|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Liquid Dragon||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Navarre Corp||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 17, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1; 2-8 Online||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: RATING||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
for the Bargain Bin
by Jonathan Marx
Based on the Discovery Channel's hit reality documentary, Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm takes players to the icy waters of the Bering Sea in order to haul in their limit of "Red Gold." That's crab to you landlubbers in the lower 48! The game does a good job capturing many of the nuances, perils, and strategies associated with Alaskan crab fishing. Sadly, the deathly slow pacing and the poor mix of hands-off and hands-on gameplay has this title "Bering Straight" for the bargain bin.
Alaskan Storm allows players to begin a career as captain of their own boat, run side missions for short bursts of play, and even head online for a little multiplayer "action." This offers a sufficient amount of varied gameplay, but not a single mode is particularly compelling. The Career mode is far too slow and uncomplicated, the missions in Mission mode are either silly or boring, and online play in Multiplayer is virtually non-existent due to the fact that no one is playing this game.
Like most games, I found Career mode to be the most convincing portion. While discovering the ins and outs of piloting crab boats via a four stage mini-tutorial, I unlocked Career and began designing my own craft. After tricking out the Crabbin' Cabin to my exacting standards (just glorified coloring really) I selected my crew, assigned them tasks and percentage shares appropriate to their abilities, half-filled the tank with petrol, loaded up with bait and pots, and went out to catch me some King crab.
During Career, you will come across a number of challenges and hazards. A proper captain always needs to take the safety and well-being of their crew into account if they want to make any money. Crab seasons are very short (just a few days) and this will have you working your crew as hard as you can without getting them hurt or crushing their morale; between bad weather, pots full of female crab, and long hours, it's a bit of a balancing act. I'm a huge fan of both strategy and fishing games (good ones that is), so the Career mode of Alaskan Storm had me initially excited. It looked as if this was going to be a thinking man's fishing title that would have me constantly manipulating situations to keep my crew on track. However, in just a few minutes of actual play, I realized the developers became lost in a no-man's-land between simulation, strategy, and action. As a result, none of the game's elements turned out to be very fun.
The prospect of using tools like the Plotter (the Fish and Wildlife's mapping tool) to identify schools for laying strings of crab pots and developing a fishing strategy was intriguing. Moreover, controlling the ship's ballast, organizing the cargo, and managing the crew, mechanicals, and weather seemed to be right up my alley. Unfortunately, other than the useful Plotter, the ability to micromanage these various aspects is painfully shallow. For example, keeping up crew morale is just a matter of hiring a good cook or giving specific crewmen four hours of sleep. Keeping your boat's mechanicals in good shape is simply a matter of time and money; there's really no way of preventing or avoiding breakdowns. Furthermore, the conversation mechanic between you, your crew, and other captains is so rudimentary it probably should have been left out. These kinds of missteps are constant and combine to make the simulation and strategy sides of the game feel pretty cheap.