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Ship Simulator Extremes (PC) Review

/ Jul 18th, 2012 2 Comments

Apparently, crashing a ship into shore in real life leaves your ship in pristine condition.

Ship Simulator Extremes Review

Ship Simulator Extremes Review

It takes a certain quality for a game to be labeled “extreme”, much less “extremes” as this title dares to declare itself. Such a label is usually reserved for games known for over-the-top action, a trait that most traditional sims tend to stay away from due to their generally more realistic nature. Can “extremes-ness” and simulation co-exist in the same game? VSTEP, developer of Ship Simulator Extremes, and Paradox Interactive, its publisher, apparently think so.

Getting Started

One of the first things you’ll notice when you boot up Ship Simulator Extremes is that there’s no tutorial mode. “No problem,” you say, “I’ll just load the campaign, of which the first few levels would surely act as a tutorial, right?” No such luck, skipper. Ship Simulator Extremes has no built-in tutorial of any sort. The closest thing I could find to a tutorial for Ship Simulator Extremes was a PDF User’s Manual, which I had to look for online; the game itself provided no link to the PDF. Okay, finding some semblance of a tutorial for this game was far more complicated than it should have been, but at least the User’s Manual should provide some useful insight on how to actually control sea-faring vessels, right? Well… no. Of the 40 pages of the PDF file, half of them were filled with ads and excited rabble about how you’ll now be able to fulfill your dreams of being a ship captain, while the other half skimmed over the basic features of the game. I’d have loved to learn how to use navigation lights to signal other ships where I’m going, when it’s safe to drop an anchor, how I’m supposed to moor lines to another ship, and other fascinating (and necessary!) aspects of seamanship, but the User’s Manual doesn’t even touch on any of these. Having never personally dealt with such aspects of seamanship myself, I was left completely in the dark as to how to operate my ship besides using the up/down arrow keys to increase/decrease thrust and the left and right arrow keys to steer. Ship Simulator Extremes apparently expects all of its users to be well-versed in the ways of seamanship and as such provides no learning tools for an inexperienced seadog like myself.

Gameplay

Apparently, crashing a ship into shore in real life leaves your ship in pristine condition.

Ship Simulator Extremes consists of a campaign mode and a freeplay mode, which is pretty standard fare for the sim genre. The campaign mode is basically a list of missions with pre-defined objectives to complete, with the barest thread of a backstory behind them to link the missions to each other. Successfully completing a mission unlocks either postcard of a ship or a video to add to your collection of… postcards and videos. That’s all there is to unlock. No new ships, no new areas, no new color schemes… nothing that most gamers have come to expect of any game with an unlock system. In-game physics and handling were fairly realistic as far as I could tell: ships bobbed on water, smaller ships maneuvered more quickly than large ones, and so on in accordance to what a casual observer like myself has come to expect of ships’ interactions with natural forces. Ship Simulator Extremes supposedly features a damage model engine, but I wasn’t able to see any indication of this besides a “health bar” located on the in-game UI. Nothing happened when the health bar went down to 0; no explosions, no hull damage, nothing (and believe me, I crashed my vessel on numerous occasions). One particularly frustrating aspect of the campaign missions was a lack of guidance in how to actually carry out the mission’s objectives, leaving me no choice but to sail around and click on things until something finally happened. Playing through the campaign missions certainly wasn’t a very satisfying endeavor, and it wasn’t long before I gave up completely on the campaign. Free mode presented a plethora of options, such as time of day, starting location, weather conditions, and so forth. However, there were no options for sea traffic, and the most unnerving aspect of all gameplay in Ship Simulator Extremes was the lack of non-player activity. No other ships were seen being piloted, no people were seen on-shore, and no sea wildlife was seen or heard from. While I understand that adding these things would have taken a great deal more effort and time, simulators are, by my understanding, supposed to immerse the player in the in-game environment, something that Ship Simulator Extremes never comes even close to doing.

Graphics

Ever wonder what a bed in a yacht looks like? Well, now you know… Might wanna keep this door locked next time, VSTEP.

I haven’t seen user interfaces this plain and ugly since the mid-2000s.

Graphics play a huge role in making or breaking the realism of a simulation game, and unfortunately, Ship Simulator Extremes once again falls short. Lighting is decent and seems fairly realistic, but almost everything else detracts from the realistic world that the game is trying to portray. Textures are almost universally bland or low-res, which is especially apparent when looking at the interior views of ships and building and foliage textures near shore. Ship models are decent, at least on the outside; changing to cockpit view, however, presents one with a baffling array of squares, cylinders, and circles apparently meant to represent the interior of a ship. The menu user interface, unfortunately, is yet another area that Ship Simulator Extremes fails in. It’s bland, ugly, and doesn’t use enough of the screen, making it seem more like a developer’s product than a polished, consumer-ready release.

Sound

In-menu music was peaceful and calming, setting the player in an appropriate mindset for ship piloting. Besides the in-menu music, which the player would likely be only briefly exposed to anyway, sounds in Ship Simulator Extremes are actually passable… if you can ignore the fact that the sound samples tend to repeat rather jarringly. Wind sounds repeat in a conspicuously unrealistic manner, as do the sounds of wakes breaking and engine revs. While actual sound quality seemed realistic enough, the way they came together to provide aural ambiance was anything but.

Overall

Ship Simulator Extremes caters to only the most hardcore of ship enthusiasts, and even then it fails as a sim on numerous fronts. Whether it be gameplay, graphics, or sound, Ship Simulator Extremes has no saving graces, only a few almost-there implementations which are sure to completely exasperate newcomers to ship sims and frustrate even the most dedicated of ship simulator players.

Overall Ratings – Ship Simulator Extremes (PC)

Gameplay:

4/10

Sound:

3/10

Graphics:

3/10

Replayability:

2/10

OVERALL SCORE:

30%

James Ku

James Ku

Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
James Ku has never been particularly skilled at any video game (except Dance Dance Revolution, to which he attributes his preferred username as well as his somewhat respectable legs), a quirk that has nevertheless failed to quell his passion for games of every creed (yes, he loves Assassin's Creed) and race (Need for Speed Underground 2 is his personal favorite). He is currently studying Computer Science at the University of Oklahoma.
James Ku

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  • Good Gaming Computer

    Sounds like it was a cool concept for a game, but looks like they messed it up! How much does the game cost? Might be worth looking at if it costs less than $5.00.

    • James Ku

      It’s normally $29.99, but I believe Steam had a 75% off discount during their big Steam Summer Sale. I don’t think I’d bother with it even at that price, though. :P

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