Review: Atlantic Fleet05 Dec 2016 2
Review: Atlantic Fleet
Released 25 Feb 2016
While I’m not exactly an expert on naval warfare, I am always glad to see a new recruit join the ranks of that oh so niche genre. Developed by Killerfish games, Atlantic Fleet was originally released for mobile back in 2015 to great reception all around, including a glowing review from our sister site Pocket Tactics.
“A mobile port!!?” I hear one reader cry.
“Overpriced, simplistic nonsense for sure.” scoffs another.
It is of course true that mobile ports have gained a bad reputation for quite a few valid reasons, but I really do believe Atlantic Fleet is a step in the right direction.
Set in the Atlantic Theatre between 1939 and 1945, you control Allied and Kriegsmarine forces in the battle for control of the ocean and the vital trade routes she contains. Atlantic Fleet uses a turn based format in which every ship gets a movement phase followed by a fire phase. Movement involves picking your ship's speed and turning angle before hitting move. It's good to note though that you are commanding huge steel behemoths that weigh thousands of tons. So if your battleship was moving at flank speed in the previous turn and you order it to stop or reverse it's going to need multiple turns just to slow down. The combat phase can of course greatly vary depending on the unit you're commanding. It can range anywhere between plain old firing ship's guns, to launching torpedoes out of a sub, to dive bombing from a carrier-launched plane.
Gunnery is hands down my favourite part of the game. Each of your ships have spotters who give you a guess at what elevation your guns should be set in order to hit your target. The more consecutive turns you’ve been firing at the same target the more accurate your spotters estimates become. After a few missions I even began second guessing my spotters. I’d spawn in to see a cruiser off in the distance that my spotter said required an elevation of 19.3 to hit. My now veteran eyes would disagree and tell me that something in the 22 seemed far more realistic so I’d adjust to the later and then low-and-behold I’ve struck my target several times. That there is a great feeling and Atlantic Fleet is full of moments like that. Learning the right exact moment for your bombers to release to ensure their payload disables a ship's front turrets. Releasing a torpedo at the right angle so it takes out your enemy’s steering or propulsion. Despite its relative simplicity on the surface, learning the nuances of Atlantic Fleet’s individual systems is highly rewarding and can easily mean the difference between failure and success.
Were I forced to give you my least favourite part of the game it would have to be subs, both engaging and commanding them. Not because I have anything against that type of vessel but more because they have a bad tendency towards magnifying Atlantic Fleet’s flaws. For instance spawns are randomised to a certain extent in every battle as it’s a nice way to add replay-ability to each scenario. Of course with randomisation there is always the possibility of the cruel RNG Gods giving you the short, explosive end of the stick which did happen to me in a couple regular fleet battles. But Sub spawns seems to operate on different rules than their surface brethren. Unlike surface ships they don’t spawn grouped together which makes sense obviously but the distances of their spawns was the main sticking point for me. On one occasion I had an Allied sub spawn directly in front of one of my destroyers so I simply passed over it at flank speed and depth charged the poor sod before he could even do anything. On another occasion I was up against two U-boats when the Kriegsmarine had the initiative and in the second turn before I’d been able to bring either of my ships about the closest U-boat fired a four torpedo spread that sank one and crippled the other.
Atlantic Fleet comes packaged with two different campaign modes which can be played from the Allied or Kriegsmarine perspectives, along with historical battles and the ability to generate quick battles. The first type of campaign is essentially a string of battles in which you earn points for sending enemies to Davey Jones and can then use those points to buy more ships. The second campaign called Battle of the Atlantic is the one I would recommend for most veterans of this genre as Atlantic Fleet is a tad on the easy side. For this you are given a set number of ships at the start to work with. You are charged with either assaulting or protecting Atlantic convoys depending on whose side you’ve chosen. In this campaign damage carries over leading to tense situations when you’re trying your damnedest to protect that oh so irreplaceable battleship as it limps back to port. I almost missed out playing the second campaign entirely as the menu screen is almost identical to that of the first campaign's, so make sure you don't miss out either!
Visually Atlantic Fleet is undeniably pretty for something originally intended for tablet and mobile. If you compare it to things like Battle Fleet 2 and Victory at Sea which both came out for PC around the same time Atlantic Fleet, it stands up pretty well in the graphics department. Due to the fact that it was originally designed for far less powerful devices I wouldn’t be surprised if you could run the game on a Voodoo graphics card between two slices of bread. I only suffered one crash which was quickly remedied after I fiddled with compatibility settings. A small gripe I would like to voice however would be a lack of music outside of the menu. I don’t need my wargames to be like Call of Duty 22: Contractual Obligation and have huge bombastic set pieces with bellowing Hans Zimmer-esque orchestras in the background. But even Unity of Command’s rather simple soundtrack helps it feel a little less sterile when you’re not trading fire with someone.
On Sean Couture’s patented Naval Realism Scale I’d have to say Atlantic Fleet scores a Battlestations: Midway out of 10 (sequel Battlestation: Pacific took a few more liberties with realism). Were you able to control units directly a la Men of War I’d have been tempted to classify Atlantic Fleet as part of the often forgotten “action-sim” genre where games like The Pacific Air War once resided. It’s a good entry in a sparsely populated genre and it fits a lot of content into such a small package that basically anyone can run.