08
May
unnamed

The seas are a dangerous place, lads. The Marauders are thick amongst the waves, and you are but an inexperienced young commander, seeking to make a name at the helm of your fleet. Your ships are heavily armed, but it's going to take more than firepower to stay afloat in Leviathan: Warships. This game is heavy on strategy, long-term planning, and attention to detail. As good as some aspects of this game are, the controls threaten to sink it before we even get out of dry dock.

Gameplay

My first impression of Leviathan was that of another top-down real-time strategy game (RTS). However, I will hand it to the developers for some smart decisions that make strategy work a little better on a tablet. This is not real-time – it's turn-based, but very smooth. You set up various actions in the planning phase – like attacks, waypoints, or just reorienting your ship, then hit the commit button and the game proceeds for 10 seconds. You can zoom in on the action, monitor your ships, and ponder your next move. You can't, however, queue up any actions until the next planning phase. You're basically playing a hybrid of turn-based and real-time games.

2013-05-07 00.02.35 2013-05-06 23.38.24

The planning/outcome method of gameplay simplifies the experience, but that's not a bad thing at all. I often find that attempts at regular RTS fail on mobile because the controls aren't precise enough. The controls in Leviathan are similarly muddy at times, but the stop-and-go approach makes it workable.

As you progress in Leviathan, you will unlock more ships designs and weapon types. When I figured out the game includes fully customizable ship building, I was floored. You get a certain number of points to spend on your fleet before each stage, with a small bump after a victory. Simply buy hulls, weapons, and defenses to assemble as you see fit. This is really neat.

2013-05-07 00.42.50 2013-05-07 20.01.54

As far as levels, there are nine offline campaign missions, which is a little light. There are also a few challenges for a quick fix of nautical combat. It's a few hours of gameplay, but most of the value is supposed to come from the much more extensive online skirmish mode. The downside of the online play is that there really isn't any. I usually don't see any active matches. Hopefully that will change in the future.

Controls

Speaking of those controls, there are both good and bad points to discuss. You can tap on any of your vessels in each planning phase to see what options you have. The forward and backward arrows will always be there, but the weapon load-outs vary from one craft to the next. To move, tap and drag on one of the arrows to set a destination. You can add waypoints after that with the plus button. The waypoint shows the number of seconds it will take to get there, so if it's longer than 10 seconds, it will take more than one turn. Tapping on a weapon mounting point gives you a target that you can drag in the same fashion, but some of your regular guns autofire at enemy ships. You can manually override, though.

2013-05-07 00.56.58 2013-05-06 18.48.48-1

There's one thing I really like about the controls, and one thing I really dislike. In the 'like' column is the way weapons are laid out. The placement of your ships matter in combat. If a powerful gun is mounted on the port side, but your starboard or stern is pointed at the enemy, that's not going to be a lot of help. Some turns all you're going to do is spin your vessels around so that you can bring the big guns to bear (this is a result of how you designed your ship). I think this brings a whole new aspect to the game, and it's great.

The 'dislike' is that the buttons to control your ships are really, really small. Sometimes it takes a few taps before you get ahold of the right handle. I get that there are a lot of controls, but this game feels like it's retaining too much of its PC lineage in the button setup. It's not unplayable, but it's in desperate need of a UI update. I played this on a Nexus 7, though. So perhaps on a larger tablet the buttons will be easier to grasp. In its current state I find myself frustrated often.

Graphics

Leviathan: Warships is a tablet-only title, but it does not appear to be restricted to Tegra devices. As such, there aren't any extra-special visual effects, but it still looks reasonably good. The ships are visually super-cool, especially the more massive ones. You spend a lot of time staring at water in this game, and I wish the designers had done something a bit more impressive with it. Some wave effects, fluid movement... something. As it is, the waves just look okay. The textures used on land are solid, but there is some aliasing throughout that I feel should have been addressed before launch. It makes an otherwise crisp game look a bit muddled when zoomed out.

2013-05-07 01.07.09

2013-05-07 00.33.59 2013-05-07 00.04.52

Performance on the Nexus 7 has been mostly good. I do see a spot of lag at the end of the 10 second action sequence from time to time, but it doesn't affect gameplay badly. I have, however, seen two crashes result from playing this title in recent days.

Conclusion

I enjoy playing Leviathan: Warships overall. The strategic gameplay is compelling, but I can't entirely forgive the undersized controls. The other problem, and the one that keeps me from giving it a positive recommendation, is that it's expensive and relies too much on online play. Nine missions isn't enough offline content at $5, and no one is playing online. Yes, I realize this is a chicken and egg situation, but there's no reason you have to hang out and wait for the egg to hatch.

2013-05-07 00.57.10 2013-05-07 00.08.34

Leviathan: Warships has great potential, but it's going to need some refits before you take your maiden voyage.

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • http://twitter.com/Jug6ernaut William

    "The other problem, and the one that keeps me from giving it a positive recommendation, is that it's expensive and relies too much on online play. Nine missions isn't enough offline content at $5, and no one is playing online."

    Do you have any idea how much money and time it takes to develop a game of this type? $5 is now too expensive? $5? Not enough content? for FIVE DOLLARS?

    Has the freemium model skewed reality this much?(I assume this is the cause).

