Battleship: The Battle for Earth Begins at Sea review

It’s largely been accepted that the recent Battleship movie was an absolute travesty, though debate still rages as to whether or not it was deliberately quite so bad as it was. The pen-and-paper game the movie was based is a timeless classic, however, so what better time to release an official Facebook version than alongside the movie?

Hasbro’s Battleship: The Battle for Earth Begins at Sea (hereafter referred to simply as “Battleship”) is an advergame designed primarily as a promotional vehicle for the movie, but offering a convincing asynchronous multiplayer version of the original game at the same time. The game offers a few twists on the classic game’s formula, but doesn’t deviate from it so much that long-time fans will have to re-learn the rules.

For those unfamiliar with the basic concept of the original incarnation of Battleship, it is a strategy game for two players that takes place on a grid. Players each place several of the titular battleships on their grid secretly, and then take it in turns to call out grid references to the other player. If the player calls out a grid reference that contains part of one of their opponent’s ships, that is a “hit,” and hitting all of the squares that make up a single vessel will sink it. The objective is for one player to sink all of their opponent’s vessels before the same thing happens to them.

In conventional Battleship, both players have the same ships. In the Facebook version, however, one player takes on the role of the humans and the other the aliens, in keeping with the theme of the movie. The only difference between the two sides is the shape of the largest ship: the humans’ aircraft carrier is a straight line made up of five squares, while the aliens’ equivalent is a vessel which forms a “T” shape over five squares.

In a further twist on the original formula, various islands are scattered around the play area in the Facebook version. It is impossible for players to place ships in these locations, so these provide a few squares that will not need to be fired upon at the start of the game rather than simply presenting both sides with an empty grid.

The Facebook version does not feature some of the alternative rules that have arisen for the original version over the years, such as the “salvo” variant, where players may fire as many shots as they have ships remaining, or the “blockbuster” variant, where players have a “super shot” that covers a 3×3 area to use once per game.

Gameplay in the Facebook version is a simple matter of clicking on the grid location the player would like to fire on. A visual depiction of the battle appears beneath the grid, with splashes appearing in the appropriate locations for misses and explosions for hits. Play is asynchronous, so there is no need for players to be online at the same time, though the game does immediately update without requiring a refresh when one or the other takes their turn, meaning it can be played synchronously if desired. There is no in-game chat facility, but there is nothing to stop players talking using Facebook’s chat system.

The game features no explicit monetization as it is an advergame. It does, however, feature a large amount of promotional content for the movie including unlockable video clips and a link to the film’s official website. To encourage repeat play, there is also an achievements system and a leaderboard showing how a player’s performance stacks up against that of their friends. Players also rise in rank as they play and win games, eventually rising to “Master Chief Officer.”

Battleship is a simple but effective interpretation of a classic pen-and-paper game. The presentation is excellent, with dramatic visual effects, sound and music — although there are a couple of spelling mistakes here and there — and the unlockable video content is sure to please anyone who actually enjoyed the movie. If nothing else, it provides an incentive for progression beyond the in-game ranking and achievement systems.

How long the game will remain active on Facebook remains to be seen, however, as buzz surrounding the movie is already starting to die down since it’s already run its course on the international markets and all but failed at the United States box office. The game will likely get another surge in interest when the movie comes to DVD, Blu-Ray and streaming services in September, but it’s questionable as to whether people will still want to play just for the sake of playing when this second wind dissipates. For the time being, however, Battleship is a good example of a high-quality promotional game that stays true to its source material.

Battleship: The Battle for Earth Begins at Sea currently has 50,000 monthly active users and 2,000 daily active users. Follow its progress with AppData, our traffic tracking service for social games and developers.

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Better than the movie.