(3DS eShop)

Steel Diver: Sub Wars (3DS eShop)

Game Review

Steel Diver: Sub Wars Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Marcel van Duyn

Dive right in

Nintendo has been working on a game to enter the free-to-play market for a fair amount of time, announcing last year than an early experiment with the idea would involve the Steel Diver series. The basic concept has been a game that is free to download and partially play, but requires you to pay a little extra if you want to unlock all features; this has now come to fruition as Steel Diver: Sub Wars.

The original Steel Diver — from the early days of the 3DS — was mostly a 2D game, but Sub Wars completely revamps the gameplay as it's now a fully 3D, first-person affair. The free download will give you access to two single player missions (and also a tutorial) as well as what will most likely be the meat of the game for most, a multiplayer mode which can be played both online and offline.

The controls can seem quite complicated, but once you get the hang of them you'll feel like a true sub commander. You can move around, change your speed, dive and surface, use your radar to locate enemies, fire torpedoes, send messages using morse code (a step forward for online Nintendo games in the absence of voice chat), peer through a periscope, and even use a masker to temporarily turn invisible in order to confuse the enemy. All of this can be done with either the touch screen or physical inputs, so if you don't particularly like one option you can try out the other.

The two free single player missions are rather straightforward — in one you navigate through rings in an underwater cave, and in the other you destroy enemy subs in an open ocean. Each mission has three "days" which get progressively harder, but will allow you to earn medals, which are used to unlock different paint jobs and other extras. You may also find crew members floating on the surface in some missions which, when rescued, can be assigned to work on your sub; this changes its stats ever so slightly, potentially giving you the edge in multiplayer. Some of the crew members will even come with extra special traits, like being able to slow repair your sub when it's surfaced, or always being able to see all of your allies on the map.

The multiplayer mode is almost like a very slow team-based first person shooter, in some ways — two teams of four players each attempt to take the other down in a massive underwater battle in one of several arenas. There are no respawns, so every bit of damage you can do counts. Since submarines and torpedoes naturally aren't as fast as on-land soldiers with guns, you need to plan ahead a lot, leading your shots and then getting out of trouble as fast as you can. This gives the game a strategic edge, which is a tad unusual but nice to see.

Naturally, because of the free-to-play nature of the game, there's got to be something for those who are willing to shell out a little cash. For $9.99/€9.99/£8.99 you'll get 18 additional subs and five extra single player missions. You'll also get a shop option, which has an additional five "historical" subs for $1/€1/£0.89 each. The downfall of many free-to-play games developed by other companies have been their so-called "pay-to-win" models - the stuff you can buy with money clearly being better than the free alternatives. Nintendo, thankfully, has minimised this pitfall, as none of the extra subs are significantly better - they all simply have minor differences in stats, thus making it a matter of whether you prefer a little extra speed over a little extra torpedo range, for example.

This being a fairly small downloadable title, there's not a whole lot to say about the graphics and music. They look and sound nice and get the job done pretty well, but they're not overly impressive. It must be said that all of the sound effects are nicely done, however, and really make you feel like you're actually piloting a submarine.


While the original Steel Diver was not received incredibly well, Nintendo has done an admirable job of turning a franchise otherwise destined for the scrap heap into their flagship free-to-play title. Whether or not you're willing to pay for some extra features, Steel Diver: Sub Wars features a highly enjoyable online multiplayer mode; that's something, perhaps, that the 3DS has missed so far. Since it's free, you have no excuse not to check it out — perhaps you'll even like it so much that you'll spend some money.

From the web

User Comments (101)



PorridgeParlour said:

I loved the first Steel Diver. I want a sequel to that in the same style, I think they could do something really cool with it. But this looks cool, too.



Prof_Clayton said:

This game is very addicting, even in the free to play version. I've been having a blast online, and it's all been free!
Solid review, I agree on every part, especially the sound effects. I love the ones where the people in the subs start talking in the background!



