Man of War
Unlike previous attempts to simulate the Age of Sail, which focused on micromanaging the duties of a ship’s captain, Man of War places the player in the position of overall squadron or fleet commander, and places the action in turn-based mode. This has made the implementation of large battles such as Trafalgar far more manageable. The game is turn-based with orders being plotted on an elegant tactical map; once orders are plotted the game shifts to a first-person view in which to watch the action unfold.
In the 3D resolution phase, the player can stroll the deck of his ship from quarter to fore decks while the battle rages. Though Man of War’s first-person engine is primitive compared to action games like Quake, it does get the job done. Sails will slack and billow, cannons roar with accompanying fire and smoke, splinters fly while masts come crashing down. The sounds of timbers creaking, gulls squawking, and the sight of the deck rising and falling all give a good impression of being at sea. The odd thing, however, is that you’re all alone on the ship, with not one crew member in sight.
The game includes twelve scenarios which cover most of the major naval engagements between 1765-1815, though the Nile and Copenhagen are absent. A campaign game ten scenarios long has the player working his way up to larger and more important engagements as a British officer. A flexible scenario editor is available which allows the easy creation of additional actions.
Turns are four minutes in length. During the orders phase, the player has a choice of picking signal flags to issue orders to his command. There are fifteen different orders available which accurately reflects most of the choices a flag officer had in controlling a fleet. These can be issued to single ships, divisions, or the entire fleet. As with history, combat situations often find individual ship captains doing things that make you think they’ve been hitting the grog too much.
A frustrating omission with the signals is a lack of an easy way to implement a column-turn. This is where the lead ship of a column will turn and the following ships will attempt to make the same turn at the precise location where the lead ship changed course. This inclusion would have made managing a fleet of ships even easier.
Ships are provided in general categories, such as ship-of-the-line, large cruiser, etc., with the player rounding out the details of names, gun totals, crew quality and related factors. But alas, there’s no ability to pick shot types, crew assignments, hull or sail targeting, and no control over melee actions. Reload rates seem inflated. British ships routinely fire three broadsides in a four minute turn. Dual broadsides occur frequently, though historically they were rare. There is no tool to measure range either.
Despite some rough edges, Man of War takes Age of Sail enthusiasts somewhere they haven’t really gone before. Though what beneficial results that adventurous journey brought us is debatable, the end game does bring several novel touches that you won’t find elsewhere.
System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, DOS
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