Review: Silent Depth04 Jan 2017 2
Review: Silent Depth
Released 06 Dec 2016
Silent Depth-Submarine Simulator leaves me in two rather prickly binds as a fan of sub sims and as a writer. Firstly Silent Depth-Submarine Simulator is far too long a title so I’ll just be calling it Silent Depth from here on out. My second bind is that I’m only aware of one other subsim of any note on android and I’ve sadly neglected to play it. So do I judge Silent Depth by the same standards as such PC giants as Silent Service and Silent Hunter? Or do I cut it some slack due to obvious limitation of its platform?
Between the royalty-freeKevin McLeod music, the fuzzy menu buttons and the fact that you can practically count the polygons on the sub in the background it’s obvious that Silent Depth is a relatively low-budget affair. Brought to us by a two-man team who go by the name Codeknitters Silent Depth places you at the helm of a Gato or Balao sub in the pacific theatre during the Second World War.
Your two options of play are the game’s one training mission and 'war patrols'. The training mission is less of an actual training mission and more of a mini scenario in which you’re given free reign to dispatch a lone freighter. If you’ve played literally any other sub sim the words “war patrol” will most likely be as familiar as a childhood lullaby. For those who are unaware though war patrol sees you scouring your area of operations (The Pacific) looking for Japanese ships to introduce to Davy Jones. After a while you’ll likely start running low on torpedoes, fuel or some other vital resource and will be forced to dock back at you home port of Midway. There all of the shipping you’ve sunk will be tallied up and you're essentially just trying to rack up as many points as you can before the war ends or you get too cocky and accidentally ram a destroyer. Ok maybe the last one’s just me.
You navigate about the Pacific using your map which has two zoom levels, detailed and undetailed. Simply tapping the map in undetailed will have you speeding towards your chosen destination in quick-time. Every so often you’ll be interrupted by enemy vessels and will be given the choice to engage or not. It pays to read these screens before engaging as they provide key details such as the enemy's bearing and the visibility.
Upon entering an engagement you then enter into the detailed map mode that displays your precise location and known locations of any enemies in view or sonar range. Placing waypoints on this map mode and speeding up time will make your sub autopilot towards them which is extremely useful if you don’t want all your engagements to take forever. A good strategy is to surface since you’ll be faster that way and, keeping visibility and spotting ranges in mind, cut ahead of your target before submerging and lying in wait. If an engagement ever gets a little too hot for your liking you can exit by tapping the undetailed map so long as you’re not under attack.
You have two types of shipping to look out for, merchant and wartime. Merchant comes in the form of nice fat bellied freighters, tankers and other such targets who are just begging to be torpedoed. Without armed escorts they are literally defenseless and make easy pickings. Moving onto wartime shipping you have armed vessels such as battleships and destroyers. Destroyers are easily my favourite part of the game as they are the only vessels I encountered that were capable of causing me harm. Evading/killing destroyers is a tense affair as you try your best to close the distance and get off a couple good torpedoes whilst avoid deadly depth charges. Also I would recommend that basically everyone turn up the game difficulty after after you’ve gotten to grips with the controls. In my experience what that does is up the amount of destroyers patrolling around in your AO which makes things a lot more exciting.
Since looks aren't everything I’m trying not to be too hard on Silent Depth in that department but it has to be said that the game isn't exactly easy on the eyes. The ships you encounter are all smooth and featureless, and all sink using the exact same animation. Shells from you deck gun will also routinely just pass through things like smoke stacks and superstructures so remember to aim low, though aiming low will make you sub disappear off your screen for a bit; but don’t be alarmed by that. But with that being said Silent Depth does have some nice touches. The water is rather pretty and I appreciate the effects on the periscope when you raise and lower it.
Finally we get to my biggest complaint about Silent Depth: the controls and UI. I don’t envy the task Codeknitters had before them when they took a format designed for keyboard and mouse and tried to replicate it in a touchscreen format. To their credit they did a decent job but it sadly does leave a lot to be desired. A lot of the controls are pretty close together and when you have big butcher’s fingers like me that means you’ll be slamming into full reverse when you just actually wanted to turn right. With a game like this that’s based off of patience and precision it can be extremely irritating at times. There are a few other irritating quirks for instance, while nice, clear text shows up when you take damage the same does not occur when you sink or damage enemy ships. This means that if you fire off a few torpedoes to dispatch an enemy and then quickly dive deeper to avoid reprisal you’ll only know whether you’ve racked up a kill or not when you go back up to periscope depth and have a look around.
For the most part after an hour or so of play I can normally visualise the score a game shall be receiving from me. With Silent Depth however I can honestly say I’m torn even whilst writing this. It’s an unpolished gem, and there’s no denying that and it could use a decent amount of sanding round the edges.