A (hopefully) constructive criticism on Naval Action.
When I first heard about the development of a game tackling the beautiful age of sail in the late 18th/ early 19th century I was instantly hooked. Like many of you I've watched Jack Aubrey capture the Acheron and like some of you I've seen Hornblower rise up the ranks of the Royal Navy. Being able to do all of this in a game got me immensely excited.
It started off really well. The game features absolutely beautiful graphics. The combat in itself is quite deep and is easy to learn but hard and fun to master. The sound of firing a complete broadside into the enemy is simply exhilarating. I also immensely respect the decision by the developers to stick to a hard time-period and not add 'freak' galleons from centuries before just because they look 'cool'.
But the game's development feels stalled to me. Yes, there have been updates and as of February 2018 there's have been regular changes to the game's combat mechanics and balancing. We're finally getting a proper UI which is starting to look quite handsomely already. Nevertheless, I get the sense that the game in it's current state, with it's current features, is not far off from what the final product will be. Which is not enough in my opinion.
So let's start with the actual criticism:
The open world
The open world (OW) is devoid of any interesting activities to do besides combat. Every port is the same as the next. The whole world is literally as wide as an ocean but as shallow as a puddle. A lot of people rightfully complain that the OW is simply to large and should be scaled, so it's less tedious to get anywhere. My answer to that is; the world needs to be filled, rather than scaled. It needs to stay interesting. The magic of games like WOW or Guild Wars is that different areas have a different colors, npc's, architecture, weather... I could go on and on.
For Naval Action this could mean: 1. Unique architecture for towns of different nations (I know that the development-team has been doing research for this but where is the result?) Also what about native settlements? 2. Different ports provide different items or services; from bustling shipyards that provide complete refit opportunities to ravaged towns that eagerly want to trade their rotten fruit to kick-start their economy again. 3. When you are conducting your business in a port, what if you could actually see the different buildings or citizens going about their daily tasks. Maybe some dockworkers are laying the first timbers on a player-ordered ship in the distance. Just a single shot of the port along with your docked ship. With only some things animated it would be more than enough. It doesn't have to be Sim-City. 4. Approaching enemy controlled ports should have the players risking their ships because the local fort is firing on you. 5. This would technically mean the game becomes unplayable because you might not be close to any neutral/allied ports for much needed repairs. In real life however, there's plenty of captains that did repairs on deserted shores. Making new masts from trees nearby. You would still rather repair at a neutral or friendly port of course. (Perhaps these emergency repairs come with a penalty). 6. Give smugglers the option to buy and sail under false flag, to circumvent said forts. Also, instead of the whole forged papers mechanic, I'd rather see the option to become a privateer and fight for whoever you fancy. Being an actual officer of the king's navy still being the alternative. Both coming with different perks. 7. More types of sea-traffic: fishermen, mail vessels, native rafts, envoys etc. The ability to interact with these ships besides combat. Provided they are neutral/allied. (for instance: buy fish from fishermen, when no port is nearby. More on goods later). 8. What if you built a reputation with a town over time?; doing business often at the same port could give discounts. Whereas, if this port was recently in the hands of a different nation, they might give you a hard time. Perhaps even using their fort cannons on you regardless of any wars going on. 9. Storms and general rough weather. Perhaps some actions are required by the players to prevent any damage during storms.
Ship & crew management
Another thing that bothers me is that you can't make a ship feel like your own. Sure, it's not even your property to begin with; for in the end, it's the King's ship. However, these men sailed for months, often years on these ships. It became their home: 'And though we be on the far side of the world, this ship is our home. This ship is ... *insert your preferred nation*.' - 'Lucky' Jack Aubrey.
10. Maybe introduce some RPG elements whereby incidents happen on the ship and your judgement is called for.
For instance: A crewmember slipped and fell to his death while working the sails. do you: Option A: give him a proper christian burial (speed decreased by 10% for 5 minutes) Option B: throw him overboard with all haste (crew morale -10% for 5 minutes)
This could happen in the form of a pop-up menu similar to Crusader Kings 2.
I think these random actions would also break the monotony of the Open World somewhat.
11. I loved the implementation of the lieutenant system, but what if they start of as midshipmen. Then, after an action you decide who gets a promotion and who doesn't. Perhaps they have randomly generated names to remember them by (and perhaps a little portrait too). Obviously you'd have to part with them at some point, so they can command your prize vessel(s). 12. What if these gentlemen officers develop traits over time that influence the overall conduct of your ship. (for instance: 'the Master-at-Arms is a bit too fond of his cane: crew morale -5% / +5% reload time.) Perhaps the RPG-like pop-up menu's from point 10 comes into play here as well. Your actions as a captain determine what your young officers will become like. 13. Perhaps you can invite the officers to dine with you once in a while.This could give a buff of some sort (useful right before a battle). This could be visualized by silhouettes at the windows of the stern-galley, as well as shanty's being sung). Perhaps this action is a consumable and requires you to buy Madeira wine at particular ports. 14. Taking in new crew to replenish fallen experienced crew should give you a debuff. These new men were farmers and/or prisoners before, they need some time (and the nine-tailed cat) to learn what it is to be a seamen. Of course major ports do have experienced 'able seamen' ready to get ganked by your press gang. 15. What if we could change the attire of the little bugger's that reload the guns. 16. Ship's stores; I'm not saying NA should become a survival game but having stores that dwindle over time could make voyages more interesting. Stuffing your ship too much makes it sluggish. Not enough stores and your crew morale suffers. You could choose to load all types of shot. Or stick only to regular ball shot and save weight. (less weight could mean more listing though since you are missing ballast. Other possible implementations: 17. A naval news paper that chronicles the events happening in the world (this will only get refreshed during port visits):
- Wars that have started, escalated or ended. (including trade wars)
- Ship actions: single ship duels that ended spectacularly, major fleet actions etc.
- Actual, real news that happened during that time such as: Land wars being won or lost back in Europe. Elections etc.
18. Escort missions:
- Escorting new governors, indiamen, etc. where you fail if you lose the escorting ship.
19. Somehow visualize what your actions are contributing to your nation.
20. Option to promote someone in your group to Commodore (giving him or her a broad pennant for visual sake). Giving this person the authority to give orders which pop-up in a more noticeable way than the regular team-chat. Outro:
These are just some suggestions that I think would make Naval Action my dream game (I'm pretty sure for others too). I sincerely apologize if any of these features are already being worked on and I jumped the gun. I'm a game developer myself and I know how hard it can be sometimes to make the game you want to make.
Hopefully this critique doesn't come across as self-entitled. I just feel that this game, like Elite: Dangerous has an extremely solid base to build from but is suffering from being fun for longer periods of time.
I would ask too that the comments don't get too toxic for whatever reason, but stay friendly and constructive. We are all captains. PSA: I do not play Naval Action actively, I hop in once a while with a fellow captain to see what's changed but to say I know the 'meta' of this game would be a lie. If, with this lengthy post I talk out of turn please say so.
PS: English is not my main language so forgive me for any typo's.
I beg to remain, Sir, your most humble and obedient servant,