12 March, 2017

Blackwake Review

Blackwake is a multiplayer naval game where the players crew ships and fight each other in often fast paced matches of positioning, skill at combat and teamwork.
As an early access game, it mostly works off its basics- There remains very little in the way of content but what is there is enough to lead to many varied and interesting situations, often entirely different because of the reliance on player captains to steer the ships and individual tactics(Or lack of tactics) effecting almost everything about a battle.

Currently, there is only what amounts to a deathmatch- Make the other team run out of respawns or cannonballs before they do the same to you. It is worth noting here that casualties are unavoidable at any range, as a lucky cannonball can and will hit people at almost any range, but this effect can be minimized by a good captain giving your ship good angles of attack while minimizing those of your opponent.
Often it gets a bit hectic on larger ships, as everyone needs to get some information out at the same time- The rear sail is on fire while the captain yells to prepare for ramming and a gunner says they ran out of cannonballs and need someone to run supplies. Teamwork is surprisingly easy if people communicate, but with how the game and its systems are set up you will still need to try in order to do well. A few mistakes by the captain can put a lot of holes in your ship, which floods the gun deck and disables your cannons as they can't fire underwater.

Many of the systems involved are simple, working well together to create the full experience. Flooding happens because you have holes, and water flow is not simulated. At the same time, supplies are a single resource, so you don't have a stock of regular cannonballs, gunpowder, grapeshot, and so on. Just supplies you can use. This is not bad, as the simple nature of these systems makes it easy to switch from one thing to the next- Load cannonballs and repair the hull without having to worry about the exact amount of wooden boards you have left (Repairing takes no resources), or the exact kind of ammo remaining.
Although I personally enjoy these kind of details that the game leaves out, I fully understand and admit that they are not necessary for the game to be fun, and those with less of a mind for logistics and supply management may not enjoy them.

As can be seen in the screenshots, it looks quite well. Several times of day and several weather types are available and make for varied looking rounds, with only two map variations that I've been able to find- Small islands and open sea. I've personally found the maps to be a bit small, but this is likely intentional to force confrontation so the players don't sail around without firing a single shot.

All things considered, Blackwake is a very solid game already and seems to be getting regular patches. It currently only features a single game mode and two kinds of ships, but this is enough to be a very enjoyable experience already. At the very least, I would say it is worth the price.

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