The Silent Hunter series is known for one thing above all else, it’s authenticity to the subject matter of submarines and u-boats. With its arrival in the realm of the free-to-play browser, something that Ubisoft are really championing this year at Gamescom, it’s nice to see that the content on offer to fans hasn’t been watered down to produce a game that doesn’t live up to the high expectations that fans are used to.
Like many of Ubisoft’s F2P online titles set for release – such as Heroes Online, Duel of Chapions and Anno Online - Silent Hunter Online is both rather surprisingly pretty to look at, and utilises a ‘fair-to-play’ method of monetization. This means that you’ll be paying to restock your U-boats faster, or travel to destinations and battles quicker; but you wont be paying to make your submarine more powerful, or anything that’s going to be game breaking. Silent Hunter Online also looks pretty swish thanks to the power of Flash 11, and the fact that it utilises assets from Silent Hunter 5, so for those who have followed the series through, you’ll know just what to expect in terms of visual quality as well as content scope, as once again this is a title that is seen by Ubisoft as the next boxed iteration – albeit without a box.
As BlueByte want to create a title that fans will love, all the changes and tweaks have come from fan feedback, meaning that you now command an entire flotilla of U-boats and thanks to it’s persistent online nature, you’ll be able to form wolfpacks with other players and work together to dispatch battalions. This also means that each and every player has an active role in the online campaign – with each decision meaning the AI learns alternative routes to get around previous tactics and limitations. For example if another set of players take out a supply route, the AI will then alter how it brings supplies to its forces: meaning that you’ll then have a new route and skirmish to deal with, and old tactics wont work twice. It’s a great way of keeping you on your toes.
In terms of what you alone can do, you’ll have an entire flotilla at your command, meaning you’ve got to plan your own tactical assaults well – and you can switch between your boats to take charge of each individual situation. You’ll have six captains under your command, who will also offer some assistance on their own in each skirmish, but ultimately you have a team of crew and officers who’ll do whatever you say. You can even manage them, as well as upgrade – and even build – your own U-boat while you’ve docked at port.
As authenticity is the aim of the team, they’ve actually accurately reproduced a World War I naval map that was used and remains in the national archives. This means, for those of you that are interested in such matters, that you’ll be plotting course and navigating by the same maps that were used in real situations during the 1910s. The only slight caveat for historical aficionados is that none of the situations you play through are actual battles that happened during the war. Instead they are inspired by, and run off, realistic battles that happened during that period around the Atlantic. Even more battles and areas to fight can be added later if they need to be.
The visuals may be plain, but quite honestly they don’t need to be extravagant and vibrant when the tone of the game is more befitting the cold tactical approach the game presents. It’s definitely not a game that’s made for everyone – and BlueByte knows this – but they’ve done the best they can to make this both an incredibly engaging experience for Silent Hunter fans, as well those who haven’t ever touched a simulated U-boat in any way.