For a videogame on water it’s a little shallow.
Survios has one of the best catalogues of virtual reality (VR) videogames of any developer in the industry, all highly polished examples of what makes VR unique. So when another comes along it’s difficult not to get a little excited, especially seeing as it’s the first time the team has ventured into the realm of vehicular combat. A real pirates life may not have been all that glamorous but the legends and fantasy which have weaved themselves into modern folklore have ensured plenty of exciting entertainment, and that’s exactly what Battlewake is all about.
Battlewake is a pure action-combat experience which doesn’t concern itself with any real role-playing game (RPG) type elements. It’s all about captaining your ship and waging war on the high-seas. If that sounds appealing then read on.
Survios has ensured that all bases are covered when it comes to single-player and multiplayer gameplay, and it’s the campaign where you’re best to start off. Battlewake revolves around four Pirate Lords, whether you’re unlocking the storyline or competing in a deathmatch, each with their own particular abilities. In the solo campaign, there are 20 missions, five for each Pirate Lord, offering fairly easy gameplay throughout as there’s no difficulty level to speak of.
With a boss to defeat for each character, the rest of the enemies don’t offer the greatest variety when it comes to strategy so the entire campaign can be breezed through in a couple of hours. There is the option to co-operatively play the story but there isn’t much more to this side of the experience.
It’s worth playing as you’ll accrue gold to spend on upgrading your ship which can then be used in multiplayer battles, the best part of Battlewake. Upgrades aren’t particularly in-depth – there’s no option to directly swap weapons or alter parts of the ship – simply cost levels which unlock more health or damage. While basic these are still vital so it can be worth mining these in single-player, albeit a little boring.
Before discussing multiplayer let’s delve into the controls and comfort. Survios has certainly made sure that even on choppy seas playing Battlewake should be fine for most players. Suitable for those seated or standing, the videogame employs a mixture of direct interaction to make you feel like you’re actually in control of the ship and more conventional aiming elements to make fighting less laborious.
There’s a nice big traditional wheel to grab hold of for steering whilst two handles either side of your character can be grabbed to perform quick turns. These work perfectly well and it can get quite hectic making sure to avoid smashing into rocks when pummelling an opponent. Because of the style of gameplay Survios has gone for you won’t be suddenly running down onto the deck to load cannonballs. This is all handily taken care of with a point and shoot mechanism. Ships are equipped with guns at the front, traditional cannons either side and mortars, flame throwers or other armaments at the rear. Each one is automatically selected depending on where the target you’re aiming at is. This method does cut down on the immersion somewhat yet it’s very clear the type of audience Battlewake is being catered for, arcades.
Yes this a home release but Survios does have an arcade arm, and this style of gameplay perfectly fits into that quick and easy to pick-up mould. Thus making Battlewake suitable for those without any VR experience.
Having got the sailing mastered (it won’t take long), multiplayer is where a lot of time will be spent, with up to 10 players able to jump into a deathmatch. Here you can tailor the Pirate Lords to different ships to suit your strategic requirements, you may prefer Rev and her ability to summon the Kraken mixed with Diego’s ship with front-firing machine guns. While the maps allow for weaving in and out of icebergs or swampy marshes, battles do tend to concentrate around the glowing talismans which unlock your primary ability. As the AI ships in the other modes don’t offer a massive challenge offers the best replay valve in Battlewake (as long as players are available).
Also found in the multiplayer section is Warfare Mode, where up to four players can co-operate to complete constantly changing missions. You’ll be able to earn coins for the overall upgrades (used in deathmatches) while tankards upgrade basic abilities in Warfare. The mode is great for those who want a bit more focus on their missions or simply aren’t gelling with PvP.
Battlewake is a bit of a mixed experience. While its looks great and handles very well the multiplayer definitely carries the whole thing as the campaign is a little lacklustre. The combat is a good laugh once there are a few of you to banter with but it does get somewhat repetitive and so do the locations. Sea of Thieves in VR this certainly is not, on the other hand, for those not after sinking dozens of hours into a videogame to get anywhere Battlewake will have you wondering where the rum’s gone.