One of the few sim releases to hit the store shelves over the past several months, Enigma: Rising Tide was a much needed diversion from this winter's multitudes of first-person shooters and adventure releases. Its combination of naval warfare simulation and arcade-like action was interesting to a point, however the game did lack in a few crucial areas.
Set in an alternate realty of the 1930's and 40's, Enigma takes you on a journey of 'what-ifs'. In this revised form of history, Germany overcame the Allied forces and won World War I, expanding the Kaiser's influence of power across most of Europe. Following the conflict, the United States of America expanded its own presence across the globe using its economic prowess to create a powerful sea based force encompassing Europe, the Mediterranean, as well as the Pacific Rim. In the meantime, Britain and Japan have forged an uneasy alliance in order to combat the naval menace still provided not only by German Navy, but also from the power hungry Americans. Now in Enigma, players get the chance to view firsthand the action, carnage, and tense situations surrounding this alternate version of naval warfare during World War II.
All in all, Enigma was a very entertaining game, if a tad bit frustrating at times. The meshing of simulation gaming with real-time strategy along with several 'arcade' elements really gave the game a refreshing spin. Instead of the tedious micro-management of a ships' functions and commands, players get a scaled down version coupled with a lot of AI interaction for the shipboard systems. This clears the way for players to immerse themselves in the role of a ship and fleet captain, allowing them to really get into the thick of large scale strategic fleet development. That doesn't mean that you can't jump behind a gun yourself and do a little damage to the enemy. Enigma allows each 'captain' to manage every on-board weapon system at his or her discretion in an FPS mode: if you feel that the AI isn't doing a good enough job taking down the enemy attack planes, jump behind and anti-aircraft gun yourself and show the computer how it's done.
Even though the simulation aspect of Enigma: Rising Tide is slightly dumbed down, that didn't actually make learning the game's various control systems and easy feat. Actually, we had quite some difficulty getting the hang of how the game works, forcing our frustration levels to go through the roof. No real tutorial level was included with the game (to our chagrin). Instead, we found ourselves fumbling through level after level when we first delved into Enigma, mashing keys and pushing buttons all over the place in order to figure out what the hell to do. We finally 'got it' after some time, thankfully, but almost gave up the game entirely on several occasions.
Another frustrating element that we came across was with the multiplayer portion of the game…or the lack of it. Touted as a large scale, massive multiplayer online game, we were extremely disappointed to learn that Enigma was in that evil category of 'pay-to-play'. Still, we gave the free 30 day run a go, only to find that none of the servers were available. After a few weeks of the same problem, we gave up entirely. Unfortunate, since the game screams for multiplayer shenanigans, with its large scale strategic aspects and fleet based systems.
Thankfully, the positive elements surrounding Enigma: Rising Tide more than outshined the flaws of the game. The graphics for example are superb, providing gamers an incredible visual landscape (or is it 'sea-scape?) to play within. Every ship from the four main fleets are each highly detailed and very authentic in appearance. The physics of the game are also right on, allowing for realistic damage modeling, weapons fire reaction, and so on. The numerous missions available for the single player game were also quite varied in their design, ranging from simple convoy escort scenarios to outright major fleet battles, forcing players to outwit their opponents in order to win and survive.
Again, the gameplay was also quite refreshing for those that aren't into the more precise simulation naval games. The arcade like approach to the combat found within Enigma was much more entertaining for those that do not normally dwell in the world of the more strict simulation games. Especially fun were the numerous submarine levels, allowing players to actively participate in classic cat-n-mouse tactical warfare with enemy destroyers. Those purist gamers who need their naval sim games to be exact might not find Enigma: Rising Tide to their liking at first. The simplistic command structure of the game may take some getting used to, but the fact that the naval combat of the game is above average should be enough to keep even the most die-hard sim gamer happy. Not only that, but the huge maps, real-time strategy, and compelling alternate WWII storyline all add an interesting and different aspect to the era's naval combat scenarios. All in all, Enigma: Rising Tide is a solid PC game that should keep desktop captains happy and entertained.