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Silent Service

Silent Service, a groundbreaking game by MicroProse, casts you as the captain of a US submarine in the Pacific Ocean during WWII. This game was a game-changer of sorts for simulations. It was crafted with such reverence and attention to detail that it set the standard for future simulations to come, especially in the submarine genre. It set a high water mark, no pun intended, well above anything that had ever come before it.

Silent Service was originally created in 1985 by legendary game designer Sid Meier for 8-bit computers. It was revamped two years later for the Amiga with better graphics and sound effects.

Before starting this game, one must become familiar with the original manual - it is seriously something to behold. It includes detailed maps and diagrams of everything involved in this game. Want to know how torpedoes are made and how they function? Open that manual. Want to read about each of the missions you have before you, and how they were originally beaten? Manual.

How anyone could have ever played this game and truly enjoyed it without reading the manual is, frankly, next to impossible.

The game is broken down into three main sections:

  • Torpedo/Gun Practice
  • Convoy Actions
  • War Patrols

In each of these sections, gamers can set a multitude of variables (e.g. should convoys you are to destroy be allowed to zig-zag; should the occasional torpedo that you fire be a ‘dud’; and so on) to increase the difficulty as well as realism.

The first section, Torpedo/Gun Practice, is really where you learn all about your submarine and its capabilities. You learn to read the various levels of maps for navigating, managing the engines, diving, surfacing, how to steer, how and when to use the deck guns as well as the torpedoes, periscope, etc. It’s essential to go through these exercises and not just breeze through them on the most basic level before venturing forward or you’ll quickly become fish food.

Once you’ve mastered these skills you move onto Convoy Actions. These are snippets in time where you are to complete very specific tasks. The nice thing about these challenges is that they are relatively short in duration to complete (or fail) and help prepare you to learn various strategies and tactics later on in the game.

War Patrols are the long form of this game, and the most immersive. You’re told in the manual a bit of history about a real sub and a real crew that managed to accomplish X, Y and Z agains the Japanese. Your goal is to try and meet the same standard of excellence, which quite frankly is extremely difficult to do without an extraordinary amount of patience, skill and practice. In that sense, it is a lot like real life. Many of the war patrols described in the manual could have taken up to two months of real time to complete. The fact that you might accomplish them in 2-3 hours is obviously twisting time to make a game playable and not unbearably boring. That said, you have the ability to manipulate and accelerate time during long stretches of sailing to try and get to the actual combat sequences faster, which is nice.

It’s worth noting that there isn’t such a thing as “finishing” Silent Service - only playing it and beating its scenarios. And once you’ve beaten one, the next step in mastering the game is to make the variables as difficult as possible - just like it would have been in the war. The higher the difficulty rating you try to achieve, the higher your score will be if you are successful. Silent Service is all about achieving the highest score possible in any situation, which you can only earn when you survive one.

For the 8-bit machines, Silent Service was incredibly ground breaking and was a best-seller as a result. For the Amiga and her competitors, Silent Service brought the same game to a more highly polished and immersive level.

During some of the scenarios it is true that there can be long gaps of sailing and your mind might wander - just like in real life, of course. It doesn’t always translate to tantalizing game play, however. But when enemy ships are nearby and combat is either drawing very close or you’re in the heat of it, the atmosphere is quite compelling.

Silent Service is a classic and should be on every gamer’s shelf. It’s an important game in the history of simulations and covers a very important aspect of WWII’s Pacific Theatre with intricate care, depth and craft.

Technical Notes

Silent Service was created with copy protection that prevented it from being copied by conventional means. In addition, as MicroProse found itself in the midst of a brutal pirating phenomenon, they took the additional step of embedding questions in the game which could only be answered by those with access to the manual. In the mid-80s this was often enough of a deterrent until a game was ultimately cracked.

The game requires being played in DF0: from boot-up. It can not be installed to hard drive (unless you go the WHDLoad route). However the game is quite compact and plays off a single disk with minimal reads and no writes (unless you get a very good score, in which it will write to the original disk).

The ADF provided on this page is one of the few sourced via 3rd-party and not from our own original disk.
4.3
3 total votes

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4.3
3 total votes
Developer:
MicroProse Software, Inc.
Publisher:
MicroProse Software, Inc.
Designer:
Sid Meier
Artist:
Michele Mahan, Michael O. Haire
Programmer:
Russell Finn, Silas S. Warner
Genre:
Simulation
Perspective:
1st-person, top-down
Theme:
Naval, World War II
Player mode:
1 player
Origin:
USA
Release date:
1987

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Silent Service Manual

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