Have you ever wanted to escape your real job and try doing a job in a virtual world that involves sailing a ship? This game probably doesn’t bring, “fun” into that factor, but it does work on a simulation level.
When it comes down to most simulators I’ve played, they’re always trying to throw in some fun alongside the usual tasks that whatever job you’re doing requires. That may be some physics hilarity, or some bugs going on that were never fixed. It adds to the funny side of it. Yes, I am referring to simulators such as, Giants Software’s, Farming Simulator, and Demolition Company, or even, Coffee Stains, Goat Simulator. I can say games like IL2 Sturmovik, or Car Mechanic Simulator 2015 Ships 2017 takes the simulator genre very seriously it seems…and it’s boring. Sort of.
To start with you start the game with a small tutorial, walking you through the main menu, and ship buying process. The money is signified in dollars, but also shows a K which seems to be the main currency over the dollar. This is very confusing. Usually, adding a K signifies a thousand. The game seems to use a K in the same way we use a penny, or cents. The only currency that is “K” is Kyat’s which is used in Burma. But the game takes place up in Norway/Sweden/Denmark. The developers are Polish, which is directly in between them, and dollars are American. I nearly had a mental breakdown trying to figure this out so it’ll be easier to just refer to the entire currency system as a points system because then it made more sense. So I will proceed this piece referring to money as points.
The first ship you buy is the only ship you can buy to begin with, and there are two other ships that are worth 200,000+ points. Each ship brings a different sailing experience, which I’ll go through soon. The tutorial continues to talk you throughout the gameplay, but seems to distract you with a dialog box that cannot be moved, and will get in the way of your view whilst still asking you to click elements on the screen. If you press the “x” symbol to close it then you lose the tutorial dialog and it can’t teach you anything. It’s a bit awkward.
Amongst the 24 missions, the first ship you are made to sail is a big container ship. This ship begins with you learning how to load it with containers. A small tip here, ensure you switch the timing from standard to X8. The actual game in real time is incredibly slow, something I realized after I spent nearly 45 minutes waiting for my crane to move from one side of the ship to the other. Using a huge crane system, you start transporting a number of containers onto the ship, dropping them into highlighted areas, and trying to not cause any damage to your ship by using your huge machine. Once that level is completed you move onto actual sailing, which again, if you don’t change the timing of the world to X8 it’ll feel like you aren’t even moving at all. Your goal is to sail into a dock and park up…that’s the correct term for parking a ship? Yes? The next few levels are a mixture of what you’ve done, one is unloading your ship, the other is sailing through stormy seas, although there is no difference to sailing on calm waters. No physics are involved, no waves are generated, it is literally just a few flashes of lightning, and some rain particles overlapped on the gameplay. There’s also a level in which you get to control a small towing boat that helps tug the boat out from the docks and into open water.
Eventually the game introduces you to the ships crew management gameplay. This involves a top down view of your container ship, and some small squares with the symbol of a man within them. There are squares around the ship with symbols within them, and depending on the type of crew management system that is being played, the symbols will be different. These crew management moments are very buggy I found, with the crew sometimes not mounting the ships part but instead being stuck next to it, and you being unable to assign another crew member because the stuck one never got to finish his task of mounting it. Frustrating, especially when you’re one task away from completing the level. The crew management systems include saving overboard members, putting out fires, and even stopping pirate ships trying to board and steal your cargo. Yar.
Once you’ve finally finished repairing your ship, and earning mone…points from completing tasks, you can then unlock the next ship, which works as a deep sea ship with two cranes attached, going out and repairing damaged ships, constructing wind farms, and repairing underwater pipelines. During these missions, accidentally sailing, or pushing objects into things will cost you points, and once again, you’ll mostly be playing in x8 to make it feel somewhat productive. There are two control schemes for this, one is the actual ship control, also allowing you to rotate, rather than turn, and the other controls the crane(s).
The third ship available introduces you to a ship I found rather cool and didn’t know existed. It steers as a normal boat, but the entire center descends when activated, submerging that part of the ship, so you can position the platform underneath a boat, then ascend, bringing the ship you’re underneath above water, and transportable. The controls for this ship bundle a mixture of the previous two ships, using the control system in which you end up tapping for different speeds, and the system when underwater that comes from the second ship, allowing you to sort of, glide around.
As much as Ships 2017 may be incredibly slow, and drags on, it does offer some sort of satisfaction to playing it, and once you get the hang of the controls, especially with the crane, you end up just whizzing through it. I do think there could have been an easier way to change the time, maybe a hot key or something. The thing is though, I don’t know if there is because there isn’t a remapping option. In all honesty there isn’t much need for remapping, the mouse and WASD and Q, and E keys do the job fine, but there are times switching the time comes in handy. Switching it to X8 helps battle the super slow movements, whereas dropping down to X2, or X4 can help when it comes down to tasks that need planning, or are timed.
The game also seems to bring a lot of attention to the ship parts, educating you on the areas of the ship without you realising it. Even when you buy your ship from the start, it will need repairs and regeneration’s (cost less than repairs) – basically, you buy a second hand ship, but hey, it does the job. The repair process could be made easier by installing some type of, “Fix all” button, but I suppose the devs were pushing for people to learn about their ships rather than just sail blindly.
Graphically Ships 2017 doesn’t look all that bad, but when you focus your attention on it, especially when everything is so slow – I know, I’ve mentioned this several times now – you start to notice things, like the sea isn’t dynamic, it’s just animated tiles basically acting as a looping ripple, the skybox looks a touch stretched, and when playing it on ultra, the bloom kind of disguises that. The rain just feels like a filter placed over the camera rather than feeling like a 3D weather system, and the ships textures seem a little bit flat due to the shading that doesn’t really stand out; but despite that, the game does still hold a charm to it, it looks nice, and it’s not harsh on the eyes. Some vibrancy could maybe make it more interesting to look at but…how can you make murky European seas look appealing really? Well, I guess making the sounds of the sea appear real is one way, and as it happens the sounds are rather high quality, although the music didn’t really sit right with me. I ended up just turning that down and playing the game with my own soundtrack. The other thing related to the graphics is the lighting, it isn’t believable, and instead, especially at night, it acts as an omnidirectional light, covering areas that are otherwise supposed to be blocked out by solid objects.
Ships 2017 isn’t that bad of a game in all honesty, it certainly takes the word, “simulator” and puts that into action far too seriously, but it is a simulator, it does what it sets out to do, it feels real, and the sailing, docking systems are very fullfilling once you’ve done them. The crew management not so much, and it only plays a small role in the game. The only way this could be made better would if the missions felt like missions rather than mini games or tutorials.