Shiryu said:

I LOVE this game! My grandpa was in my country military navy, so I got this morse code stuff memorized since I was a kid. Sadly, I'm having issues with my ISP router, so I can't properly play this online at home (work just fine on my work WIFI) but I have manage to take myself to level 10. Of course I bought the premium version day one, and am sort of eyeing the 5 historical submarines DLC but have yet to commit. I would have gladly buy this one boxed with everything on a cart. I hope to see further games of this surprisingly fresh franchise in the future, I would love to have this on Wii U!



bizcuthammer said:

I tried the free version. Hated the control scheme and how slow the game was. It wasnt terrible, but I definitely didn't feel any desire to download the full version.



Rezalack said:

I bought the premium version a couple days after release.. I just had to play all those ships I unlocked. Not to mention the missions were kind of fun. It's the multiplayer that really makes the game shine though. Last night there was a guy that I played in a previous match, he said I sucked, the minute the match started he happened to be the first sub I saw. I was using a long range sub, I hit him twice in a row from max distance and sunk him in two shots. It was glorious.

I highly recommend that everyone who owns a 3DS, try this game. It's free. Why wouldn't you?!



dsparil said:

I think that calling this "free-to-play" sends people the wrong message. I get the sense that a large number of people see free-to-play and assume that the game is based on a "buy 30 missiles for $0.99, 300 for $8.99" system instead of basically downloading the demo and then unlocking the rest of the game.



6ch6ris6 said:

i went premium yesterday at lvl 26. the game is sooo much fun. i hope they make a sequel with better online features and more meat for the singelplayer campaign



sinalefa said:

I only played through the tutorial, but the game seems good enough. I liked what I played, so I will play it more, and probably get the $9.99 stuff.



TimeGuy said:

I absolutely love the game. It would be better, however, if communication errors didn't end win streaks.



Artwark said:

Love the music! I couldn't complete the gold medal of the second last mission so I'm gonna get the full version soon......



Kaze_Memaryu said:

Couldn't warm up to it at all. The slow and floaty controls kill this for me. Nice effort, but no. Then again, this might be mildly more interesting if there were more weapons than just torpedos - mines would've made the game a lot-less dogfight-ish.



XCWarrior said:

Can you still not play with friends? I'd d/l the free version at least, but I don't see a point if you can only play random people.



Unit_DTH said:

@bizcuthammer I'm right there with you. But I still think it's a boring game. It's a start for Ninty in the ftp realm, but I hope they come up with something better next go around.



IronMan28 said:

This game is pretty fun, and it's surprisingly rewarding to sink other ships. I might make the plunge for the premium version. I will admit the model is a little messed up, though. It seems kind of shady to let people who have either the free or the premium version play against each other online.



GalacticMario28 said:

I've really been enjoying this game so far. I'm just about done with the free single-player stuff (though Mission 2, lvl 3 refuses to let me earn that gold star), and I'll probably buy the full version when I have just a bit more money on-hand. It's too bad I haven't had time to try out multiplayer yet; it sounds like fun.



2Sang said:

I definitely think this was a wise move, but when I thought that nintendo needs to focus less on mario and more on smaller series, this was certainly not what I had in mind. It still is fun, though.



Captain_Gonru said:

I've genuinely enjoyed my time with this so far. It is much more slow-paced than your typical FPS, but that's how submarines SHOULD feel.
I'm still holding out hope that someone will revisit Silent Service (one of all-time favorite games and a vastly under appreciated NES title), but this is a good SUBstitute (see what I did there?) for now.



Azikira said:

I really like this game (though I did enjoy the first one too) and bought it the first day. I just can't wait until I unlock the BlueShark



alLabouTandroiD said:

Will the premium version get a review too?
I'm interested in it but i'd have to know more about the additional missions and subs to really convince me.



brokenfang said:

oh, and on the balance of free subs vs. paid subs: not really an issue. as the reviewer stated, the differences are minor. and most of the matches are so fast paced anyway (under 5 mins) i'm finding its more about tactics and skill.

good teamwork is the key to winning here.



