This game is really is an entirely different beast from The Hunters. Compared to the Germans, there’s a much greater chance of pulling an unsuccessful mission. Not only are Americans plagued with a greater percentage of duds, but the encounters in the Pacific are much more spartan. It’s so bad, I’ve taken to targeting the escorts just to have something else to shoot at.
Is it worth it? Probably not if there are decent sized freighters in sight. If you fail to hit it, it does get a bonus to detect you. But the Japanese are terrible with their depth charges early on in the war, it’s not really that scary– especially if you’re about to head for home anyway. The various awards and decorations that the American brass hands out favors total number of kills over total tonnage. If the chance to get a Navy Cross is the sort of thing that can sway you, then the escort is going to be a little more tempting. (Given that it gives you a bonus for Night Surface Attacks and an option to upgrade your sub… it’s definitely something to consider.)
The drastic drop-off in aircraft encounters is balanced by the chance to encounter enemy warships. The Germans only targeted capital ships, so this is a real change of pace. And while there are some heavy cruisers on the list, it’s mainly going to be frigates and destroyers that you come across with these. The encounters with enemy subs can come off as underwhelming… until you realize that it only takes one torpedo hit from them to put an end to you.
One last change from The Hunters is that the American boats only carry the Mark 14 steam torpedoes in the early part of the war. This cuts out the decision of what type of torpedo to reload with until September ’43. (If you’re patrolling in an area where there’s slim pickings, you might not want risk switching to day. On the other hand, with Japanese depth charges being next to useless during this segment of the way… the only reason to really switch to night time would be for the Night Surface Attack.) Also note that the Americans get a third type of torpedo at the tail end of the war: the Mark 27 Acoustic, which lacks the problems of both the electrics and the steams.
Probably the nicest improvement of all in the game is that changes in technology from over the course of the war are listed in a notes column. This makes it much easier to remember them! Similarly, the map illustrating the patrol areas seems to just make everything more fun. In a game about the little things, little things like this really count!