Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword
Release Date: March/April 2011
With Fire & Sword is a standalone expansion for the medieval war simulator that adds gunpowder weapons and a historical setting in northeastern Europe. Check out my full preview and conversation with designer Mikail Yazbeck from TaleWorlds Interactive here.
Naval War: Arctic Circle
Release Date: Q1 2012
We haven't had a great naval war simulator of cat-and-mouse submarine gameplay for a damn long time. There was Harpoon in the MS-DOS era, and Silent Service designed by none other than Sid Meier back in 1985. But that's about it. Naval War: Arctic Circle attempts to bring back that gameplay and modernize it using real world ships, aircraft and submarines from the U.S. and Russian navies of today. The short story setup is that the Arctic Ocean is suddenly desirous for both superpowers because of its untapped natural resources, and it leads to naval conflict in the frigid waters.
Two campaigns from the point of view of each faction will slowly introduce the player to the concepts of active and passive sonar, as well the combined detection abilities of planes, surface ships and submarines. It will be a game of stealth and detection, feints and counterattacks, throwing the entire weight of your forces against your enemy as soon as you figure out where they are. You are limited by all kinds of real world complications such as weather affecting visibility, choppy waves preventing surface-skimming missiles, and fuel capacity of your aircraft. (Thankfully, fuel won't be tracked for your ships as most either have months of supply or are powered by nuclear reactors.)
Naval War: Arctic Circle is still in the early stages of development, but the engine already looks beautiful and lifelike, not an easy task where realistic ships and rolling ocean waves are concerned. Both Jan Haugland and Fredrik Breien from Turbo Tape Games, based in Bergen, Norway, are super passionate about naval warfare and the sea so I expect that they'll recreate the mood of Harpoon and The Hunt for Red October brilliantly. "One ping only, please."
Pirates of Black Cove
Release Date: Summer 2011
Mash up Sid Meier's Pirates with the comedic adventure of The Secret of Monkey Island and you get Pirates of Black Cove. The evocative art style and tone at first seems like a departure for Nitro Games, who previously made the trading sim East India Company and Commander: Conquest of the Americas, until you realize that all the Finnish developer's games focus on naval themes in a certain time period. Pirates' ships and the Age of Imperialism is kind of Nitro's bag.
The tone of Pirates of Black Cove is definitely light though, and it's not concerned with historical accuracy in the slightest. Your stated goal is to unite all pirates of the Caribbean under your banner as "King of the Pirates" and defeat the evil/undead pirates of the Black Cove. Along the way you'll engage in naval warfare that feels terribly similar to Sid Meier's Pirates - which is a good thing as that was my favorite part of that game - or rescue beautiful merchant's daughters from the hands of grimy brigands.
There are light strategy concepts in play too as you have to recruit three classes of sailors to your cause, from ranged specialists buccaneers to fast hawk-owning corsairs. You have to keep your crew happy by supplying them with rum and riches. Based on what I saw, Pirates of Black Cove will present the player with a deliciously fun open ocean sandbox to sing to me hearties and rum a tum tum. *Hic* Sorry, I guessh I shampled too much a dat rums.