There’s something quite satisfying about amassing a fleet of transport ships and watching as they travel around the globe delivery crate upon crate of goods for profit. That is the main aim of the game within TransOcean 2: Rivals, where your business is in direct competition with a different set of company rivals, looking to steal all of your business. Does the challenge of pipping your rivals to every dollar make it like a cruise tour, or does it make you want to drop anchor early?
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• Developer: Deck13 Hamburg
• Publisher: Astragon Entertainment
• Reviewed on: PC
• Also Available On: Mac
• Release Date: Available Now
The first few hours of TransOcean 2: Rivals are great as you go about building your empire from the ground up. Since there’s no straight tutorial option, you have to go into the campaign to get a steer on what you need to do and how you get your empire off the ground. The campaign consists of a set of chapters which get increasingly more in depth as you go, offering a steady learning curve for the features and expansion techniques. This can feel slightly jarring as you often ask questions of how to buy more ships for your fleet, but you can’t until you get to the relevant chapter. It’s something to keep in mind while you traverse the first couple of chapters.
The story within the campaign is a bit cheesy, silly and doesn’t do much to complete the experience, merely acting as a backdrop for character motivation and rival business styles. I often skipped the voice over sections, which aren’t too bad actually, as I was more interested in the gameplay and the experience underneath the cover of the story.
Each chapter has three victory conditions which, unless my skill level is that low, are designed to not be achieved in one sitting. Entering a chapter means deciding your play style as you will more than likely have to replay the chapter in order to complete the additional challenges. Occasionally I failed and it felt like the conditions were genuinely difficult considering the early state of the game. I actually somehow fluked the victory condition on the second chapter as one of my rivals lost two ships to wear and tear in quick succession. This ensured my victory of owning the most tanker class ships. Having the rivals interact during your game is great, but it results in nothing more than the passing gloat when they’ve completed a certain action.
So the campaign is alright and serves its purpose of showing the ropes and making you a multi-millionaire in the making, how does the actual gameplay when you’re in the nitty gritty of it, especially in sandbox mode? As mentioned there’s a lot to like in the early game of setting up delivery routes for a starting fleet and then planning your attack of the world’s most profitable ports.
The game map is clean with icons representing the different ports and their main amenity – being able to hover over each port to see ship repair price or fuel price would be really helpful, as that leads into one of my main issues with the game as a whole. Although you can often get to the information you’d need to make informed business decisions, it’s an unfortunate series of different menus and going through several clicks to get something which would be better found in some hover menus. It’s not too annoying but can slow you down when you’re constantly looking at cash flow and trying to squeeze every penny possible out of your business operations.
With the penny pinching being a big deal, it seems as though this game is designed for people that like to make notes of favoured ports or a way to document savings across their travels, as you only see the savings you can make when you’re purchasing the commodity. Although this could be the perceived to be the difference between winning and losing, the commodity price is relatively low compared to the potential profit you make on a journey. This leads to the problem that in the long term, the profit margin is no longer that important. When your fleet is large the management of each individual ship’s cargo route and refuelling priorities take a back seat.
To combat this in the late game, there are some automation tools which can be useful when things get too stressful. Interestingly, when I started playing the game at the beginning, there was no pause function, something I was going to hold in quite some regard and disappointment in equal measure. Having a pause function would have allowed more time and control when dealing with a large fleet, but also gave the added challenge of managing time correctly, and making sure ships didn’t sit in docks costing too money. However, a recent patch has introduced this pause function, which is enabled by default. The good news is, if you’re one of those people that needs a micro control of everything and relish the challenge, this can be disabled.
One area where the game shines is in it’s ‘tactical’ options when dealing with rivals. There are sabotage methods which can be used, but more impressively you can control key areas of the map and cut off rivals’ profit margins, while also taking a cut of their business in some scenarios. If you have enough Region Points in a specified region, you can purchase one of the port businesses. This can aid your development and compliment your play style, or can be used as a tactical ploy to take money from your rivals. For example, if you’re an aggressive expander, you can purchase the shipwright, which entitles you to discounts on ships when purchasing. If a rival was refuelling or repairing a lot within a region and you had a measure of control, you could purchase one of those commodities, and take a share of the money they were spending on fuel within that port. It’s difficult to quantify this in the grand scheme, but it exists as a nice side battle within the main game mechanics.
Another cool optional side venture is to control the ships yourself. There are opportunities within the game that you either need to tow your ship into port, or out of it. It’s a complete optional extra, but if you do it there’s a slight bonus involved. The ships control fine and have some granular control and the graphics are nice enough considering you never get too down and dirty with the ship up close.
All in all, TransOcean 2: Rivals is a perfectly fine experience, the keener players will appreciate the tactical options, especially within the multiplayer scene. With some menu optimisation this would move from good to great, as it would allow for a more streamlined experience. The story works in order to teach the player the games concepts and mechanics, but it doesn’t overly do much more that. It’s a silly backdrop but doesn’t get in the way that much. The mechanics work early on, but things eventually get tiresome and that’s what holds it back. It’s different from many standard RTS’s and will certainly hold a market, it’s just nothing to get excited about.
Tags: Astragon Entertainment, Deck13 Hamburg, PC, TransOcean 2: Rivals