceful ballet of death we hoped for. You can use automatic or manual targeting, but with either your big guns will sometimes be way off target, which is frustratingly random. Destroying other ships isn’t a big grind, but it’s not immediate one-shot stuff either, which means this doesn’t have the tension of a game like Frozen Synapse. Although it’s easier to get to grips with admittedly.
A miscalculation on our part allows the enemy to slip past our guns
Its standout feature is cross-platform play between all the supported platforms: PC, Mac, iOS and Android. This works across all the multiplayer modes, whether you’re playing competitively or co-operatively. This should attract players who are looking for a strategic game they can play with friends on other devices. The game doesn’t really vary much, whichever mode you’re playing, but that’s not a big criticism for a game at this price.
Leviathan: Warships did provide some fun and if you like the idea of a naval, turn-based game then it’s worth a play, if the cross-platform support also appeals then that justifies its £8 price. However, it didn’t do enough to really impress us, and given the lack of breadth in the gameplay we wouldn't call it a bargain.