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Complex and detailed maritime thrills
The Great Naval Battles series is a pretty extensive line-up of detailed and complex strategy games that do exactly what they say on the tin: provide players with the chance to re-enact some of the most historically important maritime conflicts from recent history. In this instalment, it's the war in the Pacific from WWII that gets the attention, specifically Guadalcanal, where a series of massive battles took place in the remote Solomon Islands from 1942-1943. A pretty substantial array of scenarios are on display here, including two full campaigns and several carrier and tactical battles and which include the use of around 100 different ship types and twenty planes. Players get to build their fleets with this authentic and detailed selection of units and then engage the enemy forces across the land, sea and in the air. The game provides a nice mix of the exciting, with the tension and chaos of battle, and the more mundane as you must also carefully manage your resources in order to keep your fleet in good standing. For the most part, this works pretty well and it is a pleasingly complex affair splitting your time between these two vital aspects of warfare, with plenty of details that need attention. The enemy AI is fortunately of a good standard and puts up a stiff challenge, while the scenarios and campaigns are fairly epic in nature and will keep you going for some time. Visuals too are surprisingly impressive for such a game but there are a few niggles with things like the interface which can be clunky and awkward. If you can get past these though, this makes for an intriguing alternative to the likes of Pacific War.
Detailed but cumbersome naval operations sim
I would argue that creating a basic but functional simulation doesn't take a lot of effort. What is harder to do however, is create the kind of envelope and the kind of balance that will allow that simulation to be fun to play. Great Naval Battles 2 is a game somewhere on the line of good user experience and a too detailed simulation. The game is an operations simulator game that details the management of naval warfare in the World War 1. There is also some military simulation going on, as your ships will engage on combat, but there is also quite a good chunk of menial simulation works – repairs, management of fleets, personnel and so on. Therefore, it is quite hard to say that this game strikes a good balance between simulation and playability, demonstrating quite well that sims and tactical/management games have it quite hard when it comes to deciding what they want to offer. So, only if you're a very passionate sim of the naval warfare management range will you find this one palatable, though I reckon not too much fun, not even in sim game terms.