Developer: Pieces Interactive / Publisher: Paradox Interactive / Platforms: PC, Mac, iOS, Android
If you had told me my favorite game at Paradox Con 2013 would be a crossover PC/mobile title involving naval combat, I would have told you I was clearly drinking too much brennevin. Yet as strange as it may be, no other game captivated my attention like Leviathan: Warships, a skirmish-scale tactical battle game coming later this year from Swedish studio Pieces Interactive.
Unlike Paradox’s massive grand strategy offerings in the vein of Europa Universalis, you can get your head around Leviathan quite easily. In essence, you will customize your own fleet of futuristic ocean-bound warships and put it up against the AI in a series of missions, or take it online against up to four other players. But what makes this game stand out from any other tactical skirmish game is the clear demonstration of smart, elegant design.
We only got to play with one faction in Iceland, but there will be three total when the game is released. Each match is defined by a point limit, and every ship, weapon, and upgrade you give to your fleet has a certain amount of points, leading to a ridiculous amount of customization. This is basically Warhammer on the high seas.
You have the option to mount guns and lasers on the bow, port, and starboard sides, each with their own ranges and sight lines, and that choice is important because a huge aspect of the gameplay is maneuvering. If your broadside faces away from your enemy, your enormous dreadnought won’t be worth diddly in a firefight. You can make certain ships faster or slower, depending if you want them armored or speedy, and it will be important to have at least one ship that can fly through the water to attempt to find your opponent in the game’s fog of war. But they are fragile beasts, so finding that balance between scouts going loan wolf or being backed up by a flotilla just outside of sight range will be up to you.
The game plays out in a series of turn-based rounds that happen simultaneously for both players. First, both players will plan their moves for the turn, including movement and firing. Then, once both players hit commit, the game will play out the planned moves over a 10 second span, as rockets and cannons fire away and ships jockey for position. It’s a very similar system to Fantasy Flight Games’ X-Wing Miniatures tabletop game, but it’s small enough to fit on your tablet.
And that’s essentially it; once the game finished executing your strategy, you set up and do it again. As you can imagine, the game will play out fairly quickly, probably in ten to fifteen minutes. But that does not belie its incredible depth, or the addictive nature of the combat. As soon as you get thrashed, you’ll line up to do it again. And because you can play four players at once, enjoyable chaos is the name of the game.
Even better, the game supports cross-platform cloud saves, so you can make your moves in any given game on the platform of your choice, back and forth. And because the game is asynchronous, you can literally have a handful of games going at once.
Leviathan: Warships was a huge surprise for me; I found myself sneaking in a game with Paradox’s senior producer even after all the demo sessions were finished, that’s how much fun it was. We’ll all be able to get our hands on he finished version sometime later this year.