Battlewake Review: Solid Ideas Weathering Rough Seas
Now that Battlewake is out and fully released we put it through its paces for our full review after spending more time with the multiplayer. Find out what we think right here!
Survios have done a remarkable job of establishing themselves as one of the very best developers for high-quality, polished, and fun VR games. They often experiment with some quirky ideas, such as Sprint Vector and Electronauts, but also deliver great licensed VR games, such as Creed: Rise to Glory and Westworld: Awakening, as well as action-packed adventures that make you feel like a badass, such as Raw Data. It’s a big portfolio and it keeps growing.
Battlewake is their latest endeavor and newest IP full of their own original characters. In it you take control of a powerful pirate lord and embark on voyages to defeat other pirate lords and establish each of the four as the king of their respective waters. Add on top of that co-op features and some competitive PvP and you’ve got yourself a typical Survios game.
The issues start arising if you look past the raw bullet points, though. For example: yes, there are technically 20 missions, but they’re split up into four sets of five chunks across each of the pirate lords and you can breeze through the entire thing without much problem in just about two hours. There are some light upgrade elements sprinkled in between each mission chunk, but other than killing a few waves of ships and taking on each of the four bosses, that’s about it. Playing in co-op doesn’t change anything.
Clearly the campaign is designed as a sort of training ground for multiplayer. As you complete the campaign missions you’ll earn gold that can be used to upgrade your ship and all of those upgrades will carry over into the multiplayer matches.
Visually Battlewake looks wonderful. The bright, colorful art style really pops inside the headset and all of the environments have a very distinct presentation. I didn’t hear a ton of music, but from what I did hear of the OST it sounds appropriately epic as well.
Actually controlling the ships is a bit imprecise, but extremely fun. There is no wind direction to worry about at all, it appears to just always be blowing in every direction, so that takes a load off in terms of things to worry about. Instead you can focus just on steering the ship with the wheel and aiming your weapons with your hands. It works a bit like miming in that you just point and pull the trigger to fire even though you don’t physically fire a canon or anything. The same goes for special attacks like the Kraken (shown below) or giant typhoons.
All in all multiplayer is the star in Battlewake since it offers far more challenge and way more options. There is a good selection of game modes from your typical deathmatch-style battles to more objective-focused options with up to ten total players. The pirates seem balanced well against one another so no one is dramatically overpowered compared to the others. However, there is one pretty major issue and that’s the lack of cross-play. For a Survios VR game the lack of cross-play is confounding, especially when it’s so heavily bolstered by its multiplayer modes.
In a lot of ways Battlewake feels almost like a sampler platter of a yet-to-be-released more robust VR game. The campaign is brief, multiplayer is mostly shallow, and there aren’t a whole lot of options in terms of weapons, abilities, and characters.
I know what you’re thinking: controlling a pirate ship, on water, in VR, could very likely result in the worst forms of both sea sickness and VR motion sickness, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. I typically played seated, but it works well standing too. The design of the ship itself, plus the physicality of handling the wheel and directing attacks, keeps your body engaged so you aren’t affected by the movement across the water as much. And your character’s position is locked in terms of not bobbing up and down and even if your ship gets rammed or sent flying the camera doesn’t shift around to keep you oriented to the wheel — instead, you’ll just see the ship moving around, sort of floating in place, until it settles back down again.
This is purely conjecture, but it feels like some aspects of the game were rushed, likely to get it out the door after Westworld: Awakening (which was announced and launched on the same day) and before The Walking Dead: Onslaught later this year. Furthermore, it’s designed well to flourish in the arcade scene on Survios’ LBE platform — but that doesn’t factor into the review of the consumer version of the game.
Battlewake Review Final Verdict
Battlewake is a very solid pirate ship combat game that has great presentation, fun gameplay, and good core mechanics, but it just doesn’t have enough depth. The campaign is over just as you feel like you’re coming to grips with each character, multiplayer lacks the breadth and depth it needs, and generally it’s missing a unifying framework to tie it all together more strongly. It feels like Survios expected the multiplayer to really take off here, but without cross-play or a good reason to keep playing for weeks and months on-end, the buried treasure in this pirate conquest loses its luster far too quickly.
This review is based on the Steam and Oculus Home versions using a Rift S. For more on how we arrived at this score, read our review guidelines.
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September 20, 2019 at 06:01PM