03
Dec
11

Silent Service II on DOS

Title and loading screen

Title and loading screen

Silent Service II is another of the games we got in the microprose simulation pack. The game is focused on the war in the pacific as a submarine commander in the United States navy. You can choose a short single battle, a war patrol or a full war career. I don’t know how historically accurate the game is but it certainly is fun. We normally played the full war career as this gave you the fullest experience of being the captain of a submarine. You have to plan your patrol, how much fuel you need, when you need to resupply or repair, and where you think the best hunting will be.

A War Patrol

Selecting the submarine

Selecting the submarine

I set the simulation to use flawless torpedoes because the historical ones are painful when you go to so much effort to hit a battleship. I chose a gato class submarine as it has the best load out available at the start of the war. I got command of the USS Blue Fish and departed for the southern Japan patrol zone. During transit on the large map screen, you’re given notifications of what is happening in the war. They come in the form of text with a small image describing the event. This would have been similar to what submariners would have actually gotten in the way of news.

USS Bluefish

USS Bluefish

I had my sub travel around the coast near southern Japan and I lucked out and got a large target first up. I end up within about 3000 yards of a group of destroyers cruisers and a super battleship. Jackpot! Being so close I move slowly and try to get in front of the ships I want to target and let loose 3 torpedoes towards the battle ship and 2 others toward a heavy cruiser. The torpedoes pass close by a destroyer which is alerted and heads straight towards me, in doing so however it strikes the second and third torpedoes and sinks.

Patrol map screen

Patrol map screen

My remaining fish hit the battle ship and the heavy cruiser escapes damage, but by now the destroyers are nearly on top of me. So I dive and try to hide. I can see on the sonar that the battle ship has slowed down, but not stopped. I move towards it and on my way am hit by a couple of depth charges, damaging one of my engines. Thats only going to make it more difficult to strike the now damaged battle ship.

Navigation screen

Navigation screen

I launched debris to throw the destroyers off the path, and they begin to circle around a larger area. This gives me the chance to come back to periscope depth to finish of the battle ship with my aft tubes. The destroyers having spotted my scope make chase, but by then it’s too late the battle ship is sunk and I make my escape.

View from the periscope

View from the periscope

The next target I find is a transport that is on it’s own. I surface to take it out with the subs 5 inch gun to conserve torpedoes. The gun battle is relatively quick and the ship goes down. I find another large target in what was shaping up to be a fantastic patrol. Again I end up just within 3000 yards in front of the convoy.

Gauges

Gauges

Looking through the scope I saw another super battle ship and a normal battle ship. Jackpot again! The convoy is at the corner of a larger zig-zag maneuver, so I have to quickly try and decide which way I need to go to stay in front of the convoy. I manage to get close but again a destroyer gets between me and the larger battle ship. So I decide to send 5 torpedoes it’s way and quickly swing around to send 3 torpedoes from the aft tubes towards the other battle ship.

Damaged Battleship

Damaged Battleship

The torpedoes all seem to find their mark. The destroyer goes down and the battleships being relatively close had no chance to get away from the torpedoes. I had already dived deeper and set myself up for an escape as the torpedoes sunk both battle ships. I get hit by a few depth charges but fortunately escaped with minor damage.

Escape

Escape

I realise that I will start running low on fuel and torpedoes if I don’t start to head back to Pearl Harbour. On the way I run into a small convoy of transports lead by a solitary destroyer in the dead of the night. I sink the destroyer with a couple of torpedoes from the periscope. To conserve ammunition I surface to take out the remaining ships with gunfire. During the ensuing gun battle I take several shell hits destroying my periscope.

The gun sights

The gun sights

This is a bit of a disaster as a periscope is essential to take on larger convoys. Fortunately being night time I’m not hit too often and I prevail sinking 3 transports and a tanker. I decide to continue my journey back to port for repairs, but run into another medium target. I figure I should check it out. It turns out to be what I thought was only two freighters and a patrol boat. The patrol boats are pretty pathetic so you can often sink them with your gun. I start to fire on the patrol boat not realising that there was also a destroyer in the group which was circling around to my stern. Before I can react it rams me and I get sunk! That obviously ended my war patrol!

Graphics and Sound

Freighter on fire.

Freighter on fire.

The graphics in the game do the job quite well, but they aren’t really realistic when it comes to the view through the periscope. For the machines of the time, it was pretty good. The sound does a good job of giving you the sense of being in a sub. The engines rumble and the enemy destroyers send out sonar pings that you can hear. The gunshots are the only let down, but given the game supports Adlib and PC speaker this isn’t a surprise.

Conclusion

Dead

Dead

Silent Service II kept me and my brothers busy for a long time. Each time you play you get a new experience. Luck does have a big part to play in what targets you get, but only planning and a bit of seat of your pants cunning will get you the big targets and help you escape when you are being chased by 6 destroyers. The game succeeds in immersing you in the world of submarine warfare. Your decisions have a real impact on how successful you are, and whether you and your crew make it home. If you’re not careful it is common to get sunk, even by relatively small groups of ships like freighters. You never feel like you were cheated by the game, usually there is something you could have done to escape. At the end of a career or war patrol, you feel like you’ve achieved something, the score you get is a secondary thing, and only serves to rank players in the hall of fame. In conclusion this game has stood the test of time for me.

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