Paradox Interactive’s constantly growing library of videogame titles is never afraid to try new things. From tower defence titles to multiplayer orientated videogames, to the core strategy software, it would seem as though the publisher is willing to stand behind anything it sees not just as a viable consumer product, but as an interesting interactive experience. Turbo Tape Games’ Naval War: Arctic Circle, available now, seems to lie somewhere between the two, and even the videogame itself doesn’t seem to know which side of that division it wants to reside.
Considering the publisher and the nature of their catalogue, many could quite easily assumer that Naval War: Arctic Circle is just another simulation title joining the ranks of Ship Simulator Extremes. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Naval War: Arctic Circle has more in common with the real-time strategy (RTS) genre than it does with realistic simulations. This is a videogame of balance – action and reaction – and to go into it expecting anything less than a challenge is foolhardy.
Naval War: Arctic Circle offers its core experience through two sides of the story: NATO and Russia. Each chapter is of a reasonable length and provides plenty of intrigue for continues play. As the NATO mission begins with a tutorial – and as it’s the easier of the two campaigns – most players will feel more comfortable starting here. Issuing simple commands and relaying the importance of each information panels, the tutorial is fairly longwinded but remains near-essential, as Naval War: Arctic Circle as a whole is a rather overblown affair.
Contrary to that which the screenshots on this page and those made available prior to release may have led you to believe, Naval War: Arctic Circle is not played via a virtual depiction of reality. This visual guidance is available, but only as a constant secondary view point by default. Instead, player actions are delivered via a radar-esque main image. Here the player can see their own units identified by a green outline and enemies by red, a simple but immediate system, and left-clicking on a unit will present the availability of the information panels. Depending on the type of unit selected the information panels available will vary drastically, from movement and combat planning to special orders for tackling objectives. The objectives available throughout the campaign are linked to the story progression, with most being reasonable virtual assumptions of what would be required of a real life military force for such operations.
Naval War: Arctic Circle features one-off missions in addition to the campaign mode. These missions typically consist of variations of objectives seen in the two campaigns, such as protecting specific units, advancing your front line or bringing an end to an already established battle. Essentially a scenario mode, Naval War: Arctic Circle’s mission structure here is perhaps more enjoyable for skilled players than the campaigns, allowing you to determine your own submissions during each of the unique challenges.
While Naval War: Arctic Circle’s complex series of information panels and statistics may take some getting used to, there’s no denying it’s particularly well organised. The developers have clearly spent a lot of time creating an accessible user interface, as without it Naval War: Arctic Circle would surely be an impenetrable strategy experience for all but the most perseverant. That being said, it’s hardly likely to win any awards for pushing the visual envelope, nor the accompanying soundtrack.
As a title added to Paradox Interactive’s catalogue with a considerable amount of media coverage, you might expect Naval War: Arctic Circle to present a title with mass appeal that takes it’s design template too far of the beaten track. To the contrary however, this is a videogame that tries to bring its inherent complexity to an audience not typically known for their investment, and as such looses some of its appeal on both sides of the fence. In reality, Naval War: Arctic Circle will likely find a home amongst only those willing to penetrate its tough exterior.