Steel Diver (3DS) Review
Steel Diver is a strange game – a really strange game, and this is because of many things. First of all, there’s no real characters or story to push the player along, and its presentation is rather lacklustre. The second, which makes these elements even more peculiar, is that this is a game that Nintendo themselves are responsible for. The same people who developed Zelda, Metroid and of course Mario games are bringing us something that appears to be bland? Well, most certainly. It’s a very perplexing situation and the resulting product is also quite confusing. Still, the game has its pluses and its minuses, and I’m here to let you know what they are. Onwards!
Steel Diver is one of the nicer looking titles out of the 3DS launch line-up, with everything looking super smooth and each submarine having its own distinct look. The various life forms that accompany the player underwater in the backgrounds of certain levels are always moving and really help the player get immersed in the experience. The weather effects and water effects during one of the first person gameplay modes is particularly impressive too, almost making me feel like I was actually commanding a ship during a storm. Steel Diver is, however, incredibly bland in its presentation overall – there’s little variation throughout the game’s many chapters and it’s hard to not notice this after spending a good amount of time with it. To put it bluntly, it’s a little bit obvious this was a tech demo that was eventually fleshed out in an attempt to be something a bit bigger.
The 3D effect is a bit of a mixed bag too, and it really depends on how much of an optimist you are. Steel Diver uses the 3D effect but in only very limited capacity, but this isn’t a bad thing. Rather than blowing the player away with something that would be disorienting, Steel Diver subtly uses the effect to create a sense of immersion. During gameplay, the environment is given an extra layer that really helps the player immerse themselves in the game’s action and pacing, while during the actual menus the game “indents” the user interface to give the impression that the player is looking at a control panel for a submarine through glass. If you’re more of a pessimist, however, you’ll dismiss the 3D effect as lazy and overall quite pointless.
Steel Diver itself consists of three modes that vary quite a bit. The main mode, Mission Mode, sees players traversing through various levels in an effort to complete certain goals. These modes essentially boil down to moving from point A to point B, with the paths being very linear. Most of the gameplay is performed using the touchscreen, which is outfitted with various valves, dials and sliders that all control certain aspects of the submarine. There’s a bit of a strange feeling that this game has, though – because I tried to blast through it as quickly as possible, only to drown my ship shortly thereafter. No, Steel Diver is not this kind of game. It is a slow paced, almost puzzle/strategy-like game that will really appeal to people who enjoyed games like Advance Wars.
The controls are simple in that they only require the touchscreen but so complex in there being so many items to play around with. One slider controls the depth your submarine is at, another controls how fast it’s advancing forward and a third valve (in some submarine models) adjusts the angle at which the submarine is tilted. Controlling all three of these really does encourage slower paced gameplay, which gives the game a great strategic and almost puzzle-like element as players try to navigate different areas. Buttons that light up on the touch screen also control weapons, which can remove debris from the playing field for an easier journey. There is something really satisfying about fine tuning every aspect of your submarine’s movement and getting everything right to the point where your submarine navigates missions perfectly without trouble, and this is probably a large amount of Steel Diver’s appeal. That being said, the slower pacing of the control scheme really becomes a hindrance during the game’s few boss battle sequences, in which it feels as though players will need to make quick reactions but are not outfitted with the proper tools to do so. That being said, I still enjoyed these sequences as they made the gameplay much more interesting, despite being kind of trial and error oriented.
Steel Diver also has a Periscope mode, where players play the game as if manning a periscope, diving below and surfacing while shooting torpedoes to take down enemy ships, taking into account speeds of both the ship and the torpedoes to score a perfect hit. This mode is a little more overt with its 3D use, with enemy torpedoes almost appearing to fly at the player. This mode is a little bit more cumbersome to control, however, forcing the player to stand up and turn around in circles in order to move their aiming sights. It’s a good use of the hardware although the gimmick does wear off after a few rounds, but thankfully the field of vision can also be controlled with the touchscreen too. It’s still a nice, faster paced diversion from the main mission mode.
The game also has a download play enabled mini-game available that combines the best bits of Periscope Mode with a turn based strategy game similar to Battleships. While we couldn’t play this mode against another console due to region locking, playing it against the AI sees most of the hexagonal grid on the bottom screen while the top screen carries out most of the action. This is definitely the closest thing to a nautical Advance Wars that players will get on the system.
In terms of gameplay, the game itself doesn’t take particularly long to complete with so many missions taking between six to seven hours to complete. The game does offer “Ghost” data for players to play against and attempt to beat, although these are built into the game and it doesn’t look as though downloadable content will be supported just yet. Thankfully, there is a little bit more to do once the game is over – expert mode completely mixes up enemy placement and environments quite a bit to make them much more harder. There are three different subs to choose from and several kinds of decals, which kind of lengthens the gameplay experience but minor differences between them really makes the choice seem pointless. Similarly, the multiplayer experiences are very lax in their implementation; with some of the matches I played against the computer seeming to be a case of sheer luck.
Steel Diver’s soundtrack is perfectly suited for the game’s theme, and gives a good layer of personality despite there being no story elements in the game. The tracks provided here are very military themed and they really get the player going during briefings and such, but there are no super memorable tracks that will stay ringing in your ears after you’re done with the game. There is some voice acting, though this is limited to only words uttered when the player performs certain actions, which are filtered to sound authentically as if they’re coming from a radio.
Steel Diver is a bit of a hard game to judge properly. The concept itself is one that could be a huge appeal to strategy fans, but the biggest problem with the game is that there’s simply not enough substance to the overall experience to warrant a purchase, at least not at full price.
Very nice scenes and animations throughout. 3D effect is used quite well to add depth.
Theres a few different gameplay modes on offer, and the touchscreen controls work pretty well. Just remember that this is a strategy/puzzle game, not an intense action one. Periscope mode is nice, although it isnt interesting past thirty minutes.
Good use of military themes and authentic sounding voicework.
Boss battles do make the experience feel a little bit more fleshed out and vary the gameplay. Simply put though, [i]Steel Diver [/i]is a little bit bare in its offerings depending on how you look at it, but the expert mode that is unlockable upon completion could extend the life of this title quite a bit if youre into that kind of thing. There is a low amount of pure content, though.
Despite its flaws, I did enjoy Steel Diver for what it was, though I couldnt help but think what it couldve been if a little bit more time was spent on it. This is strange, since it took so long to eventually be released.
Steel Diver is definitely a great concept and a well put together game, but there are just not enough pieces to put together, unfortunately. The different modes are a nice touch and the strategy aspect is one you wouldnt expect, but just dont expect heaps to do.