First player combat games can be challenging enough when it’s just a matter of controlling your own character. Naval Combat is the stuff legends have been made from. In Man of War II you are a Captain, Division Commander or Admiral in charge of one ship or a fleet. I haven’t played Man of War I, so everything about Man of War II was new to me.
The graphics are pretty good. There is a lot of detail: water and sky textures, smoke from the cannon fire, and as you move about the deck you can see the damage to your ship as it occurs. The game has both 3D and 2D visuals; the maps are in 2D with three detail ranges, and from the deck everything is 3D.
And the sound becomes a very important part of this game, so it’s a good thing that it is done well. I found myself reacting to the sounds as much as the visuals as I fought. You can hear the screams of the wounded, the splitting rails and masts, and (most important) the wind in the sails. If you don’t hear the wind in your sails then you’re a sitting duck. (Not a good thing)
Man of War II is a product of good research. Strategy First created a game that utilizes real tactics, ships classes and historical scenarios to provide the player lots of challenges.
Real navy life is years of drills and training with moments of "Hell on Earth." In Naval warfare you can’t hide, and running is not always an option. Crews have to work together to make their ship better than the enemy even if they are out classed and/or out numbered. You can’t smell the smoke or feel the sleet, but a lot of the experience of true sailing has been captured in this game.
The first thing to learn about sailing is that it takes lots of time. In MoW2 they utilize a speed control to keep things moving. The realism is still there, it just occurs faster to avoid long periods of dullness.
Now, about that realism; the game has a screen (called options) for adjusting the realism to the players taste. You can create your own character to play or choose a historical one. If you create your own, be advised that you will have to start as a captain and earn your promotions. Your new character can develop quite a record, with a portrait and awards, etc. Also be advised that there is a pecking order in this game. A captain can’t command a Division Commander’s or Admirals ship, so either be a historical seaman of that rank or earn it with your own created character.
MoW2 can be played with up to 32 players, or 150 players with a new patch. You can host your own game or play through SFI Matchmaking site. I had to go to www.strategyfirst.com and download a patch to play this game in multiplayer mode. The patch is supposed to have addressed some problems found with Man of War I and more importantly improved the Internet communications. If you can’t find a game to join at the Matchmaking site, then go to the Strategy First site and the Man of War 2 site. From there you can find a list of players and times they can play. I was impressed with the multiplayer side, but you don’t have all the options available to you that you do as a single player. The game played pretty much as I described it for a single player game, realism and all.
To sum it up, I really enjoyed getting my but kicked until I figured some things out. This is a great game for single players against the computer. I traditionally just glance through the manual then jump into a game. But I quickly realized I had to read the manual and pay attention to details. I was defeated endless times, but that just made it sweeter when I finally masted my first ship with a well executed raking maneuver. Fair winds and following seas to the designers of this wonderfully accurate game.