Conquer the Sky
A back-to-basics approach to game design is often more refreshing than repetitive takes on current trends. The classics are enshrined for a reason, right? Indie team Fun Games 3D’s first mobile title Sky Battleships: Total War of Ships is a stripped-down arcade-strategy game. It does well in serving up challenging, fulfilling, and overall enjoyable experience.
Prepare Your Defenses
Sky Battleships thrives in its easily learned, core-RTS mechanics. The app takes advantage of your devices’ landscape mode, giving players an uninhibited view of the battlefield. Through tapping buildings on your team’s floating colony, pirate-soldiers enlist to man various flying warships. As the match goes on, launch the ships (with varying benefits and weaknesses) to attack your opponents’ fleet and settlements. Each round ends with either players’ island completely decimated or the most damaged by the end of the time limit.
As with other RTS titles, Sky Battleships provides the sweet anticipation of a perfectly executed offensive strategy. Each unit floats up the screen at a speed superbly timed to provide the player enough chance to calculate enemy patterns. A straightforward drag-and-drop UI makes it easy to deploy ships, crew availability permitting. What results are crucial windows of opportunity to protect your land in preparation for a devastating counter offense. The hype for each round’s endgame increases with further development of available units. In more evenly matched contests, I found myself on the edge of my seat. Watching to see who would make it to their opponents’ shore in the final seconds brought thrills to every bout.
While Sky Battleships doesn’t pit you against live players, matchmaking requires an internet connection. Each round sets you against the next highest-rated player on the app. The amount of clout earned to determine rankings depends on game wins. This creates a balanced experience for those starting off and a greater challenge for those who put time into growing their team.
Expanding the Fleet
Three basic units are provided at the games’ outset: brigs, kamikazes, and frigates. Each can be classified by their designated role in embarkment, being support, tank, and attack respectively. As you level up through battling, more units following these three roles but with more specialized weaponry become unlocked. Upgrades to all units’ offensive, defensive, and movement capabilities also become available through in-game currency or enemy defeats. This on its own gave me a constant sense of accomplishment through regular play.
Alongside fleet upgrades come advancements that you can implement to your base. New structure options unlock to increase the number of crewmembers produced in matches. After building these up, you gain access to cannons that defend your side automatically. Like unit advancements, these encampment improvements hasten through optional in-game gold.
The only main criticism that I have for Sky Battleships is in its visuals. While every element maintains a consistent aesthetic, it all seems rather simple. Of course, a new indie team shouldn’t be expected to provide AAA-level graphics. It still would have been nice to see some further visual variance between units in-game. Overall, the app has a very “flash game” look to it that isn’t bad- just not great.
Despite the heavily apparent advertisement of micro-transactions, I never felt them necessary to my enjoyment of the core gameplay. Winning on its own doles out fair amounts of gold necessary for early unit promotions. Alternative opportunities for earning in-game gold comes through watching short ads (that never last more than 30 seconds). I could mute them if I wanted to level up a unit quickly.
Gratefully, the minimizing of monetizing’s necessity pervades developer Fun Games 3D’s approach to free-to-play games. According to their site, the team states, “We are convinced that the free-to-play model can offer well-balanced gameplay.” They emphasize their hesitancy towards, “forcing the players to spend their money at every step.”
Sky Battleships: Total War of Ships is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in a while. It refrains from pretending it’s something it isn’t, focusing gameplay elements in a cohesive way. Fun Games 3D made the right choice in sticking to the fundamentals. What resulted was a clean, new addition to the arcade-RTS genre with a unique pirate/steampunk style. From this, players receive a game that allows for balanced challenges and rewarding playstyles and are never harshly punished for making mistakes.
Is it Hardcore?
Arrgh! I mean...yes!
Sky Battleships is a fresh take on the classic RTS formula. Despite its sometimes generic visuals, the core experience is tight and highly enjoyable. The easily obtainable in-game currency rewards regular play in a refreshing way. Each battle is suspenseful and keeps the player coming back for more.