Rule the Waves 3 ruled out

According to Steam I’ve only played Rule the Waves 3 for 74 minutes since installing it a couple of weeks ago. That quick post-installation plunge was long enough to tell me that Naval Warfare Simulations have produced another rich, multi-layer naval management game unlikely to win over my neighbour, Ted, or my optician, Sangeeta.

I won’t insult you by explaining why Sangeeta would disapprove of the replay-friendly RTW3…

Ex-Royal Navy, tactically orientated, and increasingly impatient, Ted might have liked RTW3 had it come with campaign alternatives such as a selection of standalone historical scraps or a skirmish generator. As the latter would have provided a great way for newcomers to get to know the game’s combat layer, and for old hands to experiment with unfamiliar tech and tactics, and probably wouldn’t have been hard to code (The campaign system relies on semi-random battle generation) its absence could be called shortsighted.

Judging by the Steam reviews and the forum buzz, the vast majority of customers are happy with their £33.50 purchases. Ignore the grumbles related to bugs, font sizes, absent tooltips, claustrophobic carrier encounters…

“It’s 1929 so the earliest of early for Carriers and the AI CV’s always know where my fleet is, with zero scouting, I spawn in, before I can move a few miles, aircraft are on me (this is happening around the time my own floatplane scouts have discovered enemy position) so they’re readying and launching immediately upon the scenario start. TBH this was my biggest issue with RTW2 as well, and honestly makes CV battles nothing more than a chore, and I despise them as a result as the AI has an insane advantage by always knowing where you are. You’re a sitting duck, it’s not helping that early TB’s seem far more effective than in RTW2 and my Capital ships suffer multiple hits from Biplanes in the 20’s. Meanwhile my own TB squads at 14 planes each can’t seem to hit a single ship when they do find something.” (Reaper Jack)

…and missile duels…

“I think the game ( is basically broken in the true missile age. The fleets start so close to each other that there’s no manoeuvring involved, you’ll make contact before you regain control and then missiles start flying. 3500-ton DD can comfortably fit 8xHSSM soon after you gain “blind” fire AKA radar guided missiles. 3000t variant needs more compromises. That fish school of DDs that you have hanging around capital ships and CVs become missile slinging maniacs at that point, and it’s not like anyone has CIWS or light SAMs yet.. Devs have implied that the phone booth knife fight will be fixed in next patch, they’re apparently tweaking starting ranges based on era.” (Barleyman)

…and complaints are few and far between.

Whether you’re a contented Wave Ruler or a confused or rueful one, I’d be interested to hear your take on RTW3. As I can’t see myself producing an in-depth essay on this almost peerless time/ship sink, the following comments section may have to serve as a review substitute.


  1. Actually the RTW user interface looks quite well organized compared to the kind of management software some companies employ, medical practices included, from what I could glimpse. So at least that won’t be an obstacle.

  2. I still absolutely adore UA: Dreadnoughts and remain completely baffled by its lower review scores. I try to avoid this as a blanket rule but in this case I think it honestly just has a toxic community for whatever reason. In my opinion it is the game RTW 3 seeks to be, plus amazing visuals and very friendly UI.

    • Off topic from the main article:

      I would love to know why you like it so much. I couldn’t figure out the optimizing strategy. The tactical layer was fun, but I could never understand (for example) why I would want 0.5″ vs 0.7″ of deck plating.

      Basically if a game doesn’t tell me what I did right or wrong I think it’s a bad strategy game. I feel like Tim wrote about that in his “things a good wargame must have” article which I’m sadly unable to find anywhere.

      If the game said “protected from up to 4.5” guns or something, and I got feedback that “Germany is building a new destroyer line with 4.8” guns, I would know to either modify my design, invest my money in a different ship, or make a preemptive strike. Absent that it’s very hard to go through a log of 1000+ shots and try to figure out what could have gone better.

      • I don’t want to praise this game too much? but it actually does say that. It is very unintuitive though. This information is hiding under the “gun data” button in the ship design screen. There you can find the approximation of protection for your current data layout against the currently selected caliber of your nation of the best available quality for every practical range as well as “immunity ranges” (for the parts of the ships that are protected of course). Mind you, this is still an approximation, guns of the same caliber get gradually better with technologies, different countries can and will be on different tech levels and you are supposed to overdo your armour a little bit for future’s sake. I mean in this game it is possible to change one ship’s guns but never to add more armour, and as technologies get developed it seems smart to think than in a few years the same caliber will be able to punch through the same thickness of armour it was unable to dent previously.

