Man of Bore
Ah... the days when huge warships sailed the seas for the greater glory of their empire. You can imagine the feel of the billowing air, the smell of the sea, the sight of chunky pixels. It was an age when captains captain's commanded with an iron fist and stood by unable to do anything until the four minutes of combat were up. Have you wanted to be commander in a game where you can see all the action but do nothing about it?
Man of War is a simulation of the age of naval combat in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. When I first looked at the manual, I was immediately impressed by the quantity of historical information included. Man of War also includes a CD-ROM titled Stowaway!, which is a reference to life on a warship during the time covered by Man of War. Gameplay in Man of War is divided into two sections. In the strategic section, you observe the entire map from an omniscient position above it all. You can issue up to 12 orders to your fleet, and inspect the condition of enemy ships. I liked the ability to see every detail of my enemy's ships, but it's a little unrealistic to know the exact condition of an enemy ship many miles away. Once you have finished issuing orders, you can click the end of turn button to enter the second section of the game.
More a Passenger than a Captain
The second section of Man of War is touted as "A revolutionary real-time first-person perspective..." It's actually more like a graphically poor, half-assed attempt at a first person game. After you have issued your orders for the turn, you get to stand around on the heavily pixelated deck of your ship and watch the other ships, in various states of pixelation carry out combat while you enjoy the bad frame rate. The real-time section of this game may be an interesting twist on turn-based strategy, but the graphics aren't very good and the frame rate on my Cyrix 166 hovered around 9-10 fps. Although it's kind of interesting to be able to watch the outcome of each turn in real-time, I found it extremely annoying to be unable to issue any orders in the real- time phase or to do anything except look around. It is something of a blessing that the designers let you end the real-time segment if you get bored, but unfortunately, you can't bypass it entirely. This means that each turn, you must wait around for 30 seconds or so while the real-time engine loads.
Like Oil and Water
The turn-based part of Man of War is only fair in quality. It is nice to be allowed to have up to 150 ships in an engagement, and the scenario editor is good, but the game does not allow you any but the most basic targeting options. I would have liked to be able to choose between targeting the hull of sails of my enemy, and perhaps load my cannons with different types of shot, instead of generic cannonballs. At its heart, the main problem with Man of War is that turn-based and real-time gameplay do not mix well. The real-time aspect is aggravating because the player is powerless but to observe, and the turn-based part breaks up any feeling of action that might have been developed in the real-time part. Unfortunately, Man of War ends up a game that sounded good on paper but turned out not to be seaworthy.