I’ve written hundreds of reviews and previews during my twenty-odd years as a games inspector. As many of these appeared in the British version of PC Gamer magazine and nowhere else, now and again something from my archive may appear as one of THC’s daily posts. Below the jump you’ll find my one-page take on a Type VII-less 2007 U-boat sim.
“There was nothing original about Adolf Hitler’s strategy of using stealthy submersible sea wolves to try to starve Britain into submission. A quarter of a century earlier, his pointy-hatted predecessor, Kaiser Bill, had attempted the exact same thing.
Not that you’d know it from playing submarine games. 1914: Shells of Fury is, to my knowledge, the first Great War U-boat sim ever made. It’s also surprisingly seaworthy. Ignore the fact that it looks like Silent Hunter 4’s frumpy aunt (Thora Hunter) has a poor camera system, and some scarily vigilant AI ships, and what you have here is a little gem – a bead of Baltic amber perfectly encapsulating the spirit of sub sim classics like Aces of the Deep.
Yes, there’s something pleasantly nostalgic about SoF. Maybe it’s the 2D interiors, the primitive particle effects, or the perfectly pitched complexity. Because the game is set in an era when radar, sonar, and fancy torpedo data computers were unknown, there’s no gadgetry to get flummoxed by. If you want to spot prey you’ve either got to poke your periscope up through the waves, or prowl about topside with the wind in your beard. If you want to slay prey (which, obviously, you do) you’ve got to take advantage of the simple lock-and-fire torpedo aiming option, or, for more realism, use fag-packet arithmetic and instinct to target your eels. Naturally, there are deck guns and sub-launched mines too.
Rigid campaigns have scuppered many a sub sim. Happily, SoF’s lengthy, war-spanning careers are aerated with plenty of random traffic and weather. You can play them as often as you like and not get weary. What you can’t do is save mid-patrol. This has annoyed a few buyers, but as long as you aren’t one of those splendid souls who insist on playing without time-compression, it’s not a huge inconvenience. More significant is the hawk-like vision of enemy mariners. If one of the clever modders at Subsim.com could just figure out away of making periscope tips a tad less conspicuous, I’d be an even more kontent Kapitän.”