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Destroyer: The U-Boat Hunter Early Access Review

Destroyer the U-Boat Hunter is a navy combat simulation game that is currently in Early Access and holy Jesus is this game complicated but complicated in like the best possible way like how it makes you feel like an actual battle scarred sea captain when you finally get it right it’s a game about commanding a US fletcher-class destroyer that’s a ship with guns to you and me and your job is to defend allied merchant convoys across the Atlantic during the second world war a lot like U-Boat and Silent Hunter just instead of sailing a submarine you’re the one on the surface dropping depth charges on them.

What they don’t warn you about on the steam page though is that you should have at least 10 years of 1940s naval experience to actually be able to find the enemy before we can start shooting them, it’s basically a panel simulator where you spend 90% of your time with your eyes glued on one panel or another and whenever you do look up it’s usually just a switch to a different station to stare at a different panel that shows some mildly different information all in the hope of putting your ship on top of the enemy submarine before dropping barrels on his head like Donkey Kong yet despite how utterly crap I made that sound it’s actually really immersive once you get the hang of it.

Now full disclosure I had to go through the super complicated tutorial a couple of times before I even had a basic understanding of what all the different dials and readouts meant but once I got that down I was able to track enemy U-Boat positions relatively easily even as a complete novice and I soon started getting really immersed in the whole atmosphere also to give them credit where credit’s due the tutorial must be pretty effective when you consider that my dumbass was able to understand how to read historically accurate sonar panels that I had zero experience with beforehand and after a couple of hours of trial and error I was even able to use something called a DRT table to track the position of enemy sonar pings and use it to put my ship on top of the U-Boat that I was chasing. Oh, if only my mom could see how far I’ve come.

The graphics aren’t all that great, but to be honest if you’re looking at your ship from the external camera or really anywhere other than the sonar panel while listening to your crew giving you surprisingly well voiced updates on enemy positions then you’re doing it wrong, and you probably don’t have much time left in the world of the living. The way it works is basically you load into a match choosing either a small, medium, large or custom engagement where the weather, the time of day and enemy behavior is all randomized and then starting out on the bridge you can switch freely between different positions using a menu on the left of the hood and effectively running the whole ship on your own but with the expert guidance from your crew giving you detailed information about what’s happening around you, the current position, heading and depth of the currently tracked target and whether or not you’re about to collide with one of your own ships at which point the game ends instantly and you feel like an idiot, twice, not that that happened to me or anything.

The goal is to use all the info from all the different stations to navigate your ship on top of the enemy U-boats and try to drop depth charges at just the right time so that they fall into the path of the sub and explode right alongside them, you generally see some trash and hear reports of an oil slick sighted when you manage to take them out, repeat that two or three times and with a bit of help from your escorts and any available air support, you’ll hopefully be able to defend the fleet and win the mission ready to go again. It’s a simple concept but it’s well made and it kept me glued for hours and hours and I would happily have continued playing it more if I didn’t have to move on to the next game for the sake of the website.

I think it’s going to be a big hit with die hard simulator fans especially considering just how few naval combat sims come out each decade but if you’re used to more casual games you might want to prepare yourself for a couple of hours experimenting and redoing the tutorial like I did until you’re able to grasp the basics of how ships actually used to fight and find each other. Overall, if you’re not put off by a bit of a learning curve and you’re interested in naval tactics then you’re probably going to enjoy it as much as I did and I highly recommend it.

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