Battle Group 2 Review

Ohhh dear.

So this is...Okay, let's start at the beginning. Battle Group 2 is a strategy-action game, built around the central premise of commanding a navy ship complete with missiles, artillary, and all kinds of tricks.

Story-wise, you've got a pretty simple setup. You and your crew are witness to the rise of Talon, an international terrorist organization with more than a little Cobra in them. With them preparing to wage war all around the world, you have to hold them back by protecting the seas.

Gameplay-wise...Okay, here we go. The basic gameplay loop is that your primary tool is your missiles, which fly out from your ship, reach the point you've aimed at with your cursor, and explode, as missiles are wont to do. As your ship automatically cruises through a level, you'll fire these at buildings, enemy ships, aircraft, and even other missiles. Nail the shot and you get points, hold a streak of no misses and you get extra points, in the form of oil barrels that can be used to buy upgrades and new ships.

And here is, almost as soon as we started, where the wheels fall off of this game. ...Wheels? I mean, it's a ship game, so that's not quite the best metaphor...Rudder? Where the rudder falls off? You know what, sure.

This is where the rudder falls off of this game.

Core gameplay is...Real talk, it's a mess. If you're playing on TV, you will deeply and immediately regret that decision. Battle Group 2 was so very, very clearly made for a mouse or, far more likely, a touchscreen. Your only option is to move a far-too-slow cursor with the joystick, or hold down a button to make it go whoa way too fast. Which is not exactly the best solution for any kind of accuracy.

So, okay, we'll play in handheld. Here with the touchscreen, we can get results, but the reduced accuracy can hurt your streak potential, reducing the amount of vague barrel-shaped currency you can earn.

Which is bad, because you're going to need a lot.

Because this game was clearly built with microtransactions. Most missions give you between 50-100 barrels, and even the second ship in the list costs 400 of the things. So the whole thing clearly assumes grinding, and a quick check on the old Apple App Store confirms...Yep, F2P version of the game, where you can buy oil barrels. Which is important, since even your more potent basic abilities, like a bullet time, cost copious amounts of barrels to replenish, and don't even refill slowly over time.

So, yeah. Mobile game port. Now, this isn't the first mobile game port I've reviewed for the Switch. And the thing is, I think if done right, it's a perfectly valid jump. I am happy to spend 15 dollars on a console port of a game if that port cleans up the progression path, includes any DLC, and generally fixes up all the terrible things you have to do to get your game noticed and producing some income on the mobile stores.

This doesn't do any of those. The controls are poor, the progression system is unaltered from the downright predatory mechanics of the original except for taking out the real-money shortcuts, and what's left is just a grind-filled husk.

And I haven't even talked about the story. Because, okay, so we have this setup. You're a navy ship, but what navy is...vague at best? It's implied by the voice work that you're prrrobably the US, but nothing ever comes out and says as such? And your terrorist group is so Cobra that it's represented by a figure who is, almost literally, just a recolored Cobra Commander from the latter's hood days. (Personally, I always preferred the helmet, but hey.)

Except their demands, their allegiances, any of the above, are kept incredibly vague and nondescript. Much like actual Cobra, they're just a vaguely defined concept to fill with whatever baggage you bring to the table. They get zero voice lines in the time I spent with the game, and no actual faces are seen, ensuring that they could be of any country and any ideology.

So, here's the thing. I'm not saying a game has to be political. I'm not saying that, if you want to make a game about a cool boat, you have to grapple with the current political climate. You don't actually need to, for instance, heavily grapple with the fact that the US is currently run by an extreme right-wing government, or our long history of just how many of our military efforts have been ill-conceived.

But I am saying that the way the game positions itself is, fundamentally, dishonest. It uses imagery stripped of all context to try and have its cake and eat it too. It wants you to feel like the proud and mighty Navy facing international terrorists, but is utterly unwilling to ask what any of those mean, or to even deal with the actual specifics of the imagery.

You're a ship from an undefined nation, with undefined values, fighting against undefined terrorists with undefined demands. There is literally no definition, focus or time given to any of the pieces or the players.

You can't have your cake and eat it too. Right now, all we have is a game that almost actively asks you to put your biases and preconceptions into the holes it leaves. To fill your Navy with whatever virtues you hold to, and the vicious Talon terrorists with whatever sins you most loathe.

It's a mess. This isn't even a question of taking a stance, this is a question of even having solid ground you could hypothetically stand on. As a story and as an artistic work, it sits utterly on the fence, not even willing to commit to avoiding issues (say by taking place in an explicitly alternate world), let alone actually dealing with them.

As a raw game, a mechanism where you pour effort into one side and fun comes out the other, it's a grindy mess, built to hold out its hands for money it can no longer receive.

Usually, I try to see a way a game could be fixed. The handful of Big Problems that the right patch or redesign could fix and make it into something I'd be happy to recommend.

But this is just...This is bad from top to bottom. Don't waste your money.