Title: Cold Waters
Genre: Indie, Simulation, Strategy
Release Date: 5 Jun, 2017
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I chased a "submarine" for about an hour turns out it was a whale 10/10. Cold Waters is a game that unapolagetically strikes a compromise between realism and accessibility. The interface and controls are straightforward enough for anyone to learn within minutes, while the gameplay retains an acceptable level of depth and authenticity that is sufficient to recreate the general feeling of submarine combat. There are many nuances of submarine warfare which Cold Waters glosses over - but equally many boring elements which it pares away, resulting in an experience most people can enjoy in some aspects. It's perfect for people who don't have the time to invest in a study sim. Cold Waters is fair and provides players with a help hotkey containing all the information required to succeed, including not only ship functions but also abstract concepts like tactics and underwater acoustics. Therefore, criticisms that the combat is too difficult are unfounded. The game deserves particular praise for its persistent gameplay, which puts pressure on players to work efficiently and plan ahead if they want to win the long-term war. The soundtrack is also praiseworthy, as is the game's stability and performance. Finally, using whales as armor is badass. Hopefully I've made it clear that my overall impression of the game is positive, because the remainder of this review will focus on criticism of the game's various issues. Showering it with praise is unproductive. I'm going to be hard on this game because I know Killerfish listens to player feedback. The persistent campaign system is responsible for a large part of the excitement you'll find in Cold Waters. But flaws in the campaign system also tarnish the game, and prevent it from reaching true greatness. In campaigns, players receive text orders, then deploy to a time-lapse strategic map of the operating theater. When the player drives their sub icon into an enemy, they're dropped into the tactical scenario and shoot until there's nothing left to shoot at. After a debriefing, this cycle continues with missions of increasing difficulty until the war is won or lost. Players can return to port to repair and rearm, which is a time-consuming prospect in the game world. The strategic map is a critical part of the game, because your actions on the map determine not only which opponents you engage, but also under which circumstances you engage them. In other words, the map strongly determines whether you live or die. For such a critical part of the game, the strategic map is inadequate . The player has no control over how quickly time elapses on the map, and it's fast. Evasion of enemies often depends on reflexes rather than strategic thought. The map doesn't communicate the player's speed and depth as they move, leading players to discover by trial and error the consequences of running into the Kirov's battlegroup at 20 knots. The map doesn't depict day/night cycles, allied units, general mission objective areas, or ocean depth values - although the South China Sea campaign mercifully includes a relief map of the ocean floor. Making the map more informative and involved would take the guesswork out of the game, making it more strategic and skill-based. I'm sure submarine skippers put as much thought into where and when to attack their targets as they do how , but that element is strangely absent in Cold Waters. The missions given to players are somewhat random, and they are initially quite reasonable. However, players who push further into any campaign will quickly discover that Cold Waters sometimes assigns missions which are unreasonably difficult or impossible to complete even in theory. For example, players can receive orders to destroy an enemy submarine even with no remaining torpedoes, or orders to destroy a convoy with only a couple of remaining weapons and moderate hull damage. It's also possible to receive missions in the middle of extensive repairs to your sub, with no hope of getting there in time and no opportunity to take out another sub as a temporary replacement. Receiving orders that teeter on the brink of impossibility is fun. It's amazingly fun. But receiving orders that are patently impossible is beyond frustrating. These impossible missions don't just unfairly punish players, they also highlight laziness on the developers' part. The justification for this game design philosophy is that completing every objective in war is impossible. Coincidentally, it's also the easiest possible philosophy to implement - by simply bombarding the player with missions at all times, there is never a need to analyze the context (location and ship status) to determine what type of mission the player can possibly complete. Needless to say, this is unsatisfactory from both a realism standpoint and a gameplay standpoint. Not every mission should be a success. But players should fail missions because the enemy is smart and tough, not because they were hamstrung by impossible conditions. And it goes without saying that no commander would order a billion-dollar submarine into battle with no ammo. Another weakness of Cold Waters is the low mission variety , which is unusual for a simulator-type game. The three available campaigns share many missions, with only slight differences. Although I can't be sure how many unique missions there are, there seem to be no greater than two dozen. Players are