Back in the no-risk Noughties, dynamic campaigns stopped traffic and popped monocles in Simulatia and Grognardia. Years passed without a single new example appearing. The “They’re too time-consuming/expensive to make” myth was trotted out so often, some began to treat it as truth. Now, of course, we know different. Titles like Boat Crew prove a studio doesn’t need to be loaded or experienced or huge to fashion an imaginative alternative to Ye Olde Linear Mission Sequence.
A £16 Early Access PT boat game in the vein of Bomber Crew, Tabbing Tabby’s Boat Crew comes with the kind of unpredictable, freelance-friendly campaign system that I’d love to see lashed to a true PT sim.
Like the rest of the game, a work-in-progress, the campaign casts the player as a US PT boat skipper operating in the Solomon Islands in mid 1942. Initially your hand-picked, trait-endowed crewmen are as green as seagrass and your customisable powerboat dishes out destruction using nothing but a quartet of WWI-era LMGs. In order to earn the currency (RPs) that buys weapon upgrades and supplies (ammo, repair kits, and medicine chests) you must prove your worth in a dynamic war over which, not inappropriately, you have no real control.
The closest you get to influencing strategy is choosing which enemy-held port to maul next. Trash sufficient watchtowers, gun emplacements, and bunkers during a port raid and it’s possible your bosses might decide to send an invasion fleet to the spot to finish the job.
The snag is the Japanese AI – which is also alert to island-hopping opportunities – tends to respond to player vandalism by beefing up defences in the violated vicinity. Return to a locale for a second go and you may find swarms of Zeroes or shoals of gunboats waiting for you.
Aware that WW2 PT boats were extremely fragile war machines meant for scouting and sly hit-and-run attacks, rather than brazen base bothering, Tabbing Tabby don’t force you to batter seaside structures in order to get on.
By far the best way to earn the RPs that buy tempting toys like Bofors guns, mortars, and depth charges, and lifesaving ‘call-ins’ such as fighter cover and off-screen naval gun support, is to reconnoitre enemy ports, sink their supply ships and subs, and eliminate the named vessels that pop up from time to time on your Target List.
Before you can take on the latter – usually destroyers – you must find them, and elude or eliminate their retinues, a task complicated by day-night cycles, changing weather, fuel levels, and the risks attached to switching on your radar and radio apparatus.
Hopefully, Tabbing Tabby won’t forget their less competent customers while busily enriching Boat Crew’s surprisingly ambitious campaign element and 19-strong selection of standalone missions. Without customisable difficulty, some users may never get to experience long, satisfying careers in the game’s splendidly lively but eye-wateringly lethal South Pacific.