Naval Warfare Review
Last year, Aqua: Naval Warfare launched on Xbox Live Arcade to below average critical reception. The game featured a highly intriguing steampunk story that took place at sea, and the gameplay premise--a twin-stick shooter set on water--was incredibly promising. Unfortunately, the game failed to deliver on practically every front. One year later, developer Games Distillery is re-releasing the game on Steam (this time simply titled Naval Warfare) and not surprisingly, it remains a big disappointment.
The world has been flooded, and various groups have been formed by the survivors. These groups are battling on the sea for total control of various territory, and this is where you come in. As part of one of these factions, it is up to you to take on enemies and engage in escort missions. Though the story is interesting on paper, the execution is rather lackluster. In between chapters you're treated to stylish hand-drawn cutscenes. As cool as these look, it's hard to really care about the story due to some weak characters and uninspired voice acting.
Storytelling isn't the only area where Naval Warfare falls short. Oftentimes, games with weak narratives can easily be forgiven as long as they provide a compelling adventure. But even in its gameplay, Naval Warfare is an utter failure. Rest assured, the ideas are most certainly interesting. A twin-stick shooter at sea could have been really awesome, but a number of gameplay hindrances keep this game from being as fun as possible.
The first thing that really sticks out about Naval Warfare is its lack of direction. As you play, you're tasked with certain objectives, but the game never puts much emphasis on them. You end up waiting for an on-screen arrow prompt to guide you to whatever destination the game chooses. Naval Warfare should have been a much more linear experience, but due to the large stages, which often feel devoid of life, you'll constantly stray off course and hit barriers. You then realize that all of the enemies you're supposed to eliminate or the ships you're supposed to protect are on the other side of the map, so you have to backtrack before you can complete a mission.
You can obtain upgrades or play in two additional ships, but doing so doesn't yield anything in the way of impressive results. Instead, the mild customization options make you wish there was more to do. This aspect of the game could have delivered some deep options, but with a lack of content, it's just another failed aspect of Naval Warfare.
Naval Warfare feels so misguided, and the campaign ultimately gets too boring to sit through. You can team up with a buddy and take on waves of enemies as a team, and it's certainly more fun than messing with the single-player game on your own. You can even play Skirmish mode, which pits you against hordes of enemies and tests your twin-stick shooting mettle. As decent as these modes may be, they get repetitive and only hold your attention for so long. Naval Warfare was supposed to offer a great story mode, and the disappointment will stay with you the entire time you play, regardless of what mode you're tackling.
At the very least, Naval Warfare manages to do one thing right, and it happens to be the least important aspect of any game: the graphics are pretty damn awesome. Water effects look great, ships and enemy fighters are richly detailed, and the whole ocean atmosphere looks spectacular. Explosions are a bit weak, but other than this minor gripe, everything in-game is remarkable. As previously mentioned, the hand-drawn cutscenes are great, and they really give the steampunk story a unique appearance.
Of course, the other half of the game's presentation--its sound--is pretty drab. Naval Warfare's main theme is cool, but other than that, the soundtrack is nothing special. The monotonous voice acting brings down the quality of the game even more and is one of the main reasons that the story is so hard to pay attention to.
Naval Warfare shouldn't take you too long to play through. But because the game gets boring so fast, you're not going to want to finish the entire adventure. The game has some redeeming qualities in its Skirmish and multiplayer modes, but these are short-lived. What's most surprising is that the developers decided to release a game that had already proven to be a failure one year ago. They could have easily released a brand new version, correcting the flaws of the original to engineer a fun shooter. Instead, this is the same mediocre title that gamers played last year. And because of that, it's far worse.