almost guaranteed to repeat the same mission during a campaign, sometimes even consecutively. This is an unexpected disappointment, because the missions contain no scripted events or any kind of handcrafted content that would impose much additional workload on the developers. They are simply predetermined groups of vessels along with a briefing, debriefing, and news text. Another notable issue with the mission design is the total absence of "blue" NATO assets - I have never seen a friendly unit in Cold Waters. I am aware submarine doctrine dictates that they typically operate alone and in the dark. But during the course of a long war, encountering friendlies or performing a coordinated action would be inevitable. This would add an additional layer of complexity and pressure to the game's tactics. Here's the short version: Cold Waters is good. But if it strives to deliver an amazing "big picture" experience at the expense of fidelity and detail, then the game systems that deliver that big experience need some work. More sensible and deliberate campaign design, a greater variety of missions, a better strategic map, and an increased sense that you're a small part of a big war would take this game to the next level.. A post WW2 submarine game many of us have been waiting for! The game is simpler than 688i, Silent Hunter, Dangerous Waters, or Command Modern Air Naval Operations. I think it manages a good balance between fun and realism. Gameplay -The game plays out as a small scale tactical game. The player assumes command of an individual SUB and seeks to engage maritime and land targets. Movement like rudder, diveplanes, and ballast are controlled by the WASD keys. Some skill is needed to set the diveplanes and ballast to make desired depth and course corrections. Be careful to level out or else you'll broach the surface!! The weapons are all modelled true to life. Wire guided torpedoes can take human inputs or they can find targets of their own. Cruise missiles launch themselves out of the water then skim at high speeds over the ocean. Weapon employment is very easy and is as simple as setting a waypoint for the missile to go on the 2D map. Damage control and reloading are also very simple and similiar to Silent Hunter. The player assigns damage control to various comparments. The game also has an added component of sound modelling and sound signatures. The crew automatically identifies targets as the submarine moves closer to the target but the player can manually identify targets by matching frequency bands to known frequencies of Soviet ships. Much like you would on a real submarine! The manual explains underwater acoustics fairly well and water temperature, pressure, and wave bending are all explained and modelled. May be the most detailed I've seen underwater acoustics modelled in any game. The game comes packed with around 7 tutorial missions, single player missions, and dynamic campaigns. The tutorials are text based and allow you to go at your own pace as you process the information at your own speed. The game is missing multiplayer but the devs have stated they may implement it at a later date. Graphics -The graphics are quite good and comparable to Silent Hunter 4 or 5. The waves reflect and behave realistically, explosions are bright and contrast water, smoke belches and looks black and menancing against the horizon. The unit detail is very nice and you can make out individual bolts, lifeboats, guns, and other details on the ships. It's a joy to zoom in and see the detail of all of these Cold War era units. Audio -The audio is very very nice. The music sounds like something out of a Tom Clancy film or game. Serious with a tone of grandeur. The active sonar pings are very eerie and atmospheric. Explosions, gunfire, and missile motors all feel very impactful and appropriate. Kudos to the devs on their audio. One thing the game is desperately missing is crew voiceovers. Crucial information like depth passing and speed changes are all shown as text. Crew voiceovers would be much more immersive. Criticisms -The UI could use some improvement and hotkeys are desperately needed at the time of this games release. Many of the buttons lack labels and could use further explanation as to what they mean. It's tiring to go back and forth between the in game reference material and playing the game. -The WASD navigation could throw some people off. Some people are micromanagers while others may prefer to set a waypoint and have the sub automatically navigate there (which is something you can't do right now). Personally I like the WASD navigation as it imitates what an Officer of the Deck or Commanding Officer would have to do. That is giving orders to the helmsmen to make bearing, depth, and speed changes. -Lack of multiplayer is a bit glaring. In this day and age people like to play games with friends and a game that's missing multiplayer stands out. I'm really hoping the devs add this in as it would greatly enhance the game. Score 8.5/10 The game is very fun and enjoyable and a much needed and welcome throwback to naval sims of old. The game has some UI issues and is missing multiplayer but those issues can be improved on in the future. I think this game scratches the itch that people have for something that's more complex than a Jane's videogame and is less complex than something like Command Modern Air Naval Operations. The devs are EXTREMELY responsive and I believe they'll give this game support for years to come. The game will feature moddability