Soon after the launch of Sony’s PlayStation VR, Survios was one of the earliest developers that drew our attention. Since the release of its ultra slick sci-fi shooter, Raw Data, the studio has gone on to create a number of new IPs including first person person speed-runner, Sprint Vector, and the often overlooked DJ simulator, Electronauts. Its prowess in the VR gaming space has also allowed Survios to work on popular licenses such as Westworld, Creed, and The Walking Dead.
Battlewake is the team’s latest original title, proving that no two Survios games are the same. Instead of gunning down hordes of robots, dropping sick beats, or dabbling in futuristic parkour, Battlewake has you at the helm of your very own pirate ship.
This is what Survios does best, cooking up an idea then designing a simple yet intuitive web of VR-friendly gameplay mechanics to wrap around it. Battlewake can be best described as an arena shooter, though it’s one that casts you as one of four pirate lords, waging war with other players or fleets of AI controlled enemies.
Controlling your ship is joyfully straightforward. Spinning the wheel will change your direction and if you’re in need of a hard turn you can pull on the left or right anchors to quickly swing around. You’ll be managing your weapons at the same time. Looking straight ahead will prime your front-loaded guns while pointing to either side will trigger the broadside cannons.
Ships also come equipped with auxiliary weapons attached to the rear such as mortars and flamethrowers with each lord having their own ultimate ability. Whether summoning the Kraken or spawning whirlpools these add a cinematic flair to battles, folding in some supernatural unpredictability alongside the constant exchange of cannon fire.
Content-wise, there’s a singleplayer campaign as well as an objective based survival mode and a decent spread of online options. It’s the latter part of the game Survios no doubt hopes you’ll spend most of your time with, though as we’ve seen in other PSVR multiplayer titles, lobbies can go quiet just a few weeks after launch. This is maybe something that cross-play integration could help with, though expecting this feature to appear in games that aren’t huge online hits is perhaps asking a bit too much.
Although the core gameplay is fun and easy to pick up, Survios struggles in their attempts to popular Battlewake with enough content to justify that higher-than-average price tag. As a result campaign levels are pretty slow and repetitive and after sampling the four different ships and pirate lords, you’ll likely stick with your favourite and carry on plundering. That said, if the multiplayer modes do manage to sink their captain hooks into you then there are some progression unlocks to be had, as well as online bragging rights.
In terms of VR comfort, you won’t need strong sea legs to play Battlewake. There’s not a great deal of body or head movement and Survios has a knack for signposting visual elements clearly with readable objects and environments, mitigating that eye strain and nausea that can crop up in other VR titles.