Rovio, creators of Angry Birds, has released their next great title on mobile called Battle Bay, which revolves around a PvP team deathmatch-based experience featuring ships battle each other. Certainly a departure from Angry Birds, but nonetheless equally as entertaining.
Without further delay, let’s get right into it.
Battle Bay throws you into the mix right from the get-go. It places you in a quick (and let me stress again QUICK) tutorial that gives you the general instruction on how to control your ship and how to target/fire at your enemies. Along the way, it also lays out the details of the leveling system, the microtransaction system (you knew it was going to be in there) and a bevy of commercials to watch to gain extra goodies. You get a bit of everything with this PvP title and it let’s you know it right from the start.
Once you’re done with the tutorial, the transition to actual PvP online is seamless. It’s so seamless, in fact, that I didn’t know I was playing a live game. There is no drop-off and I’m especially impressed that the algorithm that determines who to put you against at the beginning is so good. It eases you into the fighting water rather than pushing you into it. It avoids heightening player frustration and coddles you into you’re ready to jump out of the nest and into the real fun. You won’t feel real competition until the fourth or fifth game, but by that time you’ll be in the commander’s seat knowing how the title works.
Anyway, as you dive into the game there are a few notables that will certainly get brought to your attention quickly. The speed of your ship, unaltered at the beginning, is atrocious. It’s comparable to a tiny motor pulling a Royal Caribbean cruise liner, but don’t get discouraged by that, as you will find others in the same ‘boat’ as you. You will maneuver your ship slowly through the rolling waves and towards enemies. Targeting and firing against enemies is simple stuff, so you won’t have any issues with that at the start. Firing and destroying is the mission, so moving quickly is a must when trying to get into the game.
That said, everyone in the early stages of the game goes slow, misfires against targets and is generally messy with their first match. Understanding simple things like turning and not firing your weapon into barreling waves (this isn’t Battlefield 4) is what everyone is experiencing the first time around. Quickly learning to lead your enemies and get your shots in cleanly as you progress in the game will come naturally, as the gameplay seems designed to NOT get in the way of a player getting better. That’s generally a sign of a good PvP game.
Weapons and waves aside, the need to get better, score points against fallen enemies and win matches to gain monetary/XP points to upgrade parts, such as the speed of your boat, is an absolute must. The beginning is forgiving enough to get you there quickly and lays out, in non-overwhelming fashion how to upgrade and maintain your boat/weapons properly. Much like the lack of frustration with the gameplay design, there is a lack of frustration with understanding the ins/outs of making your boat and experience better. Again, it’s really good design by Rovio.
Speaking of upgrades and leveling, there is a surprisingly extensive leveling tree in the game for all manner of items. There is a training tree for you captain that allows you to activate certain perks, such as refresh time on weapons, weaponry effectiveness and shielding. Having the ability to upgrade/train your captain that produces perks is neat addition to a mobile game. Rovio could have simply stuck to the upgrade/leveling script with the ship and only the ship, but they chose to up the ante a bit with this design. This option adds a bit more depth to the mobile game.
On the topic of ship leveling, you can upgrade weapons and engine power, and a few other things, on the boat. You can even go as far as to customize what you put on the boat by using open spaces to switch in/out weapons and parts on the ship. In addition to that, you can also level up those parts throughout the game. For example, if you wanted a bigger/badder cannon, then you win the XP (or purchase it) to upgrade that weaponry, thus making it better. It’s quite simple, but again a very welcomed, deep option that makes this experience a bit better than the usual mobile game.
Once you’re in battle with these upgraded or newly placed items, you can see the effectiveness of them immediately. For example, I upgraded a cannon to level six and hit a ship in the game, knocking half of its energy out of play. Prior to that upgrade, hits were knocking enemy energy levels down by increments of one-fifth at a time. It was rewarding to see the fruits of my labor in action, as well as very motivating.
Now, all of this gushiness aside, there is a bit of a downside to Battle Bay, and no it’s not the microtransactions (not a fan of them, but I understand why developers go that route). The true downside to Battle Bay is the pair of virtual controllers on the screen. While I don’t have an issue with the right controller, which is used for aiming and firing (press down, move your thumb to aim and let go to fire), I do have some beef with the left controller, which is used to move the ship. Having played this game multiple hours, I still haven’t been able to smoothly turn my ship in a 360 manner quickly. I have turned it, but it has taken some unusually large amount of patience and effort to maneuver the ship around when I need to turn. It’s not smooth and it can get frustrating. I’m not a huge fan of virtual controls to begin with, so this certainly didn’t change my mind. It is manageable, but it does get in the way of the experience.
Beyond gameplay design, and control complaint, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how absolutely gorgeous Battle Bay’s presentation is for a mobile title. Colorful, big bays that are full of huge rolling waves and detailed ships is what you get with BB. Visually everything about the game is a step up from what you generally get with a mobile title. I played this on an iPhone 7, so it handled all the visuals, including a solid FPS, beautifully. Anyway, Battle Bay is a pretty game, so it won’t fail you in that department.