Leviathan: Warships Preview (PC)

Paradox are becoming dreamers. Ever since Magicka let them explode onto the mainstream gaming scene, they’ve been looking for new ways to innovate and bring something fresh to the industry. While the Arrowhead guys are bringing a new offering in the form of The Showdown Effect, we were shown a glimpse of a very different gaming experience all together. One of the messages of this year’s Paradox Convention was ‘Ubiquitous’ gaming, essentially platform agnostic products. Leviathan Warships is hoping to be the first in a series of such product, which Paradox hope gamers on PC’s, Macs, iOS and Android tablet devices will all be able to play together with.

Leviathan Warships is a turn-based tactics game with a simple concept that provides depth through micro-management, and the turn-based nature of the game stops this fact from being too overwhelming or too much to handle all at once. You get to control a small flotilla of ships, which can be a combination of light, medium or heavy vessels across 11 separate classes. Each ship has a number of hard points where you can equip offensive or defensive weapons, which include abilities like Shields, Cloaks, and some really sweet weaponry like Rail guns. Depending on what you’re doing, the size of your fleet can vary – everything boils down to points, and the maximum any single game can have is 8000 points (with lower increments available) so you have to outfit your fleet wisely.

The shipyard. Let ship the dogs of war

The pacing of the game is the most interesting thing about Leviathan – on paper, it doesn’t sound like it should work. It's turn based, so you give orders to your ships, micro-manage the weapons, angles, movements etc... and then the game plays out your orders for ten seconds. After that, the game pauses and you get to either change or keep your orders as they are. It’s an odd way to pace a game, and on the bigger maps you can easily click through five or so turns before you actually pin down your opponent. When the two sides spot each other, that’s when things really get interesting. Obviously the orders you give have to last for ten second, or at least a good chunk of that. It requires a lot of tactical forethought, as once the turn starts playing out there’s no going back.

This is where Leviathan’s game elements really start to shine though – most weapons will fire automatically provided you’re in range (and there’s a minimum range for the bigger guns too, so getting up close doesn’t actually help), but some weapons need to be aimed and fired manually as well. As we mentioned above, there are also abilities you can use. We’ve only encountered ‘Cloak’ and ‘Shield’ so far, but both have their uses as you’d expect. Shield allows you to put up a defensive wall on one side of your ship, so positioning is key with this one. Cloaking allows you to remain invisible for a certain amount of turns, which makes it excellent for light scout vessel, or moving some powerful ships to the rear of the enemy formation. There’s a lot of tactical micro-management involved that we think will really cater to people who like more strategy orientated games, even board games like Chess.

Outside of the actual combat and the matches themselves, there’s not a lot of complexity to the make-up of the game – there’s a campaign, which comprises of nine missions that can be done co-operatively. There’s ‘challenges’, which seem to be made up of missions similar to the campaign missions ,except you get to out-fit your own fleet (this can also be done co-operatively), and then there’s the competitive multiplayer element. The game can support up to four player co-op, and in competitive you have options of 1v1, 1v2 or 2v2 gameplay, with modes like Team Deathmatch and ‘Assassin’.

Using reconnaissance is key on making sure your enemy doesn’t get the drop on you

If you’re not actually playing through a mission, either on your own or with/against friends, you’ll probably be spending most of your time in the shipyard. This is where you can create fleet templates, and edit the load-outs of individual ships. At launch, there’s going to be 16 offensive and defensive weapons, which can be used across the 11 ship classes that we mentioned earlier. Further to that, those classes are spread across two factions, each with their own hard-point layout and ship style. The battle is probably going to be half-won or lost in this shipyard interface, so it’ll be worth learning what works well with what so you can create a fleet for any situation.

Paradox may be being a bit optimistic when it comes to the vision of Leviathan. Apple is definitely going to be the biggest hurdle, being a closed system. At the very least, you’ll probably be able to get Mac-PC and then iOs-Android to play together, but to get all four will take a bit of work. Not to mention the different pricing structure inherent to both markets... like I said, Paradox are dreamers. Still, regardless of the business side, the product side is so far looking good. The easy interface, the challenge in managing your fleet, the good visual style and the basic fun of going toe-to-toe, mind-to-mind against your foes is going to be a major draw for this game, so keep your eyes peeled. Leviathan Warships is due out on PC, Mac, iOS & Android devices sometime in Q2 2013.

Most Anticipated Feature: Nothing specifically stands out, but from what we played it seems pretty fun.


By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 07, 2013
I look forward to spending much time in the shipyards. Not a big fan of micromanagement in rela time strategy, being turn-based will allow for time, patience and therefore attention to detail. It might work, and I hope it does. Still, this is PI and saying that it could be a hit, but then could equally be a miss. Bit like "Battleships":)