Posted on 09 Jan 2021 by Jay Shaw

All or Nothing: Waves of Steel

The Defence

Developer: TMA Games LLC
Publisher: TMA Games LLC
Genre: Action, Arcade, Indie
Platform: PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: No data.

The Prosecution

OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i7 @3 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960
DirectX: 10
Controller: Full
Mod Support: Unknown
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

We’ve been lucky enough to get our hands on a preview build of Too Much Abstraction’s All or Nothing: Waves of Steel. For those unfamiliar, the game is an arcade style ship combat game that takes heavy inspiration from the mostly unknown Warship Gunner 2 on the PlayStation 2. All or Nothing borrows Warship Gunner 2‘s coolest feature too: Designing your own ship.

The build we’ve played is a little short on context but from what we could gather, some evil types have started some kind of naval war and as an American captain you’re in charge of taking on a series of missions in your ship of choice. Fairly straightforward so far, but get this – there’s crazy super units like flying battleships that parachute patrol boats, launch torpedoes from 200 feet in the air, and rain stupid amounts of high calibre cannon fire down on your poor little vessel.

Our initial impression of All or Nothing is that the weapon ranges are, frankly, pathetic. Torpedoes only go a few hundred meters before petering out and disappearing. You won’t be doing any torpedo sniping like you can in Warship Gunner 2. You will however be dealing humongous damage with your torpedoes if you can manage to land the whole spread on the broadside of an enemy vessel. Guns also suffer from a lack of range at the start of the game but, as we had access to a build that included a dev option to unlock all the kit, we can confirm that ranges increase drastically as you unlock better tech.

All or Nothing thankfully does away with the convoluted tech tree of Warships Gunner 2 and lets you mix and match ship parts to a greater degree – want to stick a destroyer bridge on your cruiser? Go for it. Instead of the convoluted system, All or Nothing instead has a set amount of tech that can be recovered from each mission and once you’ve got it all you’re not going to earn any more from replaying that mission. This provides some limited replayability but after you’ve gotten all the parts replaying is just for fun, or stomping early units that gave you trouble with a gigantic new gun. It would however be nice to have an indication of how many unlocks remain – perhaps by displaying them as blank lines on the unlock portion of the debrief screen and filling them in as they’re found. Better yet – a dedicated menu where you can see what has been found and what hasn’t from the main menu.

One of two bosses in the demo, this one's a submarine/battleship/aircraft carrier.

Ship parts come in several categories, occasionally accompanied by subcategories: Main guns also include several different calibres and guns per mount. Torpedoes come in various sizes and number of tubes. Anti submarine weapons consist of depth charges. And lastly point defence guns round out your arsenal with close range machine guns for dealing with planes. Other equipment falls into what could be considered the vitals of a ship; generators, propulsion, the bridge, armour, and various attachments like radar, sonar, autoloaders, etc. There is more, but we’re not going to spoil what you get – we’ll just say that if you played the other naval combat game we keep referencing then you’ll already have a solid idea.

How much stuff you jam into your ship will determine three major factors: Amount of hit points, top speed, and how much damage you can dish out. Typically it’s a balancing act between having enough speed to get around the map and dodge incoming fire to some degree while being able to dish out enough damage to bring down your enemies in short order because you’re always outnumbered and outgunned. Typically your armour will be the heaviest single component but guns can also add a considerable amount to your tonnage.

The ship designer itself is largely familiar to anyone who has played Warship Gunner 2 and features the same top and side views of the vessel that let you place components wherever you want within certain limits (no guns hanging off the edge of the deck, for example) but we feel the UI could do with a little more detail – Warship Gunner 2 features a set of lines on the hull diagram that indicate the limits of where you can put items but you just have to feel it out in the current build of All or Nothing. Controls here also feel a little jumpy, even when holding the “slow movement” button, something we feel could be remedied by making an even slower cursor the default and then having a faster move option on a held button.

Ships can also be decorated with dazzle patterns, and decals of various types. Most of these are fictional flags for real navies, numbers, letters, “stern warning” jokes, etc. But then you’ve got the black lives matter and various pride flags. Let’s be very clear: we’re not conservative, prude, phobic of anything of this nature, or unsupportive of these causes. We do however find it questionable to be painting your ship with flags that promote tolerance while embarking on missions where you’re exclusively blowing up people who have different views, and likely different skin colours, to you. It feels cheap at worst and short-sighted at best. If these were mods or user imported decals at least the burden of misuse would be on the user rather than the developer.

