Capturing vessels is a bit of a complicated procedure. First, the attackers must get close enough to grapple or foul the enemy vessel, so that a boarding party can leap aboard. Readying a boarding party is in itself a tricky proposition, as each hand assigned to the boarding party is one less hand working the sails or batteries. Each turn, a boarding ship may attempt an attack, which the computer resolves according to the size of the boarding and repelling parties. Boarding parties can whittle away at the enemy crew, or they may get in a lucky shot and capture or kill the enemy captain, after which they gain control of the vessel (something that never happened to me, but I’m told it’s possible).
Between campaign missions, players get a chance to return their ships to safe harbor to restock crew and ammunition, refit or sell captured ships, and repair their fleet. These in-between times are almost as important as the missions themselves, requiring players to juggle resources to the best of their advantage. With a limited crew available, do you run a greater number of ships at a skeleton crew, sell a few of the excess vessels, or convert some of the ships to the suicide fire-ships?
Salvo! controls reasonably well, especially considering the enormous amount of numbers being crunched behind the scenes. The turn-based format keeps things from becoming too frantic, allowing players to check through several screens for each ship until everything is prefect. I had a bit of trouble at first with some of the menus, but after a while (and a few trips through the tutorial), I felt comfortable with most of the controls. And while the interface is functional, graphically it’s just not all that exciting. There certainly aren’t any flashy graphics, but those that are available do a decent job of conveying everything that’s happening. The ships themselves are quite detailed, and given the number of different vessels covered by the game, this is an impressive feat. Damage shows quite visibly, as sails become tattered, masts split, and the ships start to look more like sieves. The 3D view allows for an at-a-glance estimation of each ships current condition, while a quick mouse click will bring up a more detailed menu. The overhead map works well for controlling fleets and getting a big-picture view. The audio for Salvo! is almost non-existent, though, consisting of a few cannon-fire noises and the occasional creaking of the boats as they move along.
Salvo! is fun, but I just didn’t become hooked. I can see this appealing a lot more to those interested in historical naval combat, but for me it just wasn’t enough to keep my attention for more than a handful of hours. Like many of Shrapnel’s games, Salvo! will do well by its intended audience, while most others should give the demo a run before committing their time or money.
A solid little turn-based naval combat simulator set during the Age of Sail. Naval wargamers will undoubtedly enjoy themselves, although less dedicated gamers are advised to check out the demo first.
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