With the Empire of Japans infamous attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7th, America has been brought into World War II. With her Navy heavily damaged by the attack, you have beeen recuited to re-arm the fleet and push back against the tretrous Japanese advance. Battle Fleet 2, is a turn based strategy game, you're in command of either the Japanese or American naval forces, your mission is to win the war and destroy either the Japanese or American naval forces in the pacific.
While playing battle fleet 2, it didn't really feel like an original game, it felt like a mixture of risk and battleship, in fact, one of my co-workers made that comment when he was shoulder surfing and seeing what I was playing. Now, I don't mean to take away from the game, far from it, this was a fun game to play. Actually a couple of nights, I found myself staying up into the wee hours of the morning sacrificing sleep because I wanted to finish off the campaign and claim victory.
Battle Fleets 2 is a surprising addictive and fun game to play. The premise of the game is to build a large enough navy to destroy the opposing side, this game is only about naval warfare, and while there is limited combat directed to grown targets (air fields and artilery cannons), it's about your fleet pummeling the enemies fleet into submission. Ships can only be built and repaired at your shipyards, in the Historical Pacific mode, naval ship yards are located in Australia, Hawaii, West Coast USA, Japan / Korea and Hokkaido, and both sides start with a few fleets, who's disposition are inspired by events in 1942. In the Clean Slate Pacific mode, ship yards are located in Hawaii, West Coast USA, Japan / Korea and Hokkaido, neither sides starts with any ships and you must use prestige to build your forces.
In both modes, in order to build your forces you need to earn prestige. Prestige can be earned by either acquiring and holding territory either through annexing it (if there's no opposing navy on that tile), and through combat. Each tile, holds a different amount of prestige that can be earned between turns, for example a naval base at Hawaii earns you 25 points per round, vs an empty piece of water that may only earn you 5 points per round. Another way to earn prestige is by destroying opposing naval forces, for each ship you send to the bottom, you'll earn points that can be used to purchase ships. The vessels that you can build during the game are:
Frigate (100 prestige points) - 4 weapons points - A Frigate is a small close in support vessel, perfect for anti-submarine warfare, or going two to two with other frigates, or in a pack up against a destroyer.
Destroyer (200 prestige points) - 6 weapons points - The multi-tool of naval warfare, while it may not pack as many guns, or the same amount of health as a cruiser or battleship, the destroyer is versatile, having 6 weapons mounts, you can load it out for coastal assaults, anti-sub warfare, or to go toe to toe against a similar size vessel and smaller, in a pack, a group of destroyers can best a battleship or a cruiser.
Submarine (200 prestige points) - 4 weapons points - A stealthy weapon of war, it lurks beneath the waves looking for it's targets, it's a fairly weak vessel, but it's good for support of larger ships, or if you're close enough and in line to launch a few torpedo's towards an enemy's capital ships.
Cruiser (300 prestige points) - 7 weapons points + 2 reconnaissance planes, the Cruiser has a large displacement compared to a destroyer, more hit points and carries one additional weapon platform, it also has the benefit of 2 planes to perform reconnaissance missions, which can be useful in locating an enemy fleet, or lurking submarine.
Carrier (400 prestige points) - 3 weapons points + 4 flight wings. The Carrier allows you to attack positions at a stand off distance, with it's 4 flight wings you can fly reconnaissance flights to locate enemy ships, or strafing runs against enemy vessels or buildings. The Carrier is a magnet to enemy vessels, they're always looking to sink your flat top.
Battleship (500 prestige points) - 10 weapons points. Everyone is familiar with a battleship, they're the bruiser of the sea, and until the dawn of carrier warfare they were the undisputed champions of the sea. They pack the most weapons platforms, and with their massive guns, can deliver a crippling or knock out punch to smaller vessels if you're able to connect it. The trade off for the massive floating arsenal is they're movement is limited compared to other vessels and the main guns take 2 rounds to reload.
For each ship, regardless of of size, it takes one turn to produce them, while for a quick game it's a nice feature, it's impractical to believe you can build a carrier or battleship in the span of a turn. I would like to have seen where the size of the ship dictates the number of turns it takes to build it. Each ship yard would have multiple building queues, and for say a frigate, one turn to build, a battleship 3 or 4 turns to build. It would add a bit more difficulty to the game later one if one side is able to accumulate more prestige points, where they could just pump out battleships at each turn.
There is a limited amount of customization for your ships in the game, you can choose what weapons platforms you would like to mount, for example, trading a standard cannon for torpedoes, depth charges or anti air craft. For the most part, I didn't really use this option, I did play around with some weapons customization, but I found the stock load out for my ship was acceptable and most of my engagements with the enemy out to 1500 ~ 2000 yards, occasionally getting into range for torpedo. I will admit, getting close enough to put a couple of tubes up an another ships tail pipe did feel pretty good!
