Warship Gunner 2 is the sequel to 2003’s “Naval Ops: Warship Gunner” from developer Micro Cabin and publisher KOEI. Taking place in an alternate Earth, this game is about naval combat both above and below the surface of the ocean, from designing your ship all the way through combat against land, sea and air forces from the early parts of World War Two through current-day naval forces. Added to this mix this time is submarines. The game also consists of an immense number of ship components and upgrades, and there’s over a hundred missions in total.
As with many of KOEI’s titles, the original Naval Ops: Warship Gunner was more of a niche title for those interested in naval real-time strategic combat. With the addition of more types of ships and more battles as well as submarines, can Warship Gunner 2 break out of its niche to find mainstream acceptance?
One of the first things visually noticed in Warship Gunner 2 is that it’s nothing really out of the ordinary. The ship graphics are solid and unremarkable, especially for a title that is this late in the PS2’s development cycle. The character graphics and static scenes, on the other hand, look very nice, although one has to wonder about some of the character designs, as they look much more anime-based rather than realistic.
Each ship looks distinctive, and it’s relatively easy to make out most of the details on the ships, although fine details can easily fade into the background. Speaking of fading into the background, however, the text used on the OSD is…small, to say the least. On a 27″ television from ten feet away, the size of the font used made it very difficult if not impossible to read much of the text in the OSD, which in turn made it very hard to aim at targets manually. This leads to a large amount of frustration, especially when you’re trying to nail down one last specific target.
Immediately upon putting the disc into the console, it’s easy to tell that very little of the design budget went towards voice acting in Warship Gunner 2. In fact, outside of hearing someone announce that the ship is going full speed, stopping, going into reverse or suffering some major sort of damage, or that you’ve crippled or destroyed a target, there’s absolutely no voice in the game. With the rather large amount of dialogue involved in the storyline, that’s almost criminal. It would have gone a long way towards making you feel part of the story, rather than just reading about it. If the voices hadn’t been where they were, the lack of other voices wouldn’t have been nearly so noticeable.
The music itself in the game is relatively nice, with good martial tunes and dramatic overtures. The battle fanfare is also quite respectable. The sounds of the ships in combat are solid, and the rattle of the various weapons and the sound of your ship slicing through the waves comes through very nicely. The only real problem is that there seems to be so little variety in the music. With a game this large, it deserves a music score just as large to do it justice.
If you’re comfortable with the Armored Core games and the controls in them, you’ll feel right at home with Warship Gunner 2. The controls are very similar in some ways, with the left analog stick handling your targeting sight while actual ship movement is handled with L1 and R1. You can, however, toggle auto-steering with the square button, which allows you to steer with the left analog stick. You can change your weaponry with the triangle and X button, which move the weaponry slots up and down respectively. Firing is simply handled by the circle button, although quite often you’ll find yourself wanting to pound out as much ordinance as quickly as you can. In these cases, you’ll press and hold the L2 button, which will turn on automatic countermeasures.
The speed of your ship can be changed by pressing up to go to a faster speed and down to go to a slower speed. You’ve also got the option to turn on a scope for finer targeting by using the R2 button. The select button changes the range on your radar map while the start button goes to a battle map and menu. The right analog stick can zoom the camera in as well as go into a binocular mode to let you see things in the distance at greater detail, to perhaps help you chart a course or choose targets.
For those missions that you’re in a submarine, the L2 and R2 buttons change to allow you to cause your submarine to both dive and surface, respectively. Also, the right analog stick allows you to use your periscope.
As stated before, Warship Gunners 2 is very much a niche title for those who like combat simulations as well as ship building. Much like the Armored Core series, a good half to two-thirds of the game is meant to be used experimenting with different ship builds to find the one that’s best for the mission at hand. To assist with this, you can go back and re-try any previous mission to help you earn enough money to keep your ship well-stocked in parts.
The actual design part of the game is surprisingly well-detailed, with the ability to place numerous objects on the ship including the height and orientation of each. This allows you to fully customize each ship you gain so that it can be the death-dealing machine that it’s meant to be.
The game actually does have a storyline, however, in a change from the previous title. Set in an alternative timeline where part of Asia was settled by European transplants and titled Wilkia. Wilkia gained its independence in the early 20th century, and joined in on World War 1 on the side of Germany, Japan and Great Britain, helping them to victory. It’s now the dawn of World War 2, and Wilkia has just suffered a coup, casting the player as a rebel.
The game then sends you through the storyline, complete with anime-inspired static cut scenes which takes you all the way through victory. In case that’s not enough, when you defeat the campaign (lasting through over sixty areas and over a hundred missions), you have the option to play again with all of your previous items, in a New Game+ option.
The addition of a storyline is nice, but it feels almost more tacked on, with no voice acting to speak of, and a lot of text reading. It feels almost ancient in comparison to other games coming out lately.
Let’s be honest. When you’ve got a somewhat-solid title that’s definitely aimed at a niche, the value is going to be good only for those into the game. Throwing in the $39.99 price tag, it’s even more of a rental for those who aren’t quite sure about it. Warship Gunner 2 won’t make many converts, especially with the game engine having difficulties maintaining frame rate at times, the lack of voice acting, and the somewhat simplistic combats.
For those people who like their strategy in-depth and also enjoyed the Armored Core series, this is probably a good title for purchase. For those who aren’t so sure, it might be worth a rental, but definitely isn’t worth $40 to them.
A good point, however, is that if you do like this game, there’s a lot of detail, with the 100+ missions, the huge amount of ship-building you can do, and the New Game+ feature.