Review by Rogerborg

Reviewed: 02/28/06

Let's MMO like it's 1999

Premise:
WWII naval fleet combat, online only. Players earn better crew and bigger ships as they play over weeks and months.

Graphics:
2D isometric sprites (the game engine was completed in 2001, using 1999 DirectDraw technology). They actually look rather pretty, and do the job well enough, but have some serious limitations: zooming out makes everything look very shoddy and text is unreadable, and you'll be zoomed out most of the time. The animations are also very limited; ships sink in about 3 frames of animation, and only have 32 or so degrees of rotation, which is a gameplay problem when you're trying to thread your way through a mass of torpedoes.

Sound:
Tolerable enough, if very limited. Bang, splash. A 3" shell makes the same sound as an 18" shell when it hits the water next to you. Inconsistently voiced voiceovers blare at you constantly and unhelpfully, with no way to turn them off.

User Interface:
Absolutely dreadful. There are no menus to change the resolution or the music and sound effects volume, or to configure keys. Menus pop up and animate nicely, but work inconsistently, buggily and often unhelpfully; for one of many examples, while composing a text chat message, there's no indication of who it's going to be sent to (your team or all players) and the only way to cancel it is to delete it character by character, which means that you can't actually fight your ship until you've sent the message. Truly awful design.

Gameplay:
Repetitive, samey, repetitive, monotonous, and repetitive. The gameplay is seriously limited. There are only three game modes:

1) "Operation Convoy" a capture-the-flag (or crate in this case) game type that was broken when it was introduced, buggy, massively exploitable, and is currently crippled to the point where it's not even worth playing.

2) Missions, where you play against computer controlled ships in order to practice or train crew. Dull, totally repetitive (it's possible to script a macro that plays an entire mission), and also buggy, with missions not being available or not selectable when they should be.

3) Normal play. Fleet versus fleet, the core of the game. Unfortunately, due to the limitations the game hosting design, nearly every game is played on the same map, which is an open area of ocean with one tiny island in the middle. Games must be hosted before starting, often taking 20 minutes or more for a large game. There is no jump-in-and-play mode.

Gameplay is the same every time: rush forwards or stay back; fire or dodge torpedoes; shoot at enemy ships and planes. And then do it again. And again. And again. And again. Over and over and over, playing the same game for months, stuck in the same ship for weeks, with no variety or break in the monotony other than playing one of the other buggy modes.

Grinding to the level where you can get a battleship or aircraft carrier takes months of dedicated play, and even when you get there, you'll then have trouble finding anyone who will join a battle with you in it, as higher level ships can completely dominate lower level ones. On the way, you'll be stuck playing the same battle on the same map in the same ship with the same guns against the same opponents, over and over and over again.

Navy Field is ostensibly a simulation of the real ships and guns of World War II, but it quickly becomes apparent that it's not even remotely accurate. For gameplay reasons, the ranges are well out of scale, with bombers having a range only slightly longer than battleship guns. Projectile physics are simplified, not taking the firing ship's velocity into account. Massively overpowered and unbalancing fantasy ships have been added, which make the real ships obsolete. Guns and armour operate in inconsistent fashions; Japanese armour is, for example, much less effective than UK armour of the same thickness, but very non-sensically it weighs more as well.

Stability and bugs:
Poor. Dependent on your system - and newer systems aren't necessarily better - crashes can be regular occurrances. Frequent re-installs are required, and be prepared to download 250MB of new client a couple of times per month.

The nominal 128 ships per game is wildly optimistic; anything over 80 risks crashes or out of sync errors. Lag is frequent and the effects of it are gross, with the engine making no attempt to mask or work around it.

Glitches are commonplace: guns stick, or point the wrong way. Bombers can't be re-armed, torpedoes pass right through some ships, while striking others from a distance. Ships can hide just offscreen, impervious to being targetted. Some ships which should be available can't be obtained due to bugs, some are made unavailable on a whim and then re-stocked in dribs and drabs. Ships go "out of sync" and play in their own little island universes, not effecting other players in the game, and yet earning experience for it.

Many of these bugs have been in the game for years; it was released to Asian markets in 2001, and was in 'beta' in North American for a full year, so the chances of them being fixed appear minimal.

Support:
The primary support email address is a gmail address, which should tell you all that you need to know about the standard of support.

There are only two paid developer/administrators, backed up by a group of unpaid player-moderators who have no power to effect the game, only to make requests to the paid administrators. Questions on the game forums about vital basic (but undocumented) gameplay features go unanswered, or answered inconsistently by player-moderators (almost never by the administrators), suggestions are solicited and then ignored, patches are sprung unannounced, and the issues that they claim to fix frequently linger on until eventually fixed several patches later.

Cost:
Free until you reach level 30 (a couple of weeks) then either $8 or $12 per month for a regular or premium subscription, with the option to buy premium ships or boosted crew for a few dollars a time, and small discounts for subscribing in 3 or 6 month blocks.

Verdict:
Worth a look if you enjoy the genre, but take careful note of the limitations during the free play period, and be aware that the pace of change is glacially slow. If you don't enjoy the grind to level 30, you won't enjoy it afterwards, and anything that's broken while you're trying the game will still be broken when you're paying to play.

Rating:   1.5 - Bad

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