Great Naval Battles of the North Atlantic was the first game of a series of five - the Great Naval Battles Series - and many people say that it was the best of the Series.
Recreating the Naval Battles between the German Kriegsmarine and British Royal Navy between 1939 and 1942, the game included most of the famous battles between those navies plus a campaign mode that is still unique even today.
In a single scenario, the player individually controls all ships of his side (but can switch each ship to computer control if wanted). The game is set in a pseudo 3D world, the ships are shown as bitmaps, displaying them from different angles. You could manouver the ships, select their targets, assign single guns or gun groups to individual targets, fire torpedoes and even use a ships float plane for improving gunnery control by spotting the shell hits. A lot of time is spend in the damage control screen. There the ship is displayed in three layers below the waterline, waterline and superstructure. Each layer consist of individual sectors, which could be damaged or destroyed. Although it is possible to let the computer control the damage control, it is always better to do it manually as the computer often is not able to do the right countermeasures.
For its time, graphic (VGA, 320x200) was ok, but looks totally outdated today. The ship bitmaps only looked good from quite a distance, when they closed up, the pixels just got bigger, no more details were displayed.
The computer AI is not so good. All ships with torpedoes behaved like torpedo boats, destroyers and cruisers always try to make an torpedo attack on the enemy.
Smaller ships are too much resistant against gunfire, a destroyer could be hit by 10+ shells of a battleship without being close to be sinking. But despite the lack in computer AI, it is still a challenge to win a battle against a equal enemy force.
The game even modeled some basic carrier operations. Scenarios can include aircraft carrier and they will launch torpedo planes to attack enemy warships.
The highlight of the game is definitely its dynamic campaign. In a map of the North Atlantic, the player can send its task forces out to attack British convoys (as German player) or to try and find those German raiders when playing the other side. When two task forces come close the game changes to 3D battle mode, which is similar to a single engagement described above. In a basic way, U-boats and allied strategic bombers are included in this campaign, U-Boats randomly attacked allied ships and allied bomber attacks can damage German Ships in their bases. Resupply ships allow the German ship to enlarge their endurance. Although several patches were released for the game, the campaign mode never worked completely. British aircraft carriers never leave their ports, and computer controlled British TFs never return to their base when running out of fuel, just a few of the errors that are on the negative side of the campaign.
The game was first released as a floppy disk game only. Two expansion disks - the "Superschiffe" of the Z-Plan and "America in the Atlantic" were released with additional ships, campaigns and scenarios. The final release was a mission editor to create your own scenarios. Together with this ne, a new game mode was introduced: The Captains Game. In this mode the player got command over a single destroyer and had to fight randomly generated battles. Being successful, one will be promoted and will get a larger ship and command over an entire division of task force.
With the breakthrough of the CD-ROM, a CD-verison of the game was released, including all scenario disk and the editor plus several historical photos of WW2 ships.
Here in Germany, only a special, censored version of the game was released, because of the German law, several symbols and pictures had to be removed.
To sum it up, GNBNA was (and is) a fun game to play, it can be seen as a predecessor of Fighting Steel.