Haven Review: All Guns On Deck (Early Access)

headerFirst up is our disclaimer.  We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all views in this article our are own. No money has been exchanged for this review.    

MapSmallAll Guns On Deck is a naval combat real-time strategy (RTS) game developed by Decaying Logic and published by KISS Ltd. At its core, the object is to sail your battleships around a series of maps, clearing out all the hot zones (shown as red dots), thus turning them peaceful (shown as blue). The numeral printed on the hot zones denotes the number of enemy waves encountered in each. When things get hairy, you can always return home to your naval base. This will automatically repair damage and lets you shop for new items and troops for the missions to come.

Alright, you’ve launched the game, read the tutorial and created an initial character. Time to hit the seas! Well…almost. The first thing you’ll need to do is explore the home naval base. Notable sites are the Construction Yard, the Barracks and the Chip Store.

The Construction Yard: This is where you select a ship for the current mission and configure its load-out. To do this, simply drag little chips (they look more like sim-cards, to me) into socketed slots around the screen. As you drop chips into place, you’ll hear a satisfying “Ker-Chunk”. There is no “save” or “apply” button; the ker-chunk is all you get. You can always change your mind and replace chips at will. Also, you’re not obligated to fill all sockets. Chips can get expensive, so leaving some sockets empty is a good way to save valuable doubloons!EmptySockets3The Barracks: This is where you recruit troops to accompany you on the current mission. Troops are relatively inexpensive, and you won’t want to skimp on these guys. An interesting feature of the game is that you can hire specialists who are more efficient at certain tasks then generic “sailors”. In a pinch however, all all troop types can perform all tasks, albeit slower than specialists.
CastOfCharactersThe Chip Store: Here you deal with Albert, the quartermaster. He’s always ready to sell new ships, guns and other reinforcements, as long as you have the doubloons to pay for them. As before, simply drag a chip representing a desired item into the purchase socket and click “BUY”. Once owned, you’ll find your chips in various inventory screens, which operate differently depending on which interface you have open!

AlsStore

 


Now you’re ready to set sail. The initial map appears as shown below. There’s a lot going on here, but thankfully it’s all static (for now), and you can take your time with the configuration. The center portion shows nearby geography around your ship. Remember, blue dots are safe spots, while red ones are hot zones that will initiate battle should you move there. The right-hand pane shows your current ship load-out and damage report. The large green hit point (HP) meter is replenished automatically whenever you return to home base. The most interesting area of the screen, though is the left-hand side. There are color-coded “chip trays” along the top, which contain chips that you can immediately drag to the sockets at the bottom of the screen. While very much appreciated, the chip-and-socket systems are not always intuitive and can get confusing…even after you’ve played through several missions. In any case, always check your chip trays before entering combat!

Map1aAs your first mission begins, you’ll receive orders to head North…of course, where all the hot zones are. Be mindful of the number of enemy waves in each zone, which is represented by a red numeral. “Don’t bite off more than you can chew…until you have a sufficient crew!” The troops under your command are stationed below decks, as shown in the following picture. Each of the six partitioned rooms has a purpose during battle. One room lets sailors fire the ship’s guns. Another initiates hull repairs. Still another allows you to assign special tasks to sailors who qualify. Moving your people from one room to another during heated combat represents the tactical part of the game, and is quite fun. Currently the AI gunners are not particularly accurate. Fortunately, you have the option to take control of the cursor and aim where you please. I’m sure the final release will see sailor accuracy improve.
CrewPostsSo what exactly are you shooting at? The following picture shows the scene “above decks”. Enemy aircraft are dropping bombs on you! Make sure to have enough sailors assigned to hull repairs during heavy pelting, and don’t be shy about taking over the cursor and doing your own aiming. I promise you won’t offend your troops! To clear a hot zone, shoot down all of the planes in all of the waves. You’ll earn some coin with which to outfit your ship in preparation for the next battle. It’s great to return to base and see which new items are now affordable!
Surface2Eventually you’ll amass an impressive fleet with lots of troops and reinforcements. As you uncover new map areas, the enemies get tougher…and stranger (no spoilers).

So is All Guns On Deck worth it? Yes indeed. If you’re looking for an addictive “beer & pretzels” RTS title featuring both strategy and tactics, this is the game for you.

A few observations: The number of screens in the game is minimal, so it could very well lend itself to various mobile platforms. This title would be a blast to “take with”. A challenge mode would also be nice: While one player is battling in a hot zone, the other is back at base purchasing all the best chips. To counter potential unfairness, a trading option would allow players to barter and haggle for desired chips; sweetening the pot with a few extra doubloons!

Until then, keep a weather eye out for the full release of All Guns On Deck.

Overall score in early access: 70/100
Score-Chris Roberts-