Leviathan: Warships is a strategic action game where players can build and customize their own fleet of warships to play with or against their friends. If you’ve heard of this game already no doubt you’ve seen the trailer. The game doesn’t take itself seriously, with silly trailers, puns, jokes and an emphasis on a great value price. Leviathan is well worth the purchase and a game I’ll be playing in my spare time.
My initial feelings of Leviathan was that it was just another top-down turn-based strategy, but playing through the campaign against friends and co-operatively I felt the game held much more. The turn-based nature comes in a planning and an outcome phase. The theory is simple: in the planning phase you order your ships to move, attack, set waypoints, re-position, change speed, change direction or use special abilities like mines and shields. Once the planning is set, you hit commit and the game proceeds for 10 seconds running out your orders.
While you can issue orders and queue up a long 60 second “turn”, you will only experience 10 seconds at a time and more often than not your original plan is rewritten as the battlefield around you adapts and changes.
Some weapons and abilities will require manual aiming and firing, which requires predicting the target’s movement. Other abilities can be area-targeted and have large cooldowns, while some weapons fire automatically.
As you progress in Leviathan, you unlock ship designs and weapons allowing customisable ships in The Shipyard. Building from blueprints or from scratch you have access to varying gun types, missiles, lasers, projectiles, long range, short range, and so on. Not only are weapons available, but also defensive radars, shields, mines, armour and so on. For each mission you are given a set amount of fleet points. Ships, weapons, armour and attachments each cost a set amount of points. Each ship has various stats, slots and a fixed number of potential attachments. This allowed me to create a fast laser ship with weapons on the one side, while I also had a large ship with missile batteries sitting along the bow providing support.
There are nine offline campaign missions, a short tutorial and a few challenges. The longevity of the game certainly sits in the multiplayer mode. As a turn-based game you can play turns, save and the game state will save awaiting for all the players to commit, at which point it will play the turn. In addition to the multiplayer skirmish mode across 14 different maps, the campaign missions can be played co-op.
Unfortunately the tutorial was weak and failed to share the depth of the game but by simple experience I was soon shooting my own ships and realising the depth of weapon choice, positioning, maintaining speed, distance and various other considerations. On the surface the game seemed simple, but beneath lurked a larger beast.
A replay system is a nice addition to watch those week-long, 2-hour games in one fluid smooth movement. The replays really bring out the beauty in the game with the rocking ships, attention to detail, splashes of missed cannons and the rain of debris as a ship explodes.
The turn system is akin to games like Frozen Synapse, where once orders are placed and the commit button is hit you sit back and watch your plan succeed with a piratey laugh or scream in horror as the plans are foiled. The ability to play multiple games simultaneously and switch quickly between games help the overall organisation of turn-based matches against multiple players.
The game is available on PC, Mac, Android, Tablets and iOS. It is cross-platform with built-in cloud saving to continue your sessions from any computer, tablet or location. I had access to the PC so I have not played the tablet version. For those concerned by the always online play, an offline mode is available where you can play the campaign or challenges.
The controls were fairly straightforward with every control compact into just the mouse. Clicking vessels in the planning phase will pop up all the options available. The forward, backward arrows and orientation compass allow a click and drag interaction to direct your ship. A number appears describing the time it will take in seconds to carry out the desired order. In the pop-up is also the ship’s weapons or attachments. Once you click a weapon it will show you the cone of fire in which you can click the target. All controls can be achieved with the mouse, clicking, dragging and hitting commit, but the PC version does additionally give you WASD to move the camera.
Occasionally selecting the correct platform seemed buggy but in a game that piles all the controls in one peripheral, the mouse. The game is certainly responsive with a very intuitive UI.
Graphics and Sound
Playing at 1920x1080 with a Nvidia GTX 260 the graphics are pleasing with a turn-based game pulling off a smooth and responsive UI. While I zoomed out to see the entire battlefield when issuing orders, in the committed phase I found myself zoomed right in checking out the graphics, the burning decks and the effects as missiles slammed into my deck. Another neat feature was the enhancement of sound as you zoomed closer revealing the chug of a boat, or the crackle of a fire.
It never lagged, froze, or felt slow. With the aesthetically pleasing bobbing in the sea as a cannon fired or a shell embedded itself in a deck the game felt pleasing in a physics sense. The artwork was clean, crisp and with a game that allowed multiple loadouts and positioning, the ships always looked well designed and prepared.
The maps were designed well and the layouts gave challenges with huge rocks acting as cover. In addition the fog of war and abilities such as radars creating pings gave it a very maritime feel.
The sound was okay, nothing special but it didn’t stand out as bad. The effects were pleasing but the music felt a little samey after a few hours.
The game is great, it feels fun, it’s fairly cheap for the purchase and it can sync across multiple platforms (yet I’ve not tested this). The turn-based multiplayer interaction with customisable fleets really offers a great tactical adventure to explore yet the game has a dark horse.
Upon release DLC packs were also released with 3 packs spanning from £1.99 to £3.49 which gave you access to more multiplayer maps and various “elite” ships. The game is not marketed as a game of microtransactions but with a DLC on launch which holds maps and ships it brings question to the future plans of Leviathan: Warships by Pieces Interactive and Paradox Interactive.
On release the servers were hit hard and multiplayer issues with disconnections and drops caused some rage. Paradox quickly responded by added two new servers which has seemed to fix the majority of the problems, yet Paradox Interactive have never been known to have strong reliable servers.
The game works across platforms, feels smooth to control, is remarkably deep and all this is for a considerably low cost. The DLC demonstrates a scary future for Warships with the risk of “pay to win” potentially lurking around the corner, but with a low price to start with perhaps it can be a game just for some friends.
The game holds all the cards for the multiplayer community to pick it up and run with but it will hinge on connectivity issues, DLC and longevity for players. Do not let the low numbers of players put you off as the game promotes a hop on, do a turn and hop off approach allowing those who play casual turn-based games a tactical treat.