Steel Diver: Sub Wars – A 3DS F2P FPS You’ll Probably Never Hear Of

9 03 2014

So my hiatus became a bit longer than I thought. There’s a few reasons for it and it’s not like i didn’t do any work, but I am planning to have something up and possibly downloadable regarding Shuffle Breaker this week. That said, let’s talk about the Nintendo 3DS. Despite Nintendo’s financial woes regarding the WiiU, the 3DS is still going pretty strong which is good for me since over the last year I got into it big time, playing a lot of the big Nintendo releases as well as some sports stuff like Pro Evolution Soccer 2012. But I’m not talking about those today.

A couple weeks back (or so) Nintendo did a Nintendo Direct where they announced (to the confusion of many I’m sure), a free-to-play Multiplayer submarine combat game called Steel Diver: Sub Wars. Not only was this not related by gameplay to the Steel Diver that had been a 3DS launch title, but the idea of Nintendo releasing an online multiplayer anything surely seemed odd.

I think what’s more odd is just how good it is, and how few people are going to know about it. More after the jump

Not a game about Subway employee shenanigans

Unlike its predecessor, Steel Diver: Sub Wars is a first-person sub combat game wherin you command a submarine against other subs and some surface vessels. It’s not very simulation-based like Silent Hunter, rather it’s a more arcade-style experience where you can practically drift-turn a sub if you get your motions right, among other things. The Circle Pad controls your turning as well as surfacing and diving, while X and B control your throttle. Y is for your sonar (highlights other vessels on both the sonar as well as in your view), and A fires your torpedoes. the R trigger also fires your Torpedoes, but that button is reserved for your extremely limited homing torpedoes, while A fires your (sorta) unlimited dumbfire torps.

The free game comes with the ability to have 2 subs out of a possible 18 in the paid version ($10 on the e-shop), as well as two single-player missions to get a feel for controlling your sub and engaging in combat. The good part about Sub Wars is that both the free and premium versions have full unrestricted access to multiplayer, the only things being gated behind the $10 price tag being the subs, some of the crew (more on them later) and the ability to purchase the DLC subs (which right now are only $0.99 apiece and have stats that don’t make them pay-to-win).

Speaking of the subs, they’re quite varied in their abilities, even the two free ones, to the point that you don’t feel any of them are really redundant, and no sub really has a distinct advantage over all the rest. In addition, you can alter their abilities with crew members that you find both in single and multiplayer missions (showing up as a purple dot on your sonar). Each sub can take a certain number of crew, most offering the ability to mix-and-match crew members to enhance abilities or maybe shore up shortcomings of your favorite sub.

Image from

As for the gameplay, it’s incredibly good. Single player is nice but for the real meat of the game you want to get into Multiplayer. The game is set up to sort you into random matches (no friend/party mode unfortunately, that really would only work with the game’s Local option) and fight with and against people worldwide if you so desire. And it’s here that you finally get what Sub Wars is. It’s not a vehicle combat game so much as it is an FPS almost in the vein of Descent (minus the rolling part). It’s also incredibly tense and thinky at times. In a genre dominated by hitscan bullets, the ability to see torpedoes flying at/by you adds a whole other level of immersion as you try to take on your foes in varied ocean environments including sunken ruins, underwater caves, and even a giant fish tank. Shooting your torpedoes is easy enough. No plotting a firing solution, just hit A (or R if you have a target lock) to send your fish flying at your foes. You can also use a “masker” which basically acts like a cloaking device visually to hide yourself from both torpedo locks and the eyes of players at least temporarily. The combat is slow but in a way that feels very rewarding when you send an enemy sub to the briny deep, plus most battles don’t go longer than 5 minutes which makes it easy to do as a quick pick-up-and-play time killer.

The game looks good as you would expect a Nintendo published game to look (it was developed by Vitei Inc), and sounds pretty good too. Controls are responsive and nice and aside from some spatial relationship issues that I expect are my own fault, the gameplay is superb.

The game has no voice chat, instead using Morse Code chat rooms which I thought was a nice touch even though it’s hard at first to get used to. It’s stil neat to see people quickly exchange messages before battle though.

Having said all that I do have a couple minor quibbles, the first being that the matchmaking is a bit broken for the “random battles” part. To explain a bit, Matchmaking has two options: “Random Battles” and “Matched-Skills Battles”. Matched Skills means you’re playing with and against people around your level, the downside being that you don’t get the chance to increase your XP gain through multipliers with each consecutive victory. Random Battles matches you up with people regardless of level…and the balance is broken or nonexistant. Several times i’ve had battles where one team has people level 20+, and the other team’s highest level player is something like 7 or 10. This can make it difficult to get a winning streak, which subsequently makes leveling up as you progress more difficult.

The other complaint being finding crew members may be a bit more difficult than it needs to be. I’ve played about 20 matches so far and only have 2 crew members (out of a possible 32). They don’t seem to show up all that often.

But perhaps my biggest complaint is that Nintendo has a really good Free-to-play game on their hands and they are not doing enough to talk it up. It’s inexpensive, the free version is not loaded down with BS, and as I keep saying it plays fantastically. And yet Nintendo can’t figure out how to best publicize their Cool Things That They’ve Done which seems to be a problem since the mid 90s. I’m hoping by writing this article that the few people I do know will take some notice of this 3DS e-shop gem.

I would definetely say to get the free version if you’re interested in a multiplayer FPS that doesn’t exclusively cater to dudebros, and if you like it enough, it is definetely worth the $10

Oh also, Peppy Hare of Starfox is your guide to the features of Premium mode if you try to access the shop while in Free Mode. I don’t know what it means (other than possibly being a creator-infused cameo since Vitei is owned by Giles Goddard, former Argonaut programmer famous for Starfox (SNES)), but I would pay a stupid amount of money to get the Blue Marine in this game.

seriously, give me the Blue Marine!




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