Many times in the now increasingly more distant past holidays, my wife has tried to make a pecan pie. These particular attempts resulted in something made up of very tasty ingredients but did not coalesce into something that the average layman would classify as “pie.” Instead, we received a soupy mess barely contained by a pie crust. A product better served with a ladle into a bowl and cut with a proper breakfast cereal to thicken it, as opposed to one that be placed on a small plate and eaten with dainty dessert fork. I dubbed this concoction “sploosh pie.” Under the threat of pending domestic violence, I must inform you that she has perfected this recipe, but the analogy is apt: Capital j Media’s Battle Fleet 2 is sploosh pie.
I am the first to say, this game does so much right. What we have here is a turn-based naval warfare game set in the World War II Pacific Theater. Each turn, the player is provided the opportunity to use only one ship (selected in a “round robin” fashion,) move it, and make use of every weapon currently on board and functional. The view is overhead, and aiming is done on a radial with ample room for fine-tuning. When ready to fire, the player selects the amount of power behind the shot and lets loose. At first, there will be many missed shots, punishing the ocean and any sea life that has the misfortune of lurking beneath. Soon enough, it becomes possible to gauge the correct power to land the shell on point. There are also torpedoes and aerial bombing runs available. Additionally, there is a fog of war mechanic that requires proper scouting with either a fast ship or airborne recon. Since this does use a valuable resource, careful use is required.
It has to be said, landing ordinance on target is gratifying. Scrolling in close to the ships reveals a reasonably detailed model; one that crumples and smokes with damage. Each ship has multiple components that can be damaged. Destroyers that start off bristling with ordinance can find themselves toothless, attempting to gum the opposition into submission. Of course, the captain of this brave vessel could always sacrifice himself and ram the enemy…
They don’t skimp on the modes, either. In addition to multiplayer and single player quick skirmishes, there is a full-fledged campaign. In between skirmishes, there is a Risk-style board game where you can shift units to shore up the front lines and ensure that your attempts to take over enemy territory has a true backbone. This mode here has all the makings of becoming an addictive experience.
Here lies the rub, though. All of these well done pieces: graphics, design, and so on, do not come together to make something that feels less than the sum of its parts. I enjoy turn-based strategy. Thinking moves ahead and putting together a complex, multi-faceted plan and watching everything fall into place is brain-crack. The damage modeling is satisfying, as I have mentioned. There is a push and pull in the campaign to gain a foothold, something I typically enjoy. They even threw in perks that can be picked up on the board and used , making it so that even an apparent rout can be turned around if you possess the proper cunning.
What kills it, for me, would be the pacing. More specifically, the seemingly limited movement range of the ships themselves. Getting ships into proper position take a long while. Many matches devolve into s.l.o.w.l.y. trying to bring a straggling ship or two in range as they try to flee. I would be willing to concede that what is represented here are very old styled vessels, ones that are not exactly known for pep. However, the realism argument goes out the window when you realize that other touches and decisions were made in the name of fun. For example, one missed shot to a landmass blows a whole right through to the sea, creating an instant salt water lake for families to enjoy. If the makers were willing to make this concession to fun over realism, increasing the distance/speed that a ship can travel on its turn does not seem far fetched. Were this adjusted, I believe that we would find ourselves with a fun WWII equivalent to Worms or Scorched Earth. Admittedly, the sea water wouldn’t be able to be deformed like in those classics, but the other additions would make up the difference.
I realize it seems like I am nitpicking here. Capital j Media obviously have some talented people on staff and I really wish I could give this resounding praise. But the pacing issue is enough to blow a hole in its hull. What could be an exciting, nail biting strategy game becomes a slog for me. With that said, if you are more patient and/or less caffeinated than I, you will find some quality fun here.
There was a moment where both I and my adversary each had a ship squared off in a corner of the map. We ships were both broad side to each other with one deck cannon each trained on the other. He managed to get the drop on me but his shot juuuust fell short, splashing in the drink. With the information this ranging shot gave him, I knew he would sink my ship on his next turn with this particular ship. I didn’t have a chance to fire a ranging shot. I either get it right once or lose my cruiser. I aimed the shot, entered the force, and stopped considering. After tinkering, I closed my eyes and clicked fire. The shell sailed over the ocean, ready to land where it may. It was small, but the lives of the many brave ones and zeros aboard the cruiser depended on a direct strike. Finally, after what seemed like forever, it hit. The enemy was sunk! The sailors from my fallen foes ship fell overboard and struggled to stay afloat! The ones used the zeros as life preservers! I may have hallucinated everything after the shot landed!
Anyhow, moments like these are great and there is quite a bit of value and hard work poured into Battle Fleet 2. It is simply hamstrung by one poor design flaw. It is…sploosh pie. Tasty if you can deal with it. Otherwise, there are better options out there.