Reviewed: June 16, 2010
Released: May 19, 2010
It’s time to take to the high seas with Game Distillery’s latest title Aqua: Naval Warfare for Xbox LIVE Arcade. Aqua as it is more commonly known is a top down steampunk shooter in the fashions of titles like Geometry Wars or Stardust HD. Only you’re traveling around in a ship with a variety of weapons at your disposal across nicely detailed although rather treacherous waters.|
Aqua tells the tale of Captain Benjamin Grey and his somewhat chatty Chief Engineer Polly Edison as they first go off on an unapproved trip to seek out treasure. What they find however is only the tip of a very dangerous iceberg. We don’t really learn much about the characters except that Grey has a streak of not following orders and Edison obvious has ways of finding out things she’s not supposed to. It’s these two traits that put them in the middle of a war between the Empereans (your side) and the Gotheans who were once allies. Only things are not as they seem as they find themselves up against something far worse.
Aqua: Naval Warfare features a mixture of different genres. There is the more obvious top down shooter aspect that you notice right away. You have at your disposal three different classes of ships to use each with their own abilities such as overall maneuverability or pure stopping power. But as the adventure starts to heats up you might need a little help along the way. This is where a tactical gameplay approach is needed and I can tell you from experience that you will need it especially on the harder difficulties.
Throughout the adventure you are given the opportunity to use one of four available support squads. While these types are not always available at one time, you can use the fighter, sieger, sonar or healer squads to even the odds a bit. Each serves a different purpose like the sieger is good for dealing lots of damage and destroying buildings and the sonar is best used in situations involving enemy submarines. This is a nice gameplay feature, with the only downside being not knowing which one to use at any upcoming fight. I usually opted for the sieger in most cases and usually came through in one piece.
To further aid you in your fight there are hidden upgrades that you will come across on the high seas. These upgraded range from new weapons for the three classes you directly control, to abilities that affect not only yourself but your squad as well. Among the weapons the Nailgun and Heavy Flamer are my personal favorites.
Aqua: Naval Warfare’s story contains nine episodes of sea faring adventure that involves several escort missions and challenging boss battles. Now most people hate escort missions, even me sometimes, but it’s a crucial part of the adventure. A small vessel is not going to destroy a huge fortified door.
For an Xbox LIVE Arcade title, Aqua: Naval Warfare is a graphically nice adventure. Its neo-Victorian art-style is nicely shown in all the detail of the environments and the ships and planes that you see and command. I really like the detail that the developers put into the environment and the atmospheric effects. In certain areas you can see piping and structures underwater as well as the different water levels. I also really liked the rain effects. It added a sense of danger especially when you’re taking on a horde of enemy troops. Aqua’s story narrative is shown in animated stills that are both a nice breaks in the gameplay and also feature really nicely drawn artwork.
Aqua not only features nice graphics but good audio as well. The background music fits the steampunk feel and is enjoyable to listen to. The sound effects on the weapons sound genuine and I like the little menu noise that also fit with the neo-Victorian theme.
Aqua: Naval Warfare’s main campaign took me a little while to complete thanks to a few mistakes of my own and a little trail and error. The campaign is challenging and features four difficultly levels to test you meddle on. Players can also engage in competitive or co-operative with up to two players in multiplayer mode. There are two modes available, Chase and Arena Battle, which is the same as the single player Skirmish mode.
Chase is all about beating your opponent in a checkpoint-based race. But Arena Battle is where it’s all really at. Two local based players must join forces and fend off wave after wave of enemy troops, much like Gears’ Horde mode. This is definitely much easier with an extra player around. These modes however are limited to just local play so no online action sadly. You can download Aqua: Naval Warfare for 800 MS points on the Xbox Marketplace or give the trial a go before deciding to buy.
Overall, I really enjoyed Aqua: Naval Warfare. Its gameplay is challenging and a blast at the same time. The mixture of a top-down shooter and tactical gameplay make Aqua an enjoyable adventure that I intend to return to.