and I'm excited to see what the community can produce. Games like these often hit their golden years way after they were released.. Cold waters is a submarine simulation game that puts you in the captains position of your choice of nuclear power silent death. The sub choices each have their unique advantages and disadvantages, all depending on your playstyle. Like bumrushing the ships and booking it before you get shot? Play the skipjack you maniac. Prefer creeping silently and cutting throats without the enemy realizing you're there? Play the 688 class. Be warned, this game requires that you carefully plan your attacks and have a degree of competance in captaining your boat. Failure to plan, making stupid decisions, or not having the smallest idea of how modern day attack subs works will result in you getting detected, depth charged or torpedoed to death. But plan right and tread carefully, and you will see your efforts rewarding with the bows of your foes pointed to the heavens in smoking, twisted wrecks followed by the metal groaning as they slide under the waves. Killerfish games has continued to update this game with patches and content updates such as the South China Sea campaign, FOR FREE. So do I recomend this game? You bet your aft I do. P.S. Killerfish Games, If you are reading this, thank you for making this amazing game and continuing to update it. Words cannot begin to describe how much appreciation we, the community feel for you being active and working with us. You guys are the Devs we need in this world of loot boxes and half completed games.. As a former submariner I'm impressed with this game. Cold War submarines can be a difficult task to tackle, twice as hard when you model the USN. It's not what you would consider a hardcore sim and in that sense can appeal to a broader audience. The developers decision to allow modding to their game is a huge plus, and the mods are flowing out already. There are a couple of things that bother me, but I also understand limitations of the game engine along with having to use open source intel for their information. Bottom line, even at $40 USD (which IMHO is reasonable given some of the stuff that comes out at $60 USD and is garbage) the game is well worth it.. As a big fan of air and naval warfare simulation and strategytactical titles, I was naturally drawn to Cold Waters. I came to this from a DWSH background like many others it seems. However I was under no illusion that this is a successorreplacementcopy, this is new title doing things it's own ways. Which is excellent, Coming to Cold Waters with any assumption that this replaces "Insert your favorite subsim here" will probably lead to disappointment. An open mind is needed blinkered to the past as much as possible and you can see CW for the little masterpiece that it is. The control system is intuitive, the game really puts you in the "Captain of the boat" situation where the crew will be doing all of the work, such as TMA, weapons procedures, Sensor processing. But leaving some of the fun stuff for you to play with such as actually being able to steer the boat, ordering the firing of weapons and classifying contacts. I have heard some remarks about the number of keyboard shortcuts being a negative point. While I possibly could have agreed from the start, I actually find that now I know the keyboard layout, I accomplish more faster when situations are tight. With that still in mind though, I have been extremely impressed with the open minded way which the developers have approached the product since release, the community has been actively listened too, adjustments are being made very quickly along with fixes to reported bugs. The most excellent example of the this is the call for the ability to order course and speed changes using a UI as opposed to key presses. The developers have listened and are now implementing a helm for orders to be given to the crew, while retaining the excellent more granular dive plan and rudder controls for those torpedo evasion manuvers, which would be almost impossible to command with the helm control alone. The complexity level of the simulation in the background is obviously very comprehensive with lots of detail in the AI doctrine, sonar modelling, weapon modelling, damage modelling etc. The game is VERY accessable, easy to pick up and start playing. But learning the tactics and procedures to be effective is difficult if you have never been exposed to this before, instead of getting frustrated though, get in touch with the community either on Steam or Subsim and you will normally get a helpful response. I also highly recommend watching Cold Waters YouTube videos made by Jive Turkey The game comes with two campaigns, one in 1968 and one in 1984. This is a great way to present game content as each campaign required you to behave totally differently to the other. In the 1968 campaign it is still the era of the straight running torpedo for the US side and the need for, getting close, making torpedo spreads and accurate solutions are a must. Whereas the 1984 campaign has more guided long range ordenance, requiring a totally different set of tactics to get kills and to survive. The campaigns are dynamic in the way that they work with a heavy layer of abstraction built it. The player follows along with the war effort completing the assigned missions, which will add weighting to the overall outcome. Each different missions type is weighted to how much effect it has on the war. Dropping Spec Ops teams to the