Simulation games are always going to be a mixed bag. When you’re going to make a game based around trying to get as close as humanly possible to the real thing, you’re going to run into some issues. Flight simulators are a prime example. Just about everyone I knew growing up wanted to be a pilot at one time or another. When we learned that being a pilot is a lot closer to driving a bus through the sky than to our expectations of flying through rings of fire, most of us lost interest. That’s where the games come in. Allowing us to live out these fantasies without being burdened with the more menial aspects found in difficult career fields is the entire appeal of the genre.
Ship Simulator Extremes is a simulator first and foremost. The boats react very much like their real-life counterparts. That means their inertia will result in sluggish controls with swooping turns, forcing you to plan ahead so you don’t accidentally overshoot your target. The controls themselves were fairly precise; however it will take a bit of time until you’re able to properly adjust to the way physics will play out in water. For a landlubber like me, this took a lot of getting used to, but anyone with a moderate amount of experience at sea will be able to jump right in.
During its search for realism, Ship Simulator Extremes‘ development team failed to come up with a quality navigation system for players to use. While fairly basic radar is available, it’s likely that you have a better tool in your car or cellphone right now. Ships show up as generic blobs without any distinctive markings and it’s incredibly difficult to see exactly where you’re supposed to be going. Don’t be surprised the first time you sail in the wrong direction for twenty minutes simply because the objective wasn’t clearly marked.
Ship Simulator Extremes tries to mix a bit of flair into the ultra-realistic simulation genre. I was able to sail a cruise ship to Bora Bora, chase down a ship dumping into the ocean as a member of Greenpeace, and clear a way for others through the choppy Antarctic ocean.
While there are campaigns available, calling them that is a bit of a stretch. The campaigns are made up of a few loosely interconnected missions where you’ll be handling some variation of a job at sea. The most interesting set has to be a series of missions where you’re working for Greenpeace taking pictures of boats illegally dumping oil or observing some other ne’er-do-well; however, it ultimately felt extremely hollow. The missions are overly simplistic, and I never found a way to explicitly fail one. The game’s limitations worked in my favor quite often, to be frank. A ship I was supposed to catch in the act of destroying the ecosystem would often run into the edge of the scenery and simply remain stuck until I was done taking my pictures.
It’s hang ups like this that turned this mediocre game into a laughable waste of time. For as much attention as VSTEP put into the water physics, they seemed to completely neglect the rest of the world. I bounced off icebergs without a single sound and often found myself sailing directly through some larger vessels. There was no punishment for being a bad captain and no real incentive to dodge obstacles outside of the inconvenience of possibly having to navigate around them. I’m not asking for Burnout level destruction, but something showing my boat was just involved in a major collision would have been greatly appreciated.
This is all compounded by the complete lack of sound effects in the game. Outside of the constant hum of your engine and the sound of the ocean waves hitting your bow, there’s nothing else to garner your attention. At best, it’s a lonely experience feeling like the only man alive in the ocean. It was genuinely creepy to realize how silent this game could be.
The graphics are downright deplorable for a simulation title. Everything looks extremely simplistic, and at first glance could easily be mistaken for Ship Simulator 2008. The only thing that was able to stand out as slightly impressive graphically was the ocean itself. It’s evident that VSTEP put in some time trying to give detail to the water, but outside of some very basic mist and swirling waves there was nothing to write home about. It’s better than an infinite plane of blue, but just barely
One of the selling points of this title is the ability to walk around the ship, but allowing close-up inspections only shows how poor everything looks. Taking a brisk walk around the bridge can be fun for a few moments, but after walking through obstacles becomes old there’s no incentive to stay. While the bridge does show an impressive amount of controls waiting for the captain, you’re going to be limited to a steering wheel and throttle regardless of your viewpoint.
Some very minor attention to detail would have greatly improved the visuals. Simple things such as showing a reflection of the craft in the water or smoothing out the details on objects would have given some life to Ship Simulator Extremes, but as it is I have to wonder if the entire game was written on an outdated engine.
Lastly, Ship Simulator Extremes commits the cardinal sin of video games: it shows zero respect for your time. With no time compression, it wasn’t uncommon for a mission to last 45 minutes thanks to the game’s frustrating waiting times. Without exaggeration, at one point I simply pointed my vessel in the correct direction before walking away to start cooking dinner. Without an option to speed things up, this game becomes boring quickly.
While Ship Simulator Extremes was released back in 2010, this collection includes all of the DLC that has been released for it since its debut. Additionally, it addresses complaints that were made regarding the fact that there weren’t any real missions in the game. However, it unfortunately feels incomplete, even at this stage. Downloadable content is usually meant to add on to an experience, as a way to give us a new way to play through the game, but this is simply a Band-Aid over a bullet hole.
I generally don’t like being this hard on a game, and I often force myself to think outside of the box to see if this could cater to a different audience. I wasn’t able to think of a single group of gamers who could get any enjoyment out of this. It’s a glitchy mess of poor ideas scraped together under the false pretense of being a simulation game. There isn’t enough realism to cater towards the hardcore simulation fans, and casual fans will find that it won’t help them find their sea legs. The most enjoyment I had during my time spent with Ship Simulator Extremes was watching how fast I could uninstall it. Somehow, I think you’re better off not buying a game if that’s going to be the most memorable part.
This review is based on a copy of the game that was provided to us for review purposes.
Outside of a select crowd of boating aficionados, few people will be able to justify purchasing the Ship Simulator Extremes Collection. It's simply not realistic enough to be considered a top flight simulator, and doesn't offer anything to attract a more casual audience.