Battleship is one of those few board games that manages to get made and remade for consoles with every new generation. It is not hard to see why since it has simple gameplay, and it translates easily to the video game format. Additionally, most gamers in the western market are likely to have encountered the game at some point in their life. Hasbro, the owners of Battleship, have teamed with Ubisoft to bring their hit board game to the current generation of consoles. Instead of just creating a digitized version of the classic board game Ubisoft decided to add in a second way to play the game, and included a campaign to show off the new game style.
If you want to play a traditional Battleship game then you can still do that here. You can play it versus an AI opponent, against a friend on your couch in local multiplayer or against someone online. The gameplay in this mode is exactly what you would expect it to be: you alternate guessing where an opponent’s ships might be on a 10 by 10 grid. Whoever destroys all five of their opponent’s ships first wins. Your enjoyment of this mode will depend entirely on how much you enjoy classic Battleship gameplay, and likely whether or not you are interested in playing against a computer opponent.
The real meat of the game, though, is in the new gametype and accompanying campaign mode. In this new mode you will still get five ships (most of the time) that you place on a 10 x 10 board, and you will take turns with your opponent, but the obvious similarities end there. Instead of each player taking one shot and checking the results you will instead generate resources. Each turn you will get three white pins and three red pins, with the person who goes second getting one additional pin of each color on their first turn to balance out the field a little. You can choose to use each pin individually to hunt down your opponents, or you can save them between turns to use special attacks. For the majority of the game saving your resources will far and away be the better choice.
Each of your five ships has two special abilities: one that costs white pins and one that costs red pins. The white pins are going to be for probing abilities that reveal portions of the board for you more efficiently than just firing one shot at a time. They cost varying amounts, so you may need to save for multiple turns in some cases, but it is almost always worth it. The red pin abilities are aggressive ones designed to actually destroy your opponents. My favorite was the carrier’s ability, which cost seven red pins and allowed me to attack twelve squares of my choosing anywhere on the board. The flipside to this is that if one of your ships is sunk you no longer have access to either of those abilities. In my experience this is fairly well balanced with the smaller, harder to find ships also packing cheaper and less useful skills as opposed to the larger battleship or aircraft carrier which have devastating, though expensive, abilities.
This new mode is fun for a few games, but it does quickly devolve into using a few specific skills for most of the game, and spending the rest of the game waiting for those abilities to become available. Ubisoft varies this up a bit with the campaign mode, where they adjust certain variables for each mission. Sometimes your opponent will only have two or three ships available to them, other times you will only have part of your fleet available, and yet other times you may start with part of the map already scouted. These do help alleviate the tedium of playing the same game over and over, but it only goes so far. This is a game best enjoyed in short bursts.
The game does feature some solid graphics and animations, but hardly anything that will wow you or make you want to show the game off. This is Battleship, though, and I doubt anyone was expecting a tech demo here. That said, the animations are crisp, the ship models are well defined and everything looks good all-around. You even have a choice in ship models available to you, and you can pick between the traditional Battleship armada, classic pirates and even Warcraft inspired orcs (why? I have no idea, but they’re there). There are also a few paint scheme options available for each. It doesn’t change the abilities of the ships, but it is nice to have customization choices available.
The main complaint would be that every time you attack, whether it is a special or regular attack, it is accompanied by an animation. Even though these animations are short they are unskippable as far as I could tell, and after a while they slow the game down — especially if your opponent is already going slowly. It isn’t a problem at first, but after just a few games I went to get a book that I made decent progress through while waiting for my opponents to finish their turns.
Battleship is going to be pretty much what you expect it to be. If you are a big fan of the board game and wish you had more people to play against, then this is going to be a safe bet. The multiplayer community is expectedly small, but it wasn’t hard to find a game the few times I tried. There is also the A.I. available to you, which ranges from absolutely boneheaded on easy (it left my aircraft carrier alone with four hits already in it and the fifth shot obvious) to more-than-likely cheating on the harder difficulties. The two different game modes also gives you some choices in what you want to play, and the campaign does offer some interesting scenarios to try out. However, if you never liked the game of Battleship to begin with then this will hardly change your opinion.
Coming in at $14.99 Battleship is actually cheaper than most physical versions of the game, minus the various travel-sized editions, so it makes a nice introduction to the game if you have never had the opportunity to play it (also: significantly less little markers to lose). The bottom-line is this is a good version of the game with some nice bonuses, and it is unlikely to change how you feel about the game in either direction. Don’t overthink it: if you think you’ll like it you probably will, and if you think you’ll hate it you probably will.