MoonKnight7 said:

I didn't really know what to expect from this, but I've been pleasantly surprised by this title. Online is a blast even if you get plowed over by more advanced players. It forces the underdog team to play a bit more strategically (that doesn't always work of course). My only complaint is that the wait to get an online session does take a very long time.



Shambo said:

I liked the original better, but this one is great too. Too bad it's download only, still got it though.



brokenfang said:

hi Moon! i think we played together yesterday... do you recall a player named Dusta?

anyways, love the game, and my only complaint is the connection issus for online play.

see ya out there!



shane1228 said:

I was wondering when this game was going to get acknowledged, I think everyone just assumes it is bad because of the Free model. Multiplayer errors aside, It really is a surprisingly awesome and addictive gem of a game. You really have to give it a chance and give yourself 2 or 3 rounds to get used to the controls and play the first few campaign missions for training then I guarantee you will be hopping online, getting caught in a win streak and finding it nearly impossible to put down the 3DS like everyone else!



Kirk said:

I like that idea that you control the sub using levers and such on the bottom screen as though you were actually using a proper control panel. It's a nice touch and good use of that second touch screen imo. I actually think more games should use the touch screen like this.

Anyone remember the name of that mech game that Nintendo made for DS where you controlled the mechs similarly?

Edit: Got it: It was called Chosoju Mecha MG. Pretty cool implementation of controls on the bottom touch screen too imo.



dwuuuu said:

I love this game and I love the first Steel Diver too !!!

I'm so happy online mp works ans is brilliant fun !!!



Starwolf_UK said:

"Since it's free, you have no excuse not to check it out" A Nintendo Network ID is required is my excuse. Since the current NNID locks you one country and no single country gives me access to all my eShop purchases I have to give up redownload rights for some games (games not for sale in a country are not available for download) which I'm not prepared to do.

It is a shame as it sounds better than the original steel diver. I'm guessing the slower pace means there are no problems with lag.



Captain_Toad said:

Suprisingly fun once you get a hang with the controls. It's tempting me with the $9.99 purchase once those issues are fixed.



rumple88 said:

Great game, I've been playing since it released. I have a question as a new 3ds owner. I want to buy this game but don't usually buy digital. What is the most secure way to go as far as SD cards, how big and what brand seems best? Can't wait to download the full version.



pikmin4 said:

I use to play this sub game when I was in a sub, reminded me of why I thought joining the sub force was cool



Emblem said:

@rumple88 Get a SanDisk, you can get a 16GB for about 10-15 bucks on Amazon. If you're only going to D/L a few games and demos here and there then a 4gb will be fine.



divinelite said:

This is a game I waiting for. I'm fed up of platformer, diverse the genre like this is the best thing to do



Giygas_95 said:

I got the premium version a couple days after release because I loved the original Steel Diver. This is a really fun game! I just hope I don't continue getting kicked off the online servers. Also, I painted my Great Seal sub (which honestly looks JUST like a Russian Typhoon class submarine) to look like the Typhoon! I did some pretty good clobbering with it online! Even got a 5 win streak, but then I got kicked off the servers...

My sub honestly looks just like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoon-class_submarine

Very good review by the way! I think an 8 is quite fitting.



Luna-Harmony said:

I love this game been hooked played till 4am 2 nights running ranked up to 27.
This game is so good the sub's look amazing the 3d can sting your eyes though.
Multiplayer is fun i just wish they would make more submarine games for consoles or this was on wii u.



GooRoo said:

I kind of glossed over this during the direct. I was more excited for Trozei and Real Deal Baseball. I've DL'ed the F2P version but haven't touched it yet. This review has made me decide to give it a shot.



unrandomsam said:

"For $9.99/€9.99/£8.99 you'll get 18 additional subs and five extra single player missions. You'll also get a shop option, which has an additional five "historical" subs for $1/€1/£0.89 each."

