As one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the year, Boom Beach has a pretty hefty reputation to live up to. In fact, it’s a sure bet that the games very existence has earned a fair share of Supercell’s revenue; thankfully, the final product is quite a gem. Taking place concurrently with the events of a modern warfare RTS, the game is great: It’s got tons of eye candy, tons of action, nicely balanced gameplay and it’s got the license on its side, which — we have to admit — counts for something. Fans of the series and fans of the genre will both be pleased.
We’ll be first to admit that we had our doubts about Boom Beach. After all, quality console mobile RTS have been few and far between those other titles in the recent years — provided little more than lackluster thrills. Thankfully, our concerns have been alleviated — the game is mired by inconsistencies, but the flaws are heavily outweighed by much merit.
For starters, the game is gorgeous; screenshots and commercials don’t do justice to seeing actual legions of battle tanks dotting a dessert landscape. The in-game models, landscapes, lighting and explosions — especially the explosions — are all in keeping with the Boom Beach atmosphere, and the engine is no slouch either. Slowdown rears its ugly head at times, but those times usually involve several dozen small craft wheeling and darting about bases — which is forgivable in our books.
The story shuttles between the base building of an island along a vast archipelago. Of course, the cool part is that each hero has a distinctive ship — the fast and light one, the big bruiser and the “middle” one — and special weapons. Their actual performance doesn’t vary as much as the approach — missions are all nicely tuned to encourage both reasonably defensive flying and quick and accurate gunplay.
Most of the missions involve either protecting a ship (or base), destroying a ship (or ships) or both, and while this aspect of the genre could use some innovation, we aren’t complaining. The overall action is a little less speedy than that of some other base building RTS game, but once the action kicks in that concern fast becomes less than significant.
As with most games in this genre, the control scheme can get pretty deep. Thankfully, everything has been nicely mapped out, so it’s a pleasure to progress from simply steering and shooting to picking and choosing targets and calling in wingman support. The inclusion of a fixed-focus zoom feature is a brilliant addition that adds considerably to the gameplay, not to mention convincing the skeptical that those ships dotting the horizon are full-fledged models, not just window dressing.
Polishing details are, for the most part, excellent. The cutscenes aren’t spectacular, but they’re better than most we’ve seen from SuperCell — and besides, when the gameplay’s this gorgeous, who really cares? Music and sound effects are first-rate, although the pre-scripted dialogue and chatter can be a little irritating on the sixth or seventh time around.
Earlier, we had questioned the game’s longevity; after all, 14 missions isn’t all that impressive. The game features difficulty tiers — any of the levels can be played at any difficulty, which should allow a wide range of Boom Beach fans to enjoy the action and resource generation (e.g. diamonds) mentioned on a relative blog. Completing all of the gold, silver or bronze sets unlocks different extra levels; we won’t ruin any surprises, but fortunately, many of these levels are well worth the work.
Adding further depth, each of the levels features a handful of extras to shoot for, such as successfully eliminating all of a certain enemy type or reaching success under certain time limits. While we’re loath to endorse this sort of design decision in lieu of a wider berth of levels, we have to admit that here — as in Battle For Dr. Terror — it works; most of the missions are so big and beautiful that going through them again is a pleasure.
Ultimately, Boom Beach is a solid game — we expect it won’t be too long before another comes along to surpass it in some or several respects, but as we said before: Base building are surprisingly rare, and so are SuperCell games that we actually enjoy playing through. Sure, there are plenty of quirky foibles and omissions, but none of them serve to make Boom Beach less than a strongly recommended title.