    • Lorexae

      BTW i've found an open game after 5 sec of waiting; and i agree with William, 5 dollar is nothing compare to the work behind the game :)

    • Vandré Brunazo

      That's an awful argument, try to tell that to your investors and they'll literally cut your balls off. You can't blame the users for a flaw in your own business model. If it costs you too much to build it and not enough people is willing to pay for it, then it's your own fault, not theirs. Supply vs Demand 101.

      • http://twitter.com/Jug6ernaut William

        Im not even sure what your trying to say, but saying "literally cut your balls off" would have really got your point across if what you had said made any sense.

        Its not an argument, its reality. Tell your investors that you're going to sell your product at a price where you will never recoup your development costs, good luck with that.

        And let me get this straight, charging a specific amount based on what it cost to develop a product is now blaming the user and is a flaw in the business model? That makes sense.

        & please tell me how supply and demand applies to a medium where there is infinite supply. Unless you are referring to supply of games, in which case is also a mute point. You compare games of this caliber and they are all around the same price, again unless you comparing to the freemium model. In which you are trying to tell me that charging straight for a product is now a flawed business model? RIGHT...

        • Sergii Pylypenko

          In case of Android we have unlimited demand - Minecraft is also $5, and has more than million downloads, but it also got a name and a huge fanbase. If you start small, and ask $1-$2, you'll get more revenue, just because more users will install your game, with 100 000 downloads you'll be near the top of the chart, but with $5, user numbers will stuck at 10 000, and you'll be forgotten in 3 months. Also they need to grow userbase quick, to make online games work. And also, they don't have a free demo, a criminal omission.

    • Phill_S

      If you price at $4-5 you need to deliver extremely high quality. This is more expensive than GTA Vice City, a considerably more expensive to make AAA console port with a huge player pool who have at least heard of it.

      Right now this game has 1000-5000 installs. I honestly have no idea if this is good value for money at 5 bucks but I feel comfortable saying they would have a higher bottom line of revenue with a lower price and they are pushing themselves out of the market precisely because of the freemium model and the general expectation that a phone or tablet game will be priced at around a buck.

      The app market is far too large, fluid and established for you to look at it in a vacuum of "zomg only five bucks". You can buy all four Zeptolab games of Cut The Rope and Pudding Monsters for less. Is that an apple to orange comparison, probably, but its also fair because that is how consumers view mobile gaming right now.

      • http://twitter.com/Jug6ernaut William

        Thank you for having a civil comment, unlike Vandré Brunazo.

        You make some valid points, not ones that i can strictly counter. I think a lot of it comes down to opinion. I am an android application developer, which obviously heavily influenced my opinions on this.

        Your example here, $4-5 being more than GTA, allow me counter that. GTA VC as you said, is a port, which costs a fraction of the cost of developing a full game. That and with GTA VC it doesn't necessarily have to make a profit, could be used as a form of advertising ect. Where with the game mentioned above it is most likely there one trick pony.

        Cut the rope is a better example, But even it has flaws, Because of its game design it is much cheaper to develop, basically(like with angry birds) once you have the engine down its just a matter of fitting the pieces together to produce levels. As far as producing games and $ its a better design, its costs less to produce more content. Because of this they can sell there product at a lower cost, and more of it.

        Neither of these examples are mean as a "HA proved you wrong!" but rather to show that you cant put all these games in the same hat. You say they will could probably make more money if it was cheaper, i can assure you they took this into consideration. And depending on how initial sales go will probably adapt the price accordingly. But with that said, $5 for this game is giving it away, only because of the mentality that "apps" has given users is it as low as it is.

        Look at the profit figures for the Android Play Store, the VAST majority of $ goes to the VAST minority of developers. Undercutting prices for sales does work, but only if you are crazy popular where the raw numbers counter your small profits/sale. This can only work for a fraction of developers, and as a whole is bad for the playstore.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      It's true though, because pricing is comparative, and mobile gaming is casual. It doesn't have nearly the immersion and detail of PC or console games. People tend to buy more mobile games than PC/console games because they get bored so quickly or finish the games after a few hours.

      If tons of popular games are priced at $1-3, then $5 automatically becomes premium territory. Expectations are set. I don't think they're unreasonable, and Ryan's quote is applicable to most mobile gamers nowadays. It's not a reflection on him personally (like he's being cheap), it's rather a reflection on the mobile audience - he's putting himself into their shoes.

  • Andrew

    I think you're judging this game a little prematurely. I've heard the controls are extremely difficult to work with, so I agree with you there. However, telling people not to buy the game because there aren't enough people playing online - after less than 1 DAY of release - is a bit silly. The game's userbase is only going to get bigger.

  • Benjamin Medina

    I found it to be worth the 5 bucks it cost, sure I would have liked more offline content but the game is fine multiplayer, I can usually find open games with users or I just set up mine and the players usually come, the real flaw of the game I find is the UI is a little PCish, the buttons are hard to hit, needs larger touch areas for the buttons and it lags sometimes switching turns and building ships . Btw username on the game is "catire" if anyone wants to add me to their friends list and play :)

  • Andreas Sepúlveda

    Works just fine on my GNote 2 :O
    The text is a tad small but it runs just fine.