If it was just the £8.99 there is a fair chance I might have bought the full thing but the historical subs addition changed that chance to zero.



cbkummer said:

I'm really enjoying the free version thus far. I might pick up the premium version when I have some extra cash lying around.



RR529 said:

Yeah, this is a really fun game, especially online.

They do need to fix the connection issues though, & I'd love a greater focus on the goofy maps like "Fish Tank", "Hot Springs", & "Swimming Pool" (the more realistic maps are pretty generic, and run together, IMO).



Chris720 said:

Okay, after a while, I've actually started to like it, its far more slow pace compared to other online "shoot 'em up" games. But so far its actually rather enjoyable.



brandonbwii said:

Aren't there four mission in the free version? I could swear that after you complete the two missions they give you two more, leaving three left if you pay the premium. I think the rabbit may have said so.



Anguspuss said:

dl played deleted. As a suggestion if the upgraded full version included the original tech demo steel diver it might be worth a punt.



ecco6t9 said:

Seems to have eaten up nearly the rest of my SD Card, time for an upgrade.



KevTastic84 said:

I could see myself probably enjoying this so cannot lose by trying the free version. But it'll have to wait til the weekend is over as I'm off to GEEk 2014 in Margate. Hopefully pick up a few spot passes whilst i'm there.



Dpullam said:

I really enjoyed what I played of the free version so I decided to buy the premium so I could try some new submarines! The campaign missions are fun, challenging, and unique while the online multiplayer is incredibly fun and is most certainly a breath of fresh air from today's online games. Good times!



Mk_II said:

@1337man1233 well i think that's a given IF the DLC proves to be selling well. Then we'll very likely see scenario packs, more historical submarines etc. I must say i am sorely tempted to get the full price version. The multi-player matches are lots of fun even though i usually quickly sink without a trace



Gashole said:

I never thought a slow-as-a-snail game could be so much fun in online multiplayer. It's one of my FAVORITES! So much so, I'm content with the free version, as the extra subs only have slight tweaks to them, and the single-player game has almost zero attention from me. It's all about blowing up other human players, baby!



Boksunni said:

I figured out a huge secret/trick about Sub Wars!
Every person you encounter online gets added to your Mii Plaza. I checked and ended with over 800 people when I used to have 70! 



millarrp said:

I tried the first free to play level and decided it wasn't my thing. But at least they put effort into it.



MAB said:

You know the 3DS is lacking anything substantial when a free2play submarine game with DS quality is the latest craze



Specters said:

downloaded but yet to play. Still getting through Bravely Default and started Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze. But this definitely looked great and glad to hear it's getting good reviews.



KTT said:

I played it yesterday, the free version, single player. Looked fun. Not that I'm interested in submarines etc but the game felt solid. Kinda reminds me Ace Combat Assault Horrizon Legacy, in terms of gameplay and unlockables.



Luffymcduck said:

Not the kind of game I'd pay for, but nice to have stuff like this for free. Wouldn't mind seeing free2play stuff on 3DS and even on Wii U. F-Zero next, unless there's a GX sequel in the making which I seriously doubt.



DStroke said:

I love the game, but as always I want more options. Create rooms, choose/vote maps, play with friends online etc. morse code is funny, but not helpful during combat, voice chat would be nice



WYLD-WOO said:

This was a great move by Nintendo and I purchased the full game a day after playing the free-play version. By the way, I`m not really a FPS fan and really didn`t think I would like this game.

Since the release, I`ve developed a serious addiction to the on-line play and have clocked up to level 36. However, this great game is made very frustrating by the serious lack of service from the ever so poor servers.



