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Ships Simulator – Review

From Police and Fire services, to Lawns and Powerwashing we’ve seen some fantastic simulation games hit the Xbox over the last year or so, but with 2022 coming to an end, it’s time to pull on those wellies and take a look at one of the final installments into the Sim genre with Ships Simulator.

Throughout the duration of the 6-8 hours campaign, you’ll take control of 3 different vessels, each with a total of 8 missions to wrap your seafaring legs around.
Firstly the “World Ship” is one of the largest container ships ever made and as well as loading cargo on and off the ship, you’ll have to navigate in and out of the ports. There’s also a handful of missions such as fighting off a pirate invasion and rescuing shipmates who have fallen overboard, which add a little variety to the first set of missions.
For each successful mission you’ll unlock the nest and gain some funds, some of which will need to be spent on repairing any damage you’ve built up with reckless navigation, but soon enough you’ll build up enough cash to move onto the next two ships.

The DCV Builder is a special vessel designed for Deepwater operations, with two cranes on board, for helping to lift and manoeuvre large objects, such you won’t venture far off land as you’ll rarely be navigating distances more than a mile, but you will be installing a windmill as part of an offshore windfarm, assisting divers making underwater repairs and helping to replace damaged parts on other ships.
The final vessel is the Orange Ship, a submersible craft that allows normal boat like navigation and can be submerged mostly underwater to help collect wreckage and drilling rigs.
Between the three crafts there’s enough variation to keep things feeling different, but it doesn’t prevent the overall path off the game feeling very bland and linear.

Working through the missions is pretty linear, for each of the 3 vessels, there’s 8 missions only unlocked as you complete the previous task, there’s no extra challenges or secret conditions, so you’re relying on the variety within the missions to keep things feeling fresh. The overall scope of missions isn’t a bad mix, and while the DCV builder started to feel a little repetitive, there’s enough variety overall to help you through the duration of the campaign.

However, there’s more than a few weaknesses that will test your resolve, starting off with the control scheme, sadly nobody looked at pretty much every other game made in the last 10 years, and the developers decided to put camera control on the left analogue stick, so manoeuvring your ship is done using either the D-pad or the right analogue stick. Neither feel intuitive, and you’ll probably end up in a few more accidents than you should because of the convoluted control scheme. The triggers adjust the flow of time, allowing you to raise things up to 2x or 4x speed, which is essential due to the slow standard pace, but expect to go back and forth as you struggle to stop on the exact speed increment you want.

The next area to address is the overall presentation, unlike many modern simulation games, there’s no storyline, no flow from one mission to the next, graphics are disappointing and the sound doesn’t offer much more enjoyment.
Ships and some surrounding ports are fairly detailed, but the overall look and feel of the game is nothing more than Xbox 360 standard, maybe the water effects might just make it past 2015. but with terribly noticeable pop-in, even on the Xbox Series X, Ships Simulator certainly isn’t a game you’d fire up to showcase your next-gen console with 4K visuals.

Audio has some weaknesses, with a bland range of background music only otherwise joined by the low rumble of ships and the squawking of seagulls flying overhead, it’s not as bad as the graphical performance but the audio is unlikely to see you firing up a soundbar to get better emersion.
Having played Fishing: Barents Sea (2019) this last year, it’s disappointing when a 3-year-old game can do so much better in presenting the sea, ships and its surroundings, than a game released at the tail end of 2022.

There are thankfully a few positives to look at too, at £12.49 is a fair price, and despite the poor presentation there’s a good 6-7 hours of gameplay which I did enjoy working through, there’s also a good mix of achievements mostly unlocked through progression, and I was only left with one after completing all missions (earn 1 million) which I just re-played a short mission a few times to finish that one off.

So, while good value, the longevity takes a hit as I do have to mention a few bugs which creep in end-game, upon completing the last mission, you’re prompted to play the “Special mission”, it’s really not that special and feels like a short mission from both the DCV and Orange ship combined together, but every time you go to the mission select screen “A” will start this mission, so there’s no repairing ships (A) you have to recover (X) or completely replace the part (Y).
There’s also a bug where when revisiting old missions, ships would sometimes need re-purchasing, which when costing over $200,000 that’s a large slice of the 800k you’re likely to have at this point.
I ended up having to repurchase both large ships, and repeat repairs numerous times, taking my end-game earnings from over 1 million down to $484,000,
If the lack of end-game playability isn’t enough the bugs will definitely drive you away and after just over 7 and a half hours, I couldn’t squeeze any more from the seas of Ships Simulator if I tried.

Thankfully there were no major issues like this through the main campaign, so if you’re after a fairly quick 1000 Gamerscore, and a decent enough game for an evening or two, Ships Simulator might be worth a look, but if you want anywhere near next-gen gameplay or presentation you might want to sail clear.

Ships Simulator

Review by Lee Palmer

Gameplay
65%
Engagement
65%
Graphics
45%
Sound
60%
Value
75%

Summary

Thankfully there were no major issues like this through the main campaign, so if you’re after a fairly quick 1000 Gamerscore, and a decent enough game for an evening or two, Ships Simulator might be worth a look, but if you want anywhere near next-gen gameplay or presentation you might want to sail clear.

62%

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