STAFF REVIEW of Ships Simulator (Xbox One)

Friday, February 3, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Ships Simulator Box art Ships Simulator is the latest sim title from Ultimate Games, a studio with a plethora of sim based games under their belt. Given how long I’ve been reviewing games, I’ve played my fair share of sim games, though nothing quite like Ships Simulator. Simulator games usually aim to recreate certain jobs or careers, and while Ships Simulator is no different, there was a lot more arcade-like gameplay to it instead.

Doing some research, I first noticed that Ships Simulator looked basically identical to another game, Ships 2017. Turns out it’s actually the same game, simply ported for console. Same game, same logo and font, same 2017 era of graphics. This to me felt a little disingenuous, as it’s not really advertised as the same game from 6+ years ago, though when you press the Xbox Logo button it’s clearly labelled as Ships 2017.

Ships Simulator aims to recreate the role of controlling, well, ships. Not just regular boats though, the massive ones that you see by the docks and ports in major cities. Think of the massive cargo container ships that hauls hundreds of containers across sea, or the oil rig stations that are colossal in size, those will be the type of ships you’ll be utilizing for a variety of different missions.

While there’s no overall narrative or story, you’ll eventually being taking over three separate vessels, each with their own mission types and objectives before moving onto the next. You begin with a Cargo Ship, then a Construction rig, then a Heavy Duty lifting ship. Each of these ships have eight missions per, and once complete a special extra mission will unlock for a total of 25. Missions will vary from loading cargo containers, unloading them, bringing cargo from one dock to another, gathering parts from the ocean, rescuing crew, warding off pirates and more.

Having completed all missions including the special extra one, it was tedious, boring and frustrating to do so due to its poor controls and even worse visuals and audio. When the credits rolled, it was seemingly stuck and I was forced to quit out, not a great final memory to the experience. I’ll be honest, if I wasn’t reviewing the game I would have given up long before completion, and I was glad it was over and could uninstall.

To begin your naval career you first must choose a ship to purchase and repair. This is easy due to only being able to afford one of the three ships, so why it’s prefaced like a choice I’m unsure. Once you buy the Cargo Ship to begin you’ll first need to make any repairs before it’s seaworthy. This is done simply by choosing the broken part on a menu then clicking a button to repair. Wait a few seconds and the repair is complete. Why this is a part of the gameplay I’m unsure, as it’s seemingly just meant to be something you spend a portion of your profits on.

As you complete missions you’ll earn money, eventually able to purchase an oil rig-like vessel that has a crane, meant for moving material and construction, and then the transport vessel with a unique submerging ability. Every vessel plays very unique from one another, each having their own types of missions as well. The container Ship missions are generally quite straight forward, but the Construction Ship was easily the most time consuming due to its frustrating and annoying crane controls. Even though this is a Ship Simulator, you can’t sail the open seas. You’re actually quite restricted to where you can go, and with how slow the overall gameplay is, you wouldn’t want to sail out to open waters even if you could. Each mission has a tight play area and you need to stay within its boundaries.

The Container Ship will have your first missions about using the dock’s lift to load those containers from the back of semi-trucks onto the vessel. This opening mission will show you how unintuitive the controls and camera is, so prepare for a few hours of that going forward. You’ll have another mission to bring the ship to another dock which is how they introduce the awkard sailing controls. Of course at the other dock you’ll then need to unload a certain amount of containers onto trucks waiting.

With those basic missions out of the way you should now have enough cash banked to purchase the second ship, which I’m labelling the Construction Ship due to its crane you’ll need to use to pick up freight and parts and maneuver elsewhere. While it’s the same amount of missions like the other two ships, a total of eight per, this ship will take the bulk of your time with the game due to how finicky and awkward its controls are. You have different controls for moving the ship and then another separate set for the crane itself, neither of which feel intuitive. The crane hook has to almost be perfect to attach, but the camera doesn’t make it very easy to line up and figure out which way you need to maneuver the crane or ship to pick up the freight.

The final ship, the Transport Ship, I actually enjoyed the most, because it was the easiest to control. It has a unique ability to submerge its deck, so the majority of its missions were to motor over to some broken or abandoned ships, submerge your deck, slide underneath the ship and then move the deck back up the surface level to attach to the deck before bringing it back to the dock or a specified area.

Anytime you crash into an object or another ship, your vessel becomes damaged, meaning you’ll need to spend some of your earnings on repairs or part replacements. Money never really became an issue, but something to keep in mind. Take enough damage and the mission might instantly fail, so you can’t simply bump and push ships out of the way for fear of needing to restart the lengthy levels all over again.

Oddly enough, there’s a few missions that don’t really have much to do with the ships themselves, but instead focus on the crew. The first is putting out fires on the ship. You need to command each of the crew to do something, like grabbing a fire extinguisher and then to go battle a fire. This is done with a simple top down view of the ship and just with icons of the crew and equipment. These missions are incredibly confusing with their controls and were hands down the worst part of the whole experience. There’s another similar mission later with the same premise, but having your crew defend against pirates trying to take over the ship, so you need to have them man certain water cannons to survive waves of enemies. Again, these missions were terrible, confusing and just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the game.

While ship enthusiasts may quite enjoy being able to control unique vessels like these, the gameplay itself becomes quite repetitive and dull. Each mission has an objective to complete, sometimes with a handful of steps, but it’s very linear without any freedom to solve how to do so on your own. The game itself isn’t difficult, but dealing with the controls are. Controls are slow, the camera is a nightmare to deal with constantly, and it just never feels like it gets better even after a handful of hours in.

At default, the speed is set to 1X. You will never finish Ships Simulator at 1X. These aren’t speedboats, they are massive slow moving ships. Thankfully you can crank of the speed to 2X or 4X if you’d like, but even at 2X it was excruciatingly slow. 4X at the best of times was barely tolerable, but needs to be set every time if you want the feeling of any progress at all. The problem with 4X is that it feels as though the controls are sped up as well, so the camera whips around and trying to move the crane hook into an exact position is a constant battle as well. On that note, camera is defaulted to the Left Stick, not right, so I constantly made mistakes using the wrong stick, even until the final mission.

Ships Simulator is probably one of the ugliest games I’ve played in quite some time. I don’t mean that as an insult, but it’s simply the truth. The water looks terrible, lightning and thunder is sure to give someone a seizure or blow out your ears if you’re wearing a headset, and the draw distance is so incredibly short you can’t even plan the proper way to the port for unload because a wall or island appear in front of you last minute. It looks like a mobile game from 2017 at the best of times. The music is no better, with annoying loops repeated over and over that you’ll want to mute.

I can deal with the poor visuals and audio if the game itself is entertaining, but unfortunately I was just glad each mission completion was getting me closer to the credits rolling and an uninstall. Tons of bugs, glitches and terrible controls just made it a slog to get through. While they are an easy string of achievements to nab, priced at $18.99 CAD is far too much for the amount of frustration. I don’t generally enjoy focusing on the negatives, but when there are so few positives things to note, you might want to avoid this shipwreck.

**Ships Simulator was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 2.0 / 10
Gameplay: 2.5 / 10
Visuals: 1.5 / 10
Sound: 2.0 / 10


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