coast, or firing a cruise missile salvo will have a lasting effect on the operations of the bases they are made against. You will need to manage your stores as you progress through the campaign, picking the right moment to return to port. attacking everything on the map which moves will either. a) Get you killed by attracting too much attention b) Prevent you from achieving your objectives with low stocks Don't expect to win every scenario, it is a war and unachievable objectives or timelines may be presented due to ammunition levels or distance from the target. I think this is actually pretty nice and allows the campaign to continue with the notion that no-one can be perfect. I have not personally played through the single missions, so I cannot comment here, but there are 10 of them and I have not heard much in the way of negative feedback for them. The tutorials were good, it is VERY important though that you read the notes on the notepad dialogue in the screen, as these contain the neccessary information to learn from. The manual is included in game with a press of SHIFT-F1 which is a very useful addition. The manual contains some really useful tactical information relating to the topics it is discussing and well worth a read through before getting too stuck in. In terms of mod making, there is a large swaith of files open to editing covering sensor modelling, weapons, shipssubsaircraft, missions, campaigns etc etc etc. It is nice to see that some good attempts have been made and producing some good mods. I myself have delved into the mission editing part and while at first the editing a mission with notepad++ seemed like a let down. Actually it is really easy to create a mission VERY quickly. I have already created and published three new mission myself. Now working on a new campaign for the 1985 timeline and I am overwhelemed by the number of things you can change and personalise, it is like having a bottomless toybox to play with!! And yes again Notepad++ for the campaigns, but it is very easy to do. I have seen talk of missioncampaign editors being created, so I suggest to watch this space. Current DLC on the horizon appears to be opening up the Soviet submarines for play with their own campaign. Which will of course mean more NATO units! This review may come across as a bit "Fanboi". But I am actually quite hard to please and very rarely write a review of anything. I am so pleased with this game and direction it is going in, that I felt compelled to do so. Anyway, thanks if you have read to this point ;-) and I hope it helps you make your decision.. The biggest issue with Cold Waters at the moment is, that launching Anti-Ship or Cruise Missiles from underwater just looks and sounds waaay to awesome which is why I try and use Missiles as often as possible and not torpedos. The problem is that this will get you killed very quickly as its not much of a challenge for the russians to locate a sub that sends more rockets into the sky than NASA.. When I was a young child, I played games on my father's old Commodore 64. I wasn't terribly good at most of them (I didn't even know where to start with Ultima V), but Red Storm Rising was a game I could understand, even if it's kind of incredible since it's such an unintuitive skillset to grasp. Ever since, Red Storm Rising stuck with me, because it did something that was rare to the point of almost unique in games: It made you feel your actions were important and decisive, but that you weren't the lone space marine single-handedly fighting the whole army. Sinking a convoy of transports carrying reinforcements in an invasion force should logically have an impact upon the course of a land battle, but that land battle isn't one you're fighting, yourself. It was a little bit silly that yours was the only ship you actually saw on the map while Russians were all over the place, but so far as imagination went, it was enough to make you believe you're a soldier in a war, not a one-kid-army, and that's still something a lot of war games get wrong. Cold Waters touts itself as a reimagining of the Microprose classic, and it nails it. I'm not the game I was when I was 5-8 years old, and I generally expect more from games, now, and I'm not just talking about graphics being better than the Commodore 64, either. Witht that said, the graphics are beautiful, and if you zoom in on the surface ships, in particular, you'll see they even went to the trouble of modeling little individual sailors on the decks of the ships. (They don't move, though.) The devs are working hard on making the game more expansive, and are adding a South China Sea campaign, as well as many NATO ships, and a Russian campaign is planned, as well. The game has some problems with just how subtle some of its mechanics can be: Ambient noise from storms (that aren't really well-represented as anything other than a number in your "Conditions" page) can have a dramatic impact upon how a battle plays out and its difficulty in general. Very subtle differences in how you approach a mission can be the difference between a mission being so routine it's almost boring, and putting you in a position where it's impossible for you to get out alive. Many elements of this game operate on a level that is basically invisible to the player, and when things go wrong, it's often very difficult for a player to understand why. The discussions pages are filled with people asking questions about what they are doing worng.
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