Naval Ops: Commander
If reading the name Naval Ops: Commander makes your captain’s beard bristle with eager anticipation at the thought of conquering the seven seas with your own brew of nautical dominance, actually playing it really separates the men from the boys. There’s not even an easy difficulty option, merely normal and hard, just the way the captain ordered. If Commander’s MO is to make you feel like a grizzled seafarer then it partially succeeds, as it’s a genuine buzz riding your cruiser headlong into battle, eager with anticipation following endless tweaking and fine-tuning to your ship. Sadly, thanks to the shallow battle system, engaging another ship in combat reveals a huge prang in the side of Commander’s hull. So this game is ultimately split into two parts that we’ll call ‘what works’ and ‘what doesn’t’. What works is the customisation, a massive tick against Commander’s name as it covers every aspect of ship management possible.
Tweaking the bridge, researching for new parts or changing the battleship blueprints so you exchange manoeuvrability for extra armour – there’s enough options in here to keep even the most pedantic technical beanpole quiet. Initially intimidating, figuring out what to do in this menu-heavy section of the game takes time, yet your investment is rewarded as you learn to fine-tune your battleship for the upcoming missions. While these missions are fairly unremarkable, they at least distinguish themselves in what’s required of you – you might have to usher an ally ship through hostile waters or fend off aerial attacks from enemy aircraft. What doesn’t work is the actual fighting. The controls are simple enough with two types of attack, formation options for your escort ships and plenty of weapons to choose from, all catered for by a few button presses. While this makes it easy to get to grips with fighting at sea, it’s screaming out for more depth, lacking the tactical nuances that the hours of customising suggests the game has. Equip yourself with the right artillery and completing missions is a case of charging in all weapons blazing. Choose the wrong artillery and all you can do is limp back to base a broken, beaten commander. So despite the impressive customisation options available, the commander in charge of the ship’s cannons has grabbed the compass of opportunity and set sail for boredom. It’s really little wonder that Captain Birdseye exchanged a life of sea warfare for coating fish with breadcrumbs.