One of the things we should never be allowed to do in games: Name things.

We’d also like to address the HUD while actually sailing because all the functions are there but they’re presented in such a way that it feels clumsy to move around – more on that next paragraph. The HUD elements are clustered around the edge of the screen, a choice which was probably made to maximise visibility around your ship, but it also means that speed and throttle information are mashed up with the mini-map display. This makes it hard to get information at a glance and hard to quickly reference in an intense fight. This could be entirely remedied by adopting the HUD design of its ancestor, a wireframe ring that doubles as both targeting cursor and info display in a bold colour that stands out against everything else. Warship Gunner 2 has plenty of its own faults but the HUD is not one of them, information is displayed succinctly, often overlaid on gameplay in such a way as to be unobtrusive but ever present.

As for it being clumsy to move around; the map display doesn’t rotate – the minimap does but the long range map doesn’t – which makes plotting a route something you can’t do at a glance unless you have above average directional sense. We ended up sailing in the wrong direction a half dozen times in just three or four missions. Again – this could be fixed with a HUD update that eliminates the need to translate rotating minimap info with regular map info. This especially becomes a problem when the game has you engage enemies around islands at night, visibility drops to within a couple of hundred meters at most and without something like lightning flashes to give you a brief glance at the surrounding terrain or units you’re literally sailing blind. Radar can help you with targeting enemy ships at a decent range in these situations but it does nothing to help with navigation. As an aside, you can fit spotlights to your vessel but they do nothing in the current build so this may not be a problem in the future.

It’s also a little bit clumsy to target vessels in the current build. The lock-on function will allow you to stop the auto targeting cursor from wandering around several targets in close proximity but doesn’t always go where you’d expect when hitting the previous/next target keys. If you don’t make use of the lock-on function your guns can wander between targets as you move the camera around and it can be exceedingly difficult to keep a single target in your crosshairs. Warship Gunner 2 also included a “fire everything in every direction” auto attack button you could hold down while surrounded by enemies to engage everything in range but All or Nothing forgoes this option, making combat in a ship with superior armour and firepower a slog of picking off targets one by one.

Manually targeting your guns is pretty much entirely out of the question. We know that’s not the point but it feels equally pointless to be able to manually point the guns if you can’t accurately aim them. It feels less like fighting with the apocalyptic firepower of a battleship and more like toy boats taking pot shots at each other across the bathtub. You also have a set of binoculars which reside somewhere between the ports of useless and pointless because graphically the game is clean enough to pick out distant units without zooming in, and secondly, because you (probably) don’t have any weapons that can reach beyond spitting distance so you’re going to have to sail over and find out what the enemy is anyway.

We'd like to say it was a tense battle but 400t of armour made it not.

All or Nothing also borrows the drops and power-ups system from Warship Gunner 2; destroying an enemy vessel will have a chance of spawning a crate that can contain new parts, ammunition, or health. We found the ammunition spawns to be a little scarce but largely not an issue, we only ran out of main gun ammo in one boss battle but did run out of point defence ammo pretty regularly as they’re not great at actually hitting planes and will waste a lot of their ammo. That said, you can just go blow up an airfield or carrier to stop planes from being launched so it’s hardly a major issue.

Sound design is one place we have no real complaints. All or Nothing sounds good, the music is great and even though the guns and explosions lack punch that’s fine for an arcade style game. If we had to nit pick, better audio feedback for hits would be appreciated as waves and terrain can make it hard to see where your shots are landing and whether you’re wasting ammunition or not. Perhaps more definition and louder hit sounds for shells that hit a ship versus the water would do away with this issue entirely.

If it sounds like we’re being particularly harsh on All or Nothing: Waves of Steel, it’s worth remembering that the build we’ve played is in a very early state and there’s plenty of time for improvement before the game’s release. Overall, we had fun with All or Nothing but given the few games we can compare it to for features and quality, it’s unfortunate that the one comparison we have is of such high quality and top-notch design that it feels almost cruel to have to compare the two because All or Nothing stands on its own just fine and we dare say it’ll be a great game with some more work.

If you want a single-player arcade style naval combat game on PC your options are fairly limited, but we can see All or Nothing coming out ahead of the pack with some more work. If you play the demo, it’s worth noting that the early game equipment you get through normal play is not indicative of the full roster of equipment in terms of range and damage output. We’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on All or Nothing as development progresses but for now it gets our recommendation with caveat: It’s almost certain to frustrate you with conditions beyond your control at times but push through and you’ll find something to love.

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