App Reviewed on: iPad 3
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A lone ship slowly glides through the water. A scout went missing the other day and they have to check out the cove to the south, just in case something turns up. Suddenly an enemy vessel appears on the horizon and opens fire. Evasive maneuvers are taken, explosions disrupt the stillness, and when the smoke cleans only one remains. It continues its journey southward, refusing to abandon the mission even after taking damage. That’s when another half dozen ships appear, seemingly out of nowhere, and proceed to turn the supposed rescuer into Swiss cheese. And that's just the first mission.
Leviathan: Warships is the kind of naval warfare strategy game that will turn heads. It’s a hybrid of turn-based and simultaneous play, with each player (or the player and AI) setting up their ships’ actions before submitting the orders and watching everything play out over a ten second span. Each vessel can move, fire, and activate special devices such as shields, in a single turn. Since both sides act at the same time, it’s important to try and guess what the other is thinking. It’s vaguely reminiscent of Chess in this regard.
Each mission, online or off, has a maximum amount of points that can be used to customize a fleet. Every single piece of hardware has its own cost, which means it’s possible to create a flotilla that caters to weak and fast ships or slow and devastating ships and anything in between. There’s also quite a bit of meticulous management to keep track of, which might be off-putting to some but works well here and should be a major source of enjoyment for players who prefer to micromanage.
Try as I might, I just couldn’t have fun with Leviathan: Warships. The campaign feels terribly unbalanced, regardless of whether it's played solo or co-op, for one thing. I’d fully expect a strategy game to test its players' abilities, but it turns the dial up to 11 right out of the gate. Simply finishing the first level is a major trial-by-fire (and by-error) and it only gets tougher from there (not in a good way). It expects too much too soon. Multiplayer is a bit better, although co-op is still brutal even with extra people. Still, it's nice to have more naval commanders to collaborate with or conspire against. Once the matches actually get underway the only thing that slows them down is the frequency of each player's turns.
I know there are plenty of strategists who will no doubt enjoy Leviathan: Warships, but the curious should know this is an uncompromising game both online and off. The meticulous nature of the gameplay is also rather polarizing. Fans of meticulous and brutal strategy games will most likely enjoy it, but everyone else may want to test the waters first.