App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Battle Bay is the latest game from Rovio, and–oddly enough–there are no birds in it at all. Instead, the game here is a lot like Wargaming's mega-popular World of Tanks Blitz if you traded in historically accurate tanks with colorful, cartoony boats. It's really easy to look at this approach as a quick cash-in move on a popular style of game, but Battle Bay is so full of smart ideas that it feels like it's pushing this style of game forward, rather than simply imitating it.
Battle Bay is a multiplayer only game where two teams of five boats compete head-to-head to capture a specific point on a map. The first team to successfully occupy that area is declared the winner. There are also no respawns in the game, so if your team successfully sinks all of the enemy ships before a 5-minute round ends, you also win.
Controlling your boat is as simple as using a little virtual joystick in the lower left-hand corner of the screen and touching and dragging anywhere on the screen to adjust your camera. As your camera adjusts, so too does your boat's turret, which can be outfitted with all sorts of crazy weapons–from mortars to railguns. Firing these weapons can be as simple as touching the fire button in the lower-right corner of the screen when it locks onto an enemy or touching and holding to enter a manual aiming mode and releasing to fire.
At its core, Battle Bay is a pretty simple game, but it quickly gets complicated by the sheer amount of unlocks in the game. As you play, you're constantly earning currency, working toward completing quests, and earning loot boxes, which give you new parts for your ship.
Ship parts are sorted by type and can be attached to any one of the five ship classes in the game. These classes are things you might expect in a multiplayer game, like the shooter (which can equip multiple weapons) and the fixer (which can heal allied ships), but they're a nice touch nonetheless. Mixing, matching, and upgrading your ships, weapons, gear, and crew are all part of Battle Bay's fun. They give you ways to tweak your boats to fit your particular playstyle. All of these upgrades can take quite a bit of time though, but you can–of course–pay to accelerate things. This is a Rovio free-to-play game, after all.
World of boats
If you've played both World of Tanks and Battle Bay, it's hard not to see their similarities. Not only is the core concept of the game the exact same, but even things like the way green lines point around your ship to show where you're steering are present in both.
Since World of Tanks is sort of the originator of Battle Bay, it might be easy to look at Rovio's work as imitation. While this is true, I honestly like playing Battle Bay more. This has a little to do with Battle Bay's colorful aesthetic and style, but even more to do with how well the game balances its ships and weapons. Everything new you unlock feels totally different, and viable, depending on particular situations. Added details, like Battle Bay's waves that constantly flow over maps, also make it so you always have new tactical considerations to make every time you play.
The bottom line
Battle Bay avoids feeling like a simple clone of World of Tanks by being a better game. It's colorful, varied, and simultaneously more accessible and strategic than Wargaming's tank battler. Sure, Battle Bay may not be a completely new idea, and the free-to-play-ness of it might be a touch overdone, but it's still a blast.