In the world map, your fleets can advance one sector per turn, you can use this turn to either, merge your fleets, annex a zone, or engage an enemy fleet. The combat for the game is pretty straight forward, you advance your fleet into an zone occupied by an enemy force, each ship is queued up in terms of their order to move.
When the time has come for your vessel to make a move, there are three options available to you, Move, Attack, status, as well End turn. Move lets you choose where and how far to steer your ship, each vessel has a limited range it can advance per turn, for example the frigate can move 900 yards, while the battleship can move only 750 yards in a single move. You can also choose a course for you ship, this is where you have to plan ahead a little bit, if you've customized or left your stock load out for your vessel, you want to be sure you navigate your ship in such away to maximize which weapons you can fire per turn. You want to be sure your target is not only in range, but also in the line of fire for your big guns.
Once you've positioned your ships and are ready to engage, you will need to select the weapon that you will be choose to engage with, each ship has multiple weapons platforms, so it's possible to individually select each weapon and fire them one at a time towards the enemy. One of the things I found frustrating at first with the game, is judging range, while on the various difficulty levels, you're given a limited range finder, which works well if a ship is near say the 1000 yard mark, but judging a vessel out to 1500 yards or 2500 yards can be a bit trick and take a little getting used to. As does adjusting the orientation of your cannon to ensure that you score a hit.
With the range and orientation of your weapon set, it's time make it rain fire, as mention you can pop off rounds one at a time, to judge distance or score a hit or if you think you've got the target dead to rights, you can send a salvo of rounds. This will fire all the weapons that can be directed at your target at once, and if you're able to score a hit can be extremely deadly.
Aircraft Carriers have the added advantage of being able to launch bombing runs against enemy vessels, or perform recon missions in order to locate them. Much like attack, you choose your flight that you want to send out, and what mission they're going to perform, if it's an attach, you shoot your target and the angle they're going to come in on. I found aircraft was mostly a hit and miss for sea combat, while I would do some damage, most of my kills would come via a ship vs ship engagement. The planes were great against targets like enemy air bases, after 3 or 4 runs they would be reduced to ashes.
How is the AI in combat? For the most part, pretty damn frustrating, but only if you up'd the difficulty level. Not to say they're impossible to beat on the Captain rank, but they seem to be able to capitalize on your mistakes, especially if you don't finish off a ship when you had the chance to. However, there have been rounds where they're clearly numerically superior to you and some how you manage to defeat them, either because they're not able to hit your ships, or because they're fixated on just one target. Then there's rounds, despite your best efforts they seem to be able to lob a shell in your ship from every which angle and you can't stop them.
The last quick thing to talk about for combat, is status, and the status button is just that, the current health of your ship, as the fight progresses and hits are exchange, components of your vessel can be damaged or destroyed. Depending on the damage taken, it can render a weapon useless, your engines or rudder can be destroyed, or your bridge disabled. Depending on the damage it's possible that you won't be able to move or fight back. There's no way directly aim for any of these systems, at least non that I could tell, you'll just have to zoom in, and angle your guns as best as possible if you're looking to knock out a main cannon or engines, etc.
On top of the story mode, win the war in the Pacific, there are additional combat modes to keep the game interesting. For offline game play, there is Quick Battle, the game will auto select your fleet based on the number of prestige points you want to use. Custom battle, were you pick your ships and assign experienced captains to them. One match that's listed under multipleplayer is hot set, somewhat like chess, you have a limited amount of time for each ship to make it's move, at the end of the time the turn is forfeited. While you can play offline (I guess with multiple people sharing a keyboard), the same option is available for online play, as well as standard multipleplayer matches, sadly, at the time of writing this review, there were no active games on line. I will have to give it a try.
Is Battle Fleets 2 a must have game?
If you're the type of gamer that enjoys playing Risk or Battleship, then yes, this would fit at home in your steam collection, if you're a casual gamer looking for a new title to add to your collection, I wouldn't say this is a must have, but a game worth checking out.
Battle Fleets 2 was a fun, time consuming game, where you don't realize the hours melting away as you say just one more turn. With the online play it will keep the game fresh, as you're not going up against an AI, that can sometimes be a little flaky when it comes to how it engages you.
PROS: Hours of game play, fun to play, online game play, offline quick matches
CONS: Like all turn based strategy games, can be slow to complete a battle, occasionally flaky AI
SCORE – 75%