        But, honestly, I don’t think this information could be more annoying to access.

  3. RTW 3 is kind of a mixed bag for me, honestly.

    I have to give it its due, there is no game like it and I am obligated to start with such disclaimer, unless I want to be unjust.

    But there is quite a lot to criticize in it and most of this “lot” is very fair game. I think the original creators of RTW 1 have never even dreamt of it snowballing into what RTW 3 tries to be. The original game was flawed, true, but its scope was reasonable and the framework of the game supported it as needed. Even with RTW 2 the game tried too much without adapting anything unless it was absolutely 100% necessary for something to at least seem to work. At the same time they have not fixed even half of what bugged people about the first game. While RTW 3 kind of made an effort to polish some of the weirder stuff, it was not nearly enough, and the trash ball of semi working systems sticking to each other and cutting the player base with its jagged edges only grew.

    I mean if the game changes not only the core mechanics (which is kind of reasonable due to the fact that that is the whole point – keeping up with the new, while updating the old) but with time it changes the core experience the player expects from the game, it signifies the game has a serious problem with identity. Example: at the game’s start you can skip decades in strategic view and hours in combat view without too much harm, without losing control or critical information seeping through the cracks of your impatience. Enter the air forces and the carriers and you can foget about playing more than a few months in strategy view and have painfully crawl from every single to turn to every next single turn in combat. The turns themselves represent the same time frames, mind you. It is not a single-hit sudden change but it transformed my gameplay from being unable to willingly to stop playing to dreading that if I boot RTW 3 up I will have to micromanage so much things, with information so obscured and controls of every little nuance so limited yet necessary, that I avoid playing it altogether. I have honestly has not seen a single missile yet, because I am paralyzed by this mass of obligations to the thing that I am supposed to enjoy, I think.

    This game is great on paper and nobody does anything like this on the same scope with same surface simplicity. Yet it is painful to engage with.

    Considering the skirmish mode, proposed by you, or the historical battles, also proposed by you, I have quite an argument to make, that actual combat is actually the weakest part of the game. 85% of RTW’s combat is less about any meaningful decisions (unless you do something really suicidal) and more about which technologies have been developed and how you have implemented them in your ship designs. Cutting the direct consequences of your actions from the game formula would, in my opinion, devoid the games system of any initial charm and appeal. The proper comparison would be having such a mode in, say, Civ games. It just does not work and that’s fine, because this game, while it has combat, does not revolve around single engagements.

    I think, among so much other things, I would gladly vote for a proper tutorial, or at least some kind of codex to reference instead of an external manual. The early game helps, if you start in 1890s, just because all of the new mechanics are introduced gradually with their technological development. Still it is not an excuse I can make for a modern wargame.

    This is a pretty neat game. Alright, its a neat idea about what a game could be. But beware, for this game is not the same when you start it and when you get to know it.

  4. Its an interesting one.
    On the visuals – at least with this its clear what you’re getting and noone is going to discover the graphics are poor after buying it. If you know that the visuals will be an issue for you then you can safely pass on it. Having said that naval combat is probably the genre in all of gaming to get away with this -most of the time playing this you need to be zoomed out to the point where you’re just looking at dots on a blue map anyway.

    The biggest problem is probably still the lack of tutorials and general opaqueness of what everything does. The manual is a lot better than the previous games and the forums are good, but still. This is definitely the best in the series for this though – feels like a lot (probably not enough) of the busywork has been dealt with, as an example the “auto select strike” button hugely simplifies managing carrier strikes by avoiding all the selecting individual aircraft – ordering a carrier strike is a few clicks now, which has meant I engage with this aspect a lot more, but if you want to you can go into more detail. (If RTW2 had this I’ve forgotten it!) The old complaints about the battle generator seem lessened as you can create your own division hierarchies outside battle which translate across, and it does seem to have fixed the second games habit of sending a few ships into the adriatic or somwhere to immediately be decimated by land based aircraft.. Missile combat is fun, and actually aircraft are probably underpowered once missiles come in.

    Would agree on the above about custom battles – it wouldn’t really work because the point of the game and where wars are won is in the design, – its not like there’s cover out there, theres only so much you can achieve with tactics on an open sea.

    I’m enjoying the game and my initial reaction to your article was “thats a bit harsh”, but its true it has flaws.

  5. Hey Tim, any chance you can share the “things a good wargame must have” article Oneknown is referencing?

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