It was our second mission, so our three-man crew was a little nervous. Even though my two gaming buddies and I cracked jokes about our rather limited adventures at sea we knew that we were playing a game that was deadly serious. We were tasked with seeking out and destroying any British supply convoys that we came across in the frigid waters of the North Sea.
It was 1939 and we were crewing one of the infamous U-boats of the German Navy. I was playing as the lowest man on the totem pole and was “in command” of the vessel’s main diving apparatuses. Next up was the navigator, and at the top of the food chain was our glorious Captain, who happened to be the only one of us (in real life) who was good at understanding advanced mathematical equations.
The Captain had been charting a course which paralleled three gigantic cargo ships. We had seen flashes of a fourth ship which was moving behind the trio but couldn’t quite decipher what it was. After a couple of hours, or so of real-time stalking our Captain announced that it was time to strike—we’d be attacking the closest ship first—which happened to be a Type 13 British Large Freighter.
As I doubled as our crew’s torpedo computer operator, the Captain ordered me to input his precise calculations into the U-boat’s targeting computer. We’d timed our quarry, knew its length, distance, speed, and all other factors necessary to our assault. We figured we’d attack while floating on the sea’s surface since we still weren’t quite comfortable with attacking from the depths of the sea yet.
The Captain launched a salvo of all four of our vessel’s fore torpedoes; he wanted to make sure that we struck something. We nervously counted down the seconds until our torpedoes were supposed to strike the Type 13. At the appointed time, large white plums of seawater spray erupted from the starboard side of our target, followed by billowing black smoke. We’d struck her!
Shortly thereafter, as the Type 13 began to sink, our giddy optimism gave way to dread as we finally saw the fourth ship turnabout and head straight for us. We’d only seen such a vessel in our manifests. It was a sleek and fast British destroyer, one of the finest that their highly capable Navy could offer.
All three of us scrambled for other stations within our U-boat as we prepared for our first-ever sub vs. destroyer battle. We’d have the chance to test our depth warfare capabilities after all, through the crucible of battle, and either emerge victoriously or food for the various forms of cold-water fish which surrounded us.
Wolfpack is not an easy game. It sure managed to flummox my two gaming buddies and I when we initially tried it out. This is not a submarine simulator where many of the complex calculations and controls are streamlined for you. No, this is a full-on simulator which forces you to come to grips with your chosen U-boats many machinations all by yourselves.
Wolfpack also doesn’t come with a tutorial, and although it does provide you with a manual, said guide is rather esoteric to say the least. But that’s what made us fall in love with the game. Its apparent inscrutability was a challenge worth investing our time in.
As I read the Wolfpack manual, I learned about the small German indie team’s passion it had for its game. They’d even visited a naval museum and meticulously recorded many of the complex details about real U-boats they’d gained access to. And you can see all of this in-game. Everything in your U-boat’s interior looks lived-in and authentic. Each vessel’s knobs, cranks, and other machinery, creaks, groans, and hisses as they pivot, turn, or otherwise move.
As you slice through the seas you can hear the waves crashing against her hull. But my favorite thing to listen to is the creaking of hull as you dive her under for her various covert operations. The lower you take her the deeper the tonality of the creaks become until sometimes you fear her bulwarks will buckle.
There are various roles that you can take on within U-boats—from Captain, to Radioman, Navigator; all the way down to my aforementioned role; that of the lowly dive operator. But no role is any less important than another because when everything comes together, you’ll find yourself calling out to your comrades and repeating spoken orders over your VOIP (we use Discord).
When this starts to happen you’ll find yourselves functioning like a well-oiled machine. Together with your U-boat, you’ll feel like a silent hunter that collectively stalks her prey with the utmost sense of patience, guile, and calculated killer instincts that the German U-boats crews were famous for during World War 2.
Wolfpack is a game that will indeed test your patience as a gamer. However, instead of becoming frustrated by the game’s lack of hand-holdy-ness, we enjoyed the Zen-like experience of operating an authentically rendered German U-boat. After all, there were extremely advanced vessels for the times they existed.
They were highly capable, metal murder machines of mayhem that could strike without warning and then disappear before they could even be spotted. And when everything comes together and your crew finally comes to grips with Wolfpack’s carefully articulated mechanics, the game becomes a thing of beauty that I personally haven’t experienced in most of the games I’ve played.
Wolfpack features some pretty nice looking graphics that make its submarine warfare gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig: