A war where you can actually catch up on your sleep
May 15, 2007 – If you like the classic game Battleship, you might appreciate Steel Horizon, although most hardcore strategy fans will find this game rather slow and dull. This is not an engaging strategy game, and even though there are some action elements built into the combat system, it’s all pretty light fare. If you like your strategy a few notches below challenging, than you can expect a boost of confidence while playing Steel Horizon.
Steel Horizon is a stepping stone to more involved strategy games. It’s good for beginners, but it won’t hold the average strategist’s interest for more than a couple of hours. The gameplay suffers from repetition, command delays, and confusing menus. The touch system works adequately, but you have to screw around with the menu to activate it, after which it’s just as convenient to use the face buttons for commands.
Employing turn-based strategy, the gameplay is even slower than you might expect. Not only will you have to endure delays in the commands and awkward menus, but there is a lot of inane traveling over the high seas. Keep in mind you’re playing on a grid. You only travel over a few grids per move, and let me tell you, there’s a lot of sea to cover – in real time. Although you play in both the Pacific and Atlantic, they don’t differ. Water is water, and the landmarks are few and far between. There is precious little in the environmental graphics to sustain your interest.
The storyline is interesting. It has a different take on WWII, an epoch that has been done to death. But this story focuses different elements such as the occult aspects of the war, which has been greatly exaggerated for the game, but still retains a glimmer of truth to make it more believable. However, the gameplay isn’t interesting enough to make you want to get to the end of the story.
You can choose up to eight ships to outfit your fleet. You don’t need all of them for every mission. It’s possible to get away with half of them. The less ships you have, the stronger your defenses. More ships will give you superior attacking abilities if your strategy is to obliterate the enemy quickly. There is no shortage of shipyards from which to acquire your ships. There are 14 different ships to choose from. Balance is the key. Make sure you have a good assortment in your fleet and you’ll do fine against virtually all A.I. encounters. Ships can’t be upgraded, so you’re stuck with what you selected. The A.I. isn’t very challenging, but you can look forward to some more engaging battles against another human opponent via the local multi-player component. Unfortunately you can also look forward to a lot more time wasted.
Each game in the single-player mode can last up to an hour. Most of that time is spent moving your ships over the sea. The multiplayer mode takes almost twice that long because you have to wait for your opponent to take his or her turn. A single game can take up to an hour-and-a-half. Unless you and your buddy are a couple of old, tabacca’ chewing porch sitters, you’ll never have the patience to sit through more than one or two matches.
Once an enemy is in range, the game takes over and plays itself. That’s how it is in most turn-based strategy games, but Konami tried to make things more interesting. They must have felt guilty about the lame gameplay. You can attempt to get more shots in by pressing the X button when engaged in battle. It’s more or less random, but when given the opportunity it makes you feel as though you have some control over the game. The stylus can be used to direct your ship through the grid by pointing and tapping. First, you have to access the convoluted menu to even be allowed to make these commands, and when you do you’ll find that you’re pressed for time. The DS controls could have made things a lot easier for a game like this, since it could better replicate the control of a mouse. It’s just less of a hassle to use the D-pad rather than drag out the stylus.
Graphically the game doesn’t max out the DS’s capabilities. The cutscenes are decent but the in-game graphics are rudimentary and pixelated. The ships look generic, with just the basic details. There are some explosions, but you won’t see the ships fall apart. They just disappear from view. The character icons look like crude renderings from an early GBA game. The sound effects are distant and inconsequential. The military music is looped, added to the repetitiveness of the each mission.
Steel Horizon sinks like the Titanic, but I can guarantee you that no one will glorify this disaster.