Odds are you and most of your family has played one of Rovio's games on mobile at some point. After all, it's hard to find someone who's not tried Angry Birds at one point or another. The simple, yet ultimately utterly addictive, concept took the world by storm. Beyond the many games, there is candy, soda, clothing, you name it; the Angry Brids brand is everywhere. There was even an animated feature film that starred Sean Penn!
Beyond the massive amount of Angry Birds merchandise and spin-offs, Rovio haven't had much success. They've been trying to look beyond birds and pigs, though, and Battle Bay is one of the ventures outside the safety that slingshot-propelled bird-action provides. Instead, this game takes inspiration from World of Tanks, but instead of tanks we're handling battleships.
As you'd expect it's a free download. As the app starts you're taken on a quick tour of what the game offers. The control scheme is explained, the economy is outlined, and the various menus to upgrade ships, gear, and crew are demoed. The user interface is a bit cluttered so it took a while for us to feel right at home.
Things are all the more obvious during the actual battles. Two teams of five players each are tasked with either taking out all of the enemy ships, or one team must assume control of a neutral area on the map. That's it. The controls are easy enough. You steer your boat with the virtual control stick, turn the camera by sliding your finger across the screen, and use your weaponry by pressing their respective icons.
Most of the depth found here is tied to the type of boat and equipment you choose to take with you into battle. It's a slow process and has more to do with what you're comfortable playing and not strategic considerations. You don't know what crafts your enemies will take into battle, and you can't switch out your boat in the midst of battle as you're limited to one life per round. You're stuck with your choice. The ships themselves are pretty difficult to control, and we found it hard to perform the clever manoeuvres needed to fool our enemies. Once we found ourselves winning a game simply by taking over the specified area when everyone else was busy blasting each other.
It really feels like most battles play out similarily. After a dozen or so matches we started to wonder if there were some additional game modes we'd managed to miss in the main menu. We're still unsure how many maps the game features as they're very similar to one another. If you're unlucky and there aren't enough players, the rest of the spots are filled by bots, something that makes it all feel kind of meaningless. The visuals are also fairly anonymous, but we do like how water is portrayed in the game. It reminds us of what Nintendo did in The Wind Waker, but other than that it's difficult to pinpoint any sort of visual identity other than the fact that it's technically well crafted given the platform.
Upgrading your ship and your gadgets is needlessly complicated, most likely to encourage microtransactions. There are lots of items to buy to improve your chances in battle, and lots of currencies to buy the upgrades with. Sugar cubes are plentiful, but that's the least valuable resource. It's used to train your crew and upgrade cannons, among other things. In order to upgrade cannons you also need scrap that's divided into varies subgroups depending on rarity. You buy this with gold and you can also buy crates with random rewards by spending stars earned by completing challenges. Finally there are pearls, and these are used to speed up your progress. Pearls can be bought with real money.
We quickly grew tired of upgrading our ships and gear as there's so much of everything. Particularly given how mediocre the actual battles are. The whole point of spending time and resources on upgrading and maintaining your ships is pretty much lost as you feel that you've experienced everything the game has to offer after a dozen or so battles. There's simply not enough here to pull you in for a long-term addiction.
Nothing about Battle Bay stands out. It's not engaging enough or fun enough to extend beyond your visit to the bathroom, but it's not dull or boring enough to leave us angry. We've played lesser games on mobile, but then again we've played lots of better games too. Simply put, this is middle of the road stuff. Utterly forgettable, and we doubt we'll even remember playing this game six months from now.