Survios is one of the best and most diverse VR developers around. I literally think they have developed a game for everybody. Creed: Rise to Glory, Raw Data, Electronauts, Sprint Vector, and the highly anticipated The Walking Dead: Onslaught. So, needless to say, when they announced Battlewake, I couldn’t wait to play it. Battlewake is a multiplayer-focused pirate ship combat game. I know what you’re thinking: a VR game focused on multiplayer is the perfect way to kill your game. Survios knows that too, so they stuck in a campaign that even lets you play along with a friend. Is this a pirate adventure worth taking, or is this ship sinking faster than that giant blue necklace old Rose chucked overboard? Keep reading to find out.
Battlewake is VR only so you’ll need the PSVR headset and either the Move controllers or the DualShock 4. Standing at the controls of a giant pirate ship felt even cooler than I expected. I prefer to use the Move controllers as the controls are simple and basic, which fits the Moves perfectly. To turn the massive ship, you simply grab the wheel with either hand and turn it. Apparently, each ship is backed by a perpetual wind machine because your ship is always moving forward. I’m fine with this, as it would be no fun constantly monitoring wind direction.
As you stand at the wheel, on both your left and right, you’ll find a handle. Reach down and pull up on these, and you drop anchor. Pull them both to stop fairly abruptly to dodge mortar fire, or pull up on one for a sharp change of direction. But we’re not just out for a leisurely jaunt around the seven seas here, we also need to blast our fellow pirate peers back to hell. For this, we have machine-gun fire, mortars, and canons at our disposal. To fire these you simply point either move controller at your enemy and pull the trigger. A reticule will appear giving you pinpoint accuracy. This is an intuitive control scheme that is easy to master but still manages to feel awkward. Mixing natural and realistic movements to steer and drop anchor with what amounts to pointing your fingers and going “bang bang” at your enemies is not the most immersive gaming experience I’ve ever had. In fairness, I can’t think of a better way to do it, and despite it not being very realistic, it’s incredibly easy to pick up. There is also some magic, such as tornadoes or the mythical Kraken, that you can unleash on your enemies. And they are as awesome to behold as you might imagine. There are only four maps, but they are all interesting, and if not beautiful, at least interesting to sail around. There is a lush Caribbean map, a dark, frigid map full of icebergs, and one with an active volcano.
For better or worse, simplicity is the name of the game here, whether we’re talking about controls, maps, or game modes. It does feature a full co-op campaign. You’ll choose between four pirate captains with four unique ships. Each one has different strengths and weaknesses depending on how you play. While it technically boasts 20 levels, you’re basically sinking every ship on each map, until the boss shows up. After each level, some above-average voice acting will spoon-feed you a story that you’ll forget as soon as it’s over. At least I did. The story is spread over four “adventures” consisting of five levels each. It doesn’t take long to realize that the campaign, despite the option to play it cooperatively with a buddy, is just a glorified tutorial. You’ll learn the basics, but the story isn’t worth the effort and playing with a friend doesn’t change much. I didn’t notice a change in difficulty, but at least it wasn’t as lonely. However, you do carry over all of your ship upgrades to the multiplayer mode, and this is sadly the best reason to play through the story.
The two multiplayer modes ratchet up the excitement and is where I think you’ll get your money’s worth. The first mode is called Warfare and it’s a cooperative mode where you can play with other players to complete objectives. The fun you have here will largely depend on the players you’re matched up with, but that is the nature of all multiplayer games. The other mode is Plunder and this is your typical competitive multiplayer battle with up to ten players. This can be a chaotic blast despite the lack of options and objectives.
Survios did an amazing job of putting you in a virtual pirate ship without ever feeling the need to vomit all over the poopdeck. It’s an amazing feat that shouldn’t go unnoticed. It feels undeniably cool to sail these massive battle-ready ships, and the easy-to-pick-up controls make this a great title for pirate lovers and those new to VR. Unfortunately for me, everything here feels just a bit too simple and shallow to keep me coming back.
Battlewake PSVR Review
- Overall - Good - 6.5/106.5/10
Survios delivers another polished VR adventure with the high-seas hijinks of Battlewake. The simple gameplay and cool locales will no doubt appeal to VR newcomers, but if you're looking for depth in your story modes or multiplayer, this one may leave you feeling like Jack Dawson clinging hopelessly to Rose's busted door/floatation device.
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Reviewed using base PS4.