WYLD-WOO said:

The subs in the PREMIUM version are just as good and get better as you progress through the levels. I`ve just un-locked the super cod and that`s way stronger than any additional purchased sub.



dyopri said:

TIP: How to Level Up Fast:
1) Join Random Battles
2) PRAY your Team's Level are Miles away from your opponents



Lycidas said:


you're soo right, Woo, the frequent disconnects are annoying. and because of them, i'll never be able to catch up with you, except by long range torpedos



brokenfang said:

@mab : have u even tried it? sheesh, you really need to get a life bro...

and dont bother posting a stupid picture in response, nobody cares.



unrandomsam said:

@WYLD-WOO Not interested in that either. Only would be if everybody started off as good as each other. Then the best won according to the outcome of the game. Don't mind if they are slightly different as long as they are not objectively better. DOTA2 is great because everything is cosmetic but something similar where without paying you can only access some of the characters I would also be ok with because there are none that are better than the others really.

Even on Mario Tennis Open online I wish if my opponent was using a none crown character it could automatically downgrade mine to make it fairer.



WYLD-WOO said:

Haha, keep practising them long range hits then and you`re be catching up with me in no time. See you on-line sometime soon.



WYLD-WOO said:

You do start off the same, if you purchase the full game. There are such small differences in the subs untill you get higher up in level. I see the free to play thing as a demo really.



Gashole said:

If anyone has the guts to face me online, look out for my Mii name (are you ready for this?)... Gashole!



HandheldGuru97 said:

I have been pleasantly by this little title. I wasn't expecting much, but I got much more than I expected!!!!!!! It really is a great little game. I'll probably upgrade to premium later after I get some other much needed games.



Gashole said:

Yeah, I hit on Gashole when I was playing Mario Kart 7, and of course, no bad names, so I picked the next best thing. It actually has two meanings. The first is the exhaust pipe of a gas-fueled kart, and the other is... you get the idea. It also gives me the personification of being a competitive jerk when I wanna be! It's more fun that way.



appel said:

@dsparil: "I think that calling this "free-to-play" sends people the wrong message. I get the sense that a large number of people see free-to-play and assume that the game is based on a "buy 30 missiles for $0.99, 300 for $8.99" system instead of basically downloading the demo and then unlocking the rest of the game."

Finally, someone who feels exactly the same! I totally agree! For me, 'free-to-play' is a (mobile) game with unlockables you have to pay for. Not a demo, like this is, that you can 'unlock' to play the complete version.



StarDust4Ever said:

I picked this up. As well, I picked up the original Steel Diver 3DS card for $5.99 at Game-X-Change (I only got Pilotwings at launch). w00t!

Can't wait to try online, but I'll play through some missions to get experience with the controls first.



Lycidas said:

man, finally been able to chain some fights without disconnects, and lo and behold, 12 consecutive wins!
and unlocked the mechanic and super cod, feels so good to play continually



Backwardsonapig said:

Haven't had a whole lot of time to play it yet, but I think I actually prefer the original. I'm not a huge fan of the first person perspective this game has. I don't want to judge it too quickly though. Will play more later.



XCWarrior said:

@T900Kassem This is Nintendo. There MIGHT be an update. If they do make the update, I will then download it. But considering I haven't heard anyone talk about the game on Twitter since the first couple of days, I think the game is finished already.

And I bet sadly the lack of friends battles is a huge reason. Fix it, Nintendo.



Pete-Trax said:

I am lv99 on SDSW. I bought the full version because the health of free subs made me lose too much. I have proof that I'm lv99 if any of you need it.



Pete-Trax said:

@appel I like the "free-to-play" stance that Nintendo has made. I wouldn't like the idea of having to pay cash just for ammo. :/



Draconian said:

This game is programmed by bullies. Using the paid version, in "Matched Skills" mode, once you hit Level 30 you are paired with anybody up to level 99! In other words, people even 69 levels higher than you with MUCH better subs will be placed as your opponents. You will do nothing but lose for many, many levels, advancing by 20 or 30 points a game where you need over 2000 to get to the next level. Does this sound like fun? It's not. Probably the only ones having fun are the programmers who gave themselves Level 99 during playtesting and who have set the game up to feed them a bunch of seasoned opponents, who did at least learn the game through 30 levels, but with subs guaranteed to be inferior to theirs. This game is programmed by bullies.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...