Bite-sized Review:
Destroyer: The U-Boat Hunter

Developer: Iron Wolf Studio S.A.

Release Date:  7 December, 2023

Platform: Windows

Genre: Simulation

By Chris Picone, 8 December 2023

One of my all-time favourite games growing up was Silent Hunter (1996).  It was very similar to Destroyer in many ways; you were in command of a submarine during the Pacific War instead of a destroyer during the Battle of the Atlantic, but otherwise the goal was to hunt enemy subs while protecting allies and shipping lanes.  Destroyer also gives you control over a small fleet of escort ships, which adds an extra layer of gameplay.  Finally, Silent Hunter was built for DOS whereas Destroyer is very much a modern game.  So it's worlds apart graphically, but also worlds apart in terms of complexity.  I feel like I've been waiting for this for a lifetime.


All of the open world scenes are gorgeous. The internals though - the radar, sonar, and myriad other tools, are primarily functional.  They still look good for the most part, and most key features (your ship, location or blips of enemies & escorts) are nice and easy to see.  Also features decent voice acting, which is important as you spend a lot of time listening to your crew guiding you onto target.  My only real complaint - and it really did cause me quite a bit of grief - is that almost every screen has a compass on it, but the compass is almost always blurry and unreadable.  It caused me endless frustration because a huge part of the core gameplay revolves around tracking and cross-checking bearings across each of your screens to bring your weapons onto target. That  becomes quite difficult when you have to guess what the numbers say.  That's my only complaint though, it's otherwise a good-looking, modern game. 


Complex!  In a good way, for the most part.  Step one is trying to locate the enemies, which can be found either visually or via radar when they're on the surface, or by sonar when they're submerged.  Your escort ships will help you with this, but you have to direct them.  Oh! And it's important to remember that, while you're hunting them, they're also hunting you.  Be prepared for ambushed.  And then it's on.  You can theoretically hit the enemy with your main cannons, if you're really lucky, but in reality the enemy will crash dive for safety.  "Safety," that is - you have depth charges.  They're tricky to use though, as you have to guess the depth based on sonar, and they have to be dropped with enough "lead" time for the fuses to drop them to depth before they explode, hopefully close enough to the enemy sub to do some damage or at least scare them off.  The game comes with a whole range of tools to help you come up with an attack plan.  This is modestly challenging on its own as it involves both manipulating complicated equipment but also cross-referencing each of your tools against each other while reacting to a moving target.  Thankfully, the game does include some automation options.  You do have control over your escorts too, which you can move about strategically to apply pressure to the enemy subs, and to make the most of their sonar and other tools.  The enemy, though, is also not alone.  The enemy U-Boats hunt in wolf packs, and will do their best to circle around or distract you while other subs move into flanking positions on the merchant ships you're trying to protect.  



If you're a fan of the genre, you're in for a treat.  If you're not, Destroyer probably isn't a great entry-level simulation game.  Even with all the "auto" settings turned on, it's a complex and challenging game - but of course, that's exactly what makes it so fantastic for genre veterans.  And, best yet, the game features both a cinematic (and historic) story campaign as well as custom battles for endless replayability.