July 25, 2012 by Casey Smith, SUBSIM
Let me start off by saying this first and foremost, I am an avid strategy game player. From the beginnings with Red Alert, to more recent titles like Sins of a Solar Empire, and Battlestations: Midway, I tend to enjoy most strategy games for what they are: in-depth extremely intense decision-making games. I enjoy deep strategy, the kind where every decision affects the outcome of the total war. So let me be frank and start off with this before any of my review commences, this well-designed and quite fun game, is not my forte in strategy.
BattleFleet is a pretty interesting composite of a game. It is one of those rare birds that is developed for the Mac and iPad. It mixes a top-down turn-based strategy game with naval vessels (Captain Obvious here to your rescue) and with a bit of Battlestations: Midway mixed in between. The idea and premise is a very good one, one that came out well, but there is always room for improvement. If there is a successor to this game there are plenty of things that could be added to the core gameplay to make this an extremely in-depth and time consuming experience. To me, what it does manage to do very well, is be a very nice time waster. Again not in a bad way, it just could not hold my attention for an extreme amount of time, mainly due to the fact that I feel like I had expended what the game had to offer within a night or two of playing it.
So lets get down to the basics, what BattleFleet does offer is quite significant, you start each match with a number of points to spend, on your vessels, beginning with frigates, then upping to destroyers, cruisers, and finally battleships, and carriers. Each vessel costs significantly more points the larger you go. The reason for this is because they have more health and more spots for guns. I say spots because the ships aren’t pre-set with their guns. (Update: the developer tells us that all ships default to Standard Turrets if you don’t place a turret in a slot). After you pick your ships you outfit them with one of several weapons systems, be it torpedo launchers, long range weapons, spread shot cannons, or short range but extreme power guns. Each having its own distinct advantage and disadvantage. Afterwards you continue and get loaded into a randomly generated map and begin play.
The premise of the gameplay is simple, you get to move all of your ships and fire all of the guns in one turn. Afterward, it is your opponent’s turn. The combat is interesting and reminds me of Battlestations: Midway in the way that you have to have the correct range to hit your target. You can miss long or short and fore or aft of the vessels as well as that you can target specifics, like certain turrets, or the engines to disable the movement of the ship. The actual bulk of combat strategy comes from either; trying to get in range of your opponent and getting a full broadside shot, letting you fire off the majority of your weapons, or keeping out of his range so that you can pick him off from close range. Also during combat there are certain, “combat cards” which if you run over you get to play. They involve things like bombing runs and boosts for your ships that help eliminate the threats on the other end of the map. The top down view is simple and works, and so does the UI. Also for some reason I have to say, the water graphics are quite interesting and cool to look at.
There were two major problems I had with the game however. First up, is that it seemed even on normal difficulty, that the AI was extremely accurate for the most part, being able to pinpoint your vital systems in no more than a few shots. Secondly the it seems that the carrier is ridiculously overpowered (having a bombing run each turn and guns on top of it means all you have to do is outfit it with long range weaponry and you will almost always win). I used a carrier to take out three ships on a map with ease, even when all three were in range of me, I was simply dishing out much more than they could handle. This power is offset by the cost of the unit itself. Other than that there were some minor things that could have been changed to raise the replay value; like more points to spend for more ships, more cannon types to put on the ships, the ability to select the fleet of the AI you go against.
After all is said and done, and after all of the smoke clears, this is actually a well developed game, one that I liked for a while. A don’t forget, it is an iPad/Mac game. In the end it just didn’t have the deep strategy to pull me in long term. However, that is definitely not what the developers were going for. The graphics were smooth, the gameplay was fun and amusing, and there were no bugs. The game achieves its goal–it’s a quick and simple yet still strategic game, but could use minor improvements that could have added more replay value and complexity.