UbiSoft and Hasbro teamed up in 2016 to bring some of the board game publisher’s best known tabletop games to consoles. With a long and seemingly close partnership with EA – that resulted in the long running Hasbro Family Game Night series, that saw compilations of varying quality released on consoles such as Wii and Xbox 360 (taking advantage of motion controls and, for Family Game Night 4 on Xbox 360, the Kinect) – it was refreshing to see another company get a chance at adapting the perennially popular tabletop games into video game form. Of the games they introduced, I’ve already taken a look at Monopoly, which I thought was handled with a decent degree of charm and polish, though not without odd touches (a Just Dance DLC board, among others, being one of the slightly leftfield additions).
It’s Battleship’s turn in the spotlight today though. Battleship perhaps struggles to justify its existencem ore than any other Hasbro branded game, given that it’s easy enough to play with just a few pencils and scraps of paper (even easier if you have graph paper to hand!). So surely, a video game version is even more redundant? Well, given how many digital versions of Battleship there have been over the last four decades, it’s clear that it still holds some appeal and – given how universally known and understood the basic game is – is very easy to pick up and play.
Thankfully though, UbiSoft have gone the extra mile with Battleship, including a fantastic ‘Clash at Sea!’ mode alongside the classic, one shot at a time ruleset. It’s in this new mode that I’ve spent the most time, with its selection of different naval fleets, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Players get white pegs for detection and red to attack, with standard ‘shots’ costing a peg each and more powerful abilities – such as detecting multiple squares or launching attacks that creep across columns or rows every turn, for example – costing more. Players are able to store these pegs to build up to using the more powerful and costly abilities, giving a far more tactical feel to proceedings. Will you cautiously use your white pegs to detect enemies before hitting them with your red? Or just go in all guns blazing even if you don’t detect them first? Will you spend all of your pegs each turn, or keep saving them at the risk of your opponent finding you first?
To add to this, whenever one of your vessels is sunk, their special ability is lost to you – so you need to make good use of their strength while you have it. It’s very satisfyingly done, and accompanied with very nicely implemented, satisfyingly weighty firing animation. Sinking a ship feels powerful and satisfying too, with rumble and big explosions aplenty to signify the success – or failure.
The water effect on player grids is great and though player vs AI or online play are both available, players can play side by side on the couch too, as their formations are hidden by default once placed (you just need to ensure your opponent honourably closes their eyes or turns away as you’re placing your fleet!).
There’s a tutorial to ease you into the slightly more complicated ‘Clash at Sea!’ mechanics, along with a 30-stage campaign to play against the AI, which regularly changes up the fleet you use to give you a taste of their differences. For the most part, the campaign is excellent – but there’s a few missions with ridiculous round limits or other scenarios that put you at what feels like an unfair disadvantage, which may just have you tearing your hair out unless you’re fortunate enough to get some lucky shots in before the end. There’s some weird difficulty spikes along the 30 mission campaign, but it’s generally well thought out and, even though the fact that it’s Battleship means that there isn’t a huge amount of variety, there’s still enough here to keep things interesting until the campaign is over. Along with the aforementioned difficulty spikes, however, some of the stages towards the end of the campaign give the AI player a huge unfair advantage which renders some of the missions incredibly frustrating and reliant on lucky shots, but perseverance will see you succeed.
It’s an impressive package for a game that’s often lazily translated into video game form – and the campaign, along with just taking on the AI or other players using the new rules, can be very addictive indeed. The visuals have a lovely, colourful sheen and the different fleets are nicely distinctive too. Though under the new ruleset you’re essentially still just taking turns to blow each other up – and it won’t convert anyone who doesn’t already enjoy Battleship – it’s a nicely laid back, gently compelling experience that does feel like it justifies a move away from the tabletop.
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