A destroyer plows through the choppy Atlantic, you’re cast as the skipper, and at sea, your word is law! Low-lying storm clouds roll in, surveillance with the naked eye becomes unreliable, and so you pull up your tactical display. The enemy is out there somewhere, but you’re not sure what form he’ll take. Suddenly, a red blip appears on the radar, your pulse quickens. Scanning the horizon with binoculars, you see a German fighter using the clouds to cover his attack run. The game is afoot.
More planes appear, surrounding you. They’re faster and more maneuverable, but you’ve got lots of guns, big, phallic guns. Slamming your ship up to full throttle, you swing yourself hard-a-port and order your gunners to 'defend’. Machine gun bullets stitch across your deck, something is hit, smoke obscures your view aft, but your gunners are returning fire. One plane flames out and, in a beautiful display, splashes into the ocean off your starboard bow. Another plane’s engine flames and begins to smoke. Your crew is giving as good as they’re getting, but you’re not satisfied with being a spectator, so with a quick right-click, you’re suddenly in the seat of a 20mm machine gun.
Taking aim, you open up on another approaching plane. Keeping your sites steady is a challenge, what with the gun’s recoil and the pitch and roll of your ship, but then the plane nosedives into the waves.
“Take that Fritz!” You scream in exultation, but you’re joy is short-lived. The sound of a klaxon sends you, with another quick keystroke, back to the bridge. There’s a torpedo incoming. U-boat! The foamy wake of the torpedo is visible as it rapidly approaches your starboard flank. Desperately you throw your ship into an evasive maneuver while you ready your depth charges. And this is just a training mission mate! Such is life in the alternate post-World War I setting of Enigma: Rising Tide.
Even though Enigma offers a large selection of single-player options, it is definitely built for online play. Unfortunately, the multiplayer mod will not be released until later this year. If Enigma can deliver on the promises being made about its MMORPG play, this game could truly become as appealing an online experience as Battlefield 1942.
In the meantime, there are single-mission patrols and six campaigns to keep you occupied. As you move through the missions in the campaign, you’ll achieve a higher rank and move up to bigger and better boats. Eventually, you’ll even be able to control an entire fleet.
If you love 'Das Boot’, you’ll positively soil yourself when you hop into the conning tower of your own U-boat for the first time. There are three factions from which to choose: American, German and League of Free Nations (Japan and British Navy in exile combined). Each faction offers a surface vessel campaign and a submersible campaign. Each of these is comprised of about eleven missions with various objectives. You’ll be tasked with everything from destroying convoys to hunting enemy submarines.
Enigma is easy to pick up and play, but it’s hard to master, so newcomers will quickly be able to competently control all of the vessels in the game. As mentioned before, the control scheme is very simple and streamlined. AI routines can handle all of your guns in a fight while you handle the navigation, or if you’re a control freak, you can assign each gun a different target. The same level of optional tinkering applies to fleet activities. Let the AI handle your allied ships or issue them simple orders yourself.
If only those orders could truly be issued using the voice command control. I really, really wanted the voice commands to work. How nice would it have been to engage in hands-free naval combat? Talk about immersing one in the experience of being a bridge commander! Woefully, the voice command just isn’t tight enough to be used. Even with a high-quality microphone, my orders were not always picked up. On top of that, the voice commands just don’t offer the level of control that the mouse and keyboard offer. When it did work, there was a slight delay before my orders were implemented, and that’s just not good when you’ve got a Yank destroyer on your tail.
In case there’s anybody out there who suffers from motion sickness, don’t worry. There’s an option to stabilize the camera. Without it, even hearty individuals could feel a little wobbly after extended play. In a way, that’s a sign that Enigma’s environments and physics are ship-of-the-line.
There’s really nothing obviously wrong with Enigma. The ship models are good, but they’re not great. This doesn’t really matter when compared to their realistic capabilities and the overall gameplay. The music is suitably dramatic, and the best thing I can say about it is that you won’t notice it after a while. The sound of 4” guns thumping away is all the music you’ll need to accompany your maritime madness. If you’re a diehard naval sim fan, you may be dismayed a bit by the lack of tweaking available to you, but that shouldn’t be enough to put you off. The only thing you’ll really miss is the multiplayer component. The game does suffer a bit for the lack of it, so I truly hope the Warfleet.net experience is able to make good on what has been promised.
If Enigma: Rising Tide can deliver the massively multiplayer online experience that is being promised later this year, it should make a most attractive target for any military gaming fanatic with disposable income. All in all, the game’s streamlined control scheme, coupled with the dashes of cross-genre elements, makes this an engaging, accessible title for just about everyone.