the writings of a mind

Title: Enigma: Rising Tide
Genre: Simulation
Strap: If God had meant us to sail, he’d have given us rudders. John Walker sets about sinking everyone’s hopes.

Maintaining realism in historical simulations has always proven a little awkward. If you are to truly have the freedom to influence the outcome of a game, you’re going to end up with situations in which things don’t quite work out the same as dictated by your history text books. So when Nelson is defeated by the armies of Caesar along the Australian border, attempts at accuracy can end up looking very forced. Tesseraction Games have stumbled upon a unique method of escaping this dilemma: they’ve called their game "a history that never was".

You’re history

When Enigma was originally announced last year, it was purported to be a massive multiplayer sea battle simulation. However, what has emerged is a very peculiar single-player game, offering you the chance to board a boat or submarine, and write a new chapter of the 20th century. Very peculiar indeed.

It’s set in 1937, and you have the choice of playing as one of three factions – the United States, Imperial Germany, or the League of Free Nations – each with their own sets of one-off ‘patrols’, and story-led campaigns. And then each of these have two alternative ways to play – above the sea on an armed vessel, or beneath in a submarine.

But too much choice is not often a good thing. Perhaps if all the effort had been put into creating a game playing as one nation, in one type of vessel, then there might have been something happening here. But as it is, each and every section is so sparse and featureless that it all looks like a pencil-sketched outline for a simulation.

All at sea

Interaction is limited to mouse-clicking on a radar screen to choose a direction to go in, and then clicking on small green circles to fire weapons. The extraordinarily bizarre first-person perspective makes everything a fight against the mouse to see where on earth you are heading, and what is blowing you up from behind.

Submarines are absolutely no fun whatsoever to command. When afloat, they are quickly blown up, and when submerged, they are entirely unmanoeuvrable, with a horribly awkward periscope to do battle with. Boats are somewhat better, but since there are no real-time controls, you still never feel as though you are in command of the thing.

And then none of this is helped by the half-finished feel of the graphics and menus, the latter blinking madly whenever you click on the numerous buttons that don’t do anything.

Um, what else? Oh, there’s no tutorial, and the manual tells you nothing of how to actually play. The so-called ‘training’ missions do no such thing. There are horrible bugs when vessels get too close to each other, and get stuck. And it’s all so painfully, painfully, slow. Hard to recommend.

Reality check:
Submarines are in fact not made out of spaghetti, as is often believed.

 "Proof it’s impossible to drown your sorrows."


Tech Specs:

Publisher: GMX
Price: £30
Minimum System: PIII 800, 256 Mb RAM, 32Mb 3D card
Recommended:PIII 1Gb, 512 Mb RAM, 64 Mb 3D card
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