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Submarine Titans

Submarine Titans
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Platforms: PC
Publisher: Strategy First
Developer: Ellipse Studios
Genres: Strategy / Real-Time Strategy
Release Date: June 26, 2000
Game Modes: Singleplayer / Multiplayer

You might find yourself entranced by the mesmerizing serenity of the ocean floor when building up your first underwater colony in Submarine Titans – fish and other marine life casually swim around your subaquatic outpost, muffled sounds are heard as new structures are hastily assembled and your harvesters are busy collecting precious metals scattered around the seabed. The art guys definitely earned their paychecks with the gorgeous scenery and sleek sci-fi style, but the spell wears off pretty quickly as you delve further into Submarine Titans.

Swimming Through Shallow Waters

There’s not much of a story. Three factions fight for underwater supremacy – the White Sharks, Black Octopi and the alien-based lifeforms known as the Silicons. All three sides play differently (especially the Silicons, who are quite different from either of the human factions), but none of them deviate too far from the mechanics pioneered by past games. If you’ve played a real-time strategy game, especially a three-sided one, you’ll fit right in here.

4It would almost be unfair to shrug off Submarine Titans as another petty StarCraft clone. After all, developer Ellipse had already produced a lot of the game’s visual styling by the time it was first shown back at the 1996 Electronic Entertainment Expo; back when Starcraft still looked like Warcraft II in space, and when Ellipse was touting its use of MMX technology. The intervening four years were used in gameplay and graphical tweaking, resulting in a magnificent visual package. This aesthetic appeal does come at a price – it makes the game harder to play.

The Sharks’ vessels blend into the background, units disappear when navigating underneath rocky formations, and the buildings often have that “techno is neat” look that makes them hard to differentiate. Even worse, if you put a mess of vessels together they look like just that – a mess. There’s a formation option to clean up the mess somewhat, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of tactical subtlety. In fact, you shouldn’t even bother with tactics – massive sub rushes rule in this game.

Adjustable depth is one of the stranger aspects of combat. Five depth levels for every underwater unit could have made for neat tactical decisions, especially since your depth affects the game mechanics (particularly weapons fire), but in practice it doesn’t work. It’s hard to tell at a glance what depth a vessel is at; vessels do cast shadows, but they don’t change size at different depths, so you’ve got to look off the map to check the depth indicator. The depth feature isn’t completely broken, but it could have worked much better, or it might just as well have been scrapped. Another neat idea is the implementation of overhangs, caves and underwater tunnels, but all these do is obscure both you and your enemies’ vessels from view.

Many of the standard real-time strategy conventions are supported, but there are some notable exceptions and a few other weaknesses. You can queue unit production, but not building production or research. You can set units to patrol, scout, guard, and so on, but there aren’t any waypoints. The game sports a very large tech treeā€”loads of fun here for those who like research, especially when it’s mixed in with resource gathering. It can be hard to keep up with it, however, and the tree is rather complex, even after reviewing it via a very broad ingame encyclopedia.

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Things get hectic when torpedoes start flying.

The interface can also get awkward, especially in construction and research, where you often have to drill down through several layers of menus to build what you want. The game defaults to a resolution and zoom level that’s restrictive, but luckily you’re given two other zoom levels and two higher resolutions (up to 1280×768). Taken as a whole, Submarine Titans neither floats to the top of RTS gaming nor sinks to the bottom. The game’s complex tech tree and base building aspects are fun but made overtly complicated by the awkward interface. It’s definitely playable, but no amount of glossy clams and coral can mask its inherent flaws.


System Requirements: Pentium 233 Mhz, 32 MB RAM, 140 MB Free Space, Windows 95

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