Most of you will know the movie Das Boot. You will know the atmosphere of the movie, the panic and the claustrophobic environment, and the chances are that you liked it.
This is the game Das Boot, and the first thing I’ll say to you is not to expect a reproduction of the movie. Although some of the missions bear some resemblance to the movie, they are not identical. I noticed little of the environment known from the movie. Besides that, this is a simulator: sometimes many activities need to be performed in order to complete your mission successfully.
You are the captain of a German U-boat during WW2. There are certain missions available, and it’s up to you to complete them, keeping your ship and crew safe while doing so. You’ll be facing fighter raids, depth charges and cannon fire so you’ve got your work cut out.
There are two modes of play: Baltic Training and the missions. Baltic Training can be seen as an arcade mode of sorts, in which you’ll focus on a single aspect of gameplay and try to get as high a score as possible. The missions are the real thing. Regrettably there are only five of them, but each offers a distinct challenge, from a relatively simple crossing of the Straits of Gibraltar (which can be seen as an introductory mission) to a North Atlantic patrol in which you use all your skills to find, identify and destroy enemy convoys.
Before choosing your mission you’ll be able to set the difficulty, choose the type of submarine under your command (each having a different combination of top speed and weapon complement) and set the historical accuracy. This last option involves setting torpedo performance, onboard repairs and torpedo complement. Tweaking these options allows you to change the difficulty of the missions, as well as the tactics you will have to use.
After selecting your mission and reading the briefing you’ll find yourself in the control room of the submarine. This is an important room as a lot of information is accessible from here (such as ammunition stocks and depth), and functions like diving and raising the periscope are also accessed from this room. There are other rooms: the engine room, torpedo room and the radio room. In the engine room you’ll check up on things like fuel and air, in the torpedo room you can switch torpedoes loaded in any of the four tubes and in the radio room you’ll receive and send messages.
There are also different weapons available: the deck gun and the anti-aircraft gun. You can launch torpedoes while using the periscope or the binoculars. The different views are the above water view, the underwater view and the conn. The conn is the bridge you’ll use when navigating while surfaced. The above water and underwater views are important for navigating minefields and avoiding depth charges.
The last feature, the map, is very important. On this map you can see all activity in a small area around your ship, set waypoints and compress time.
There are a lot of messages to send and many of them require additional information to be sent afterwards. I’m not sure whether all of these messages actually serve a purpose. You can just say you sunk an enemy carrier and you’ll always get the same response, whether it’s true or not. When sending a message you’ll have decide where to send it to and remember to code it. You can also receive messages. All of these messages will be coded, and if it’s an intercepted message you’ll have to decipher it yourself. In case of friendly messages one of the standard codes will suffice (Triton, Dianna or Enigma).
The controls are pretty simple. You use the mouse to manipulate buttons. From the conn or the control room you can dive or surface by using the up and down arrows.
In the above and underwater views as well as on the conn you’ll generally have complete control over the ship. You’ll use the keys to dive, ascend and steer. The plus and the minus keys regulate speed. When using the binoculars or periscope you can press space to launch torpedoes. If you’re manning one of the guns space will fire it. It’s all very straightforward.
In the end I think this game is pretty good. The gameplay is fun and immersive. The controls are easy to master. There are a few negative points to the game as well, such as the shortage of missions. There’s also the issue of realism – you don't see a full wing of fighters taking off from an enemy destroyer every day. Sub fanatics who love realism and want things to be accurate might be advised to stay away from this game, but to everyone else who likes this genre I would recommend you give this game a try.
I’ve emptied the high score table for your convenience. I advise you to create a new one when you first start this game. This can be done by simply clicking on the war diary in the main menu, and selecting ‘create it’ in the error message that follows.
I tried it in Windows XP and it worked perfectly, but without any sound.
In DOSBox it acted very strangely and the colors are scrambled, but sound is present, while VDMSound gives sound and proper graphics.