Games are all about attention to detail; the small little things that break or make an experience. A little bit of love and craft makes all the difference. Why do I bring this up? Because on the Switch dashboard Her Majesty’s Ship has the wrong name. It’s just a typo – not exactly the worst thing in the world. But what does it say about HMS’s attention to detail?
Let’s go back to the beginning. HMS is a resource management game in which a captain of a third-rate vessel (that’s you) strives to become the next admiral of the fleet. This is achieved by completing orders for the empire. What are these tasks? Well, it’s difficult to say.
This is one of those PC management games that seems to have ended up on Switch with barely any effort put into its interface. The ship is viewed from a cross-section perspective, and you click on each area to activate an action – i.e. click on a barrel of rum to have a drink with crew members, or click on the sickbay to heal them.
It all seems quite simple, but we quickly became aware that what’s simple with a mouse and keyboard isn’t always simple with a controller. We ended up missing important things as we haphazardly cycled through menus. It’s all very…loose.
It doesn’t help that the tutorial is poor. It informs how to do some things on the macro level but never goes beyond that. It tells you how to spend gold, but not how to acquire it. It tells you how to fight, but not why you might want to do that. This resulted in a trip to YouTube to discover how to play the blessed thing properly.
After some struggling, we did eventually work things out. Pressing ZR accesses a radial menu which allows you to click on flags. These flags give you objectives. Unfortunately, the flag elements themselves cover up the instructions. It’s infuriating. You can’t just throw icons at players and expect them to keep up – way more information should have been provided.
The problem is that HMS is simply not worth spending the time trying to understand its controls and systems. Once you work out what you’re doing, the game becomes a clicker. You click on the thing you want to happen and wait. Great strategy and management games hide this fact. HMS doesn’t.
It feels like a transparent attempt to waste your time. Crew morale is low. Click on the rum barrel and wait. A person is sick. Click on the sickbay and wait. The game feels starved of interesting decisions. I want to feel the pressure. I want to decide whether to save a man overboard or to escape. To fight and risk everything or run away and hide. In HMS you just do everything in order and wait.
There’s just so much frustration, which mostly comes from having separate screens for navigation and another overlay for orders. It’s messy. Messy can be okay if your world is vast and your systems diverse, but HMS’s map is tiny, and it’s doesn’t have any mechanics aside just endless clicking.
We really didn’t get on with Her Majesty’s Ship. There’s a chance those who love all things nautical will disagree and have a right lark. I think the lack of any real context to your actions or story will soon have even the Boaty-est McBoatfaces scowling, though.
Her Majesty’s Ship isn’t sunken treasure. It’s more like dredging up and an old boot.