Blackwake – Quick Game Review (Early Access)

Blackwake – Quick Game Review (Early Access)
Blackwake (PC [Reviewed])
Developer: Mastfire Studios Pty Ltd
Publisher: Mastfire Studios Pty Ltd

Blackwake is an online first person naval PvP game that requires good communication and teamwork to succeed. The game is currently in alpha on Steam.

You play as either a pirate or as a member of the navy. As part of the crew out on the high seas, you’re goal is to chase down your enemies and kill their crews or sink their ships to drain their supplies and run the enemy faction out of respawn tickets before your faction runs out. There is no story, as the game is entirely based on PvP combat.

The captain controls the ship, calls out orders, and even allows the use of certain objects like the grapple hook. Other crew members can contribute to the effort in a flexible manner since there are no designated classes aside from the captain.

blackwake01
To be effective in naval combat requires everyone to contribute, communicate, and adapt when needed. Some crew members may want to focus on using the cannons or other guns, but if there’s no one keeping the ship repaired, putting out fires, or pumping out water, the ship will probably sink and kill everyone. I like how the reloading of the main cannons works, but I would like to see more physics implemented here so that you need to arc the cannonballs more to hit targets that are further away.

Aside from the naval combat, you can also board enemy vessels by either swimming to them, or grapple hooking. The close range combat is fun, but it’s also somewhat chaotic because of friendly fire, and not always being able to tell your friends from foes. Due to the long reload times, melee combat is much more common when boarding.

blackwake03

Pros:
  • gameplay is fun, and requires a great deal of communication (via commands and voice chat), and teamwork to succeed
  • all crew members can contribute to the effort in a flexible manner since there are no designated classes aside from the captain
  • captains are voted into power, but if the crew is unsatisfied with their performance, they can always vote to mutiny
  • rifles and pistols feel authentic in that they are very deadly, take a long time to reload, and not all that accurate at times
  • music and sound effects are good, and well suited to the pirate and naval theme; ambience is excellent (especially the storms)
  • the water and ships look visually appealing, and the ship and character customizations are off to a good start (but it will be nice when more customization is implemented like maybe changing the colour of the sails with a custom pattern and colours)
  • performance is solid for the most part (maintaining well over 60 frames most of the time, except during a couple close quarters encounters)
Cons:
  • character voices are extremely irritating (you can turn off the other crew members, but the captain’s volume doesn’t lower at all)
  • melee combat also needs the most improvement – when you hit people, it’s the same slashing attack, and it’s just not satisfying, and feels like you’re hitting the air still (more attack variation, and better melee feedback would help here)
  • (nitpick) some severe lag issues on a couple servers (only a nitpick because most servers that I played on were fine, and didn’t have any noticeable latency problems)
  • (nitpick) the character design and animations are mediocre at best, and could use some substantial improvement to bring it up to the same caliber as the rest of the graphics
  • (nitpick) no support for thumb mouse buttons (other keyboard controls are mostly customizable though); only partial controller support at this time

blackwake02

As far as long term replay value goes, I think it will depend on how frequently the developers release new content. According to the Steam page, they intend to add free additional content for as long as the game is alive to keep the game fresh and active. So, I’m interested to see what modes or ships they put in next.

Conclusion:

Blackwake reminds me of a naval version of Guns of Icarus Online, but with less content, less complexity, and less polish, which is expected given that it’s early access. Personally, I wasn’t able to really get into Guns of Icarus, and while I have enjoyed the gameplay in Blackwake, after a few hours, I’m finding it feeling a bit repetitive. I can’t see myself putting more than 20 hours into it with the current content, but I don’t regret the purchase. The game certainly has a lot of potential, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with it.