The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Supercell is best known for its hugely popular (and profitable) Clash of Clans. The free-to-play mobile game has been a consistent presence in the App Store charts, and the developer is hoping to hit gold again with its follow-up, Boom Beach. It’s not a sequel to Clash of Clans, but it shares many of the same mechanics, draws, and frustrations.
The goal in Boom Beach is to build an army to defend your home island base and claim new territory. You do this by collecting supplies and money that generate over time, spending them on weapons and assorted buildings. The game differentiates itself from Clash of Clans with its world map; as you expand your base and army, you send out troops to jockey for control of islands, which may belong to other players or A.I. troops. If you capture an island, its resources divert to your home base, allowing you to build better buildings and reinforce your troops. As you expand however, more powerful enemies inevitably arrive to take back your hard-earned territory.
Boom Beach is filled with timers. Everything you want or need to do, like building and upgrading your base, restocking your soldiers, or expanding how much you can hold in your inventory, is gated by the passage of time. It’s a common mechanic in mobile and free-to-play games, as it leaves the door wide open for microstransactions. Like Clash of Clans with its gem system, everything in Boom Beach can be sped up with the purchase of diamonds using real money. If you don’t want to wait, you can just spend a few dollars.
The army you eventually build is made of assorted soldier classes, each offering different strengths and tactics to overtake your enemies. For example, the heavy doesn’t deal much damage, but he’s a fine shield for protecting your weak-but-plentiful soldiers and rocket launchers. Storming a beach is a matter of tapping where you want your troops to land their ship for invasion. After the battle starts, you can direct your troops with flares, back them up with health items, and fire a cannon from your offshore boat using action points earned from your troops as they destroy buildings and enemies.
Giving you more agency over the battle outcomes is one of the ways Boom Beach is an improvement over Clash of Clans. If you escape a battle with no casualties (which becomes a rare phenomenon as you explore further) you can move onto the next battle without a need to return to base for reinforcements. This means you don’t necessarily have to spend something to move forward if you use effective tactics. The strategy is limited, but its limitations help simplify and focus the experience in an enjoyable way. These encounters are fun, but they comprise a disappointingly small percentage of your time.
The rest of the game is basically about making decisions regarding where to direct your resources, but you’re mostly just watching timers count down with anticipation so you can throw supplies at the next upgrade and inevitably watch the next timer shrink. Because of this format, this game is better experienced in short bursts rather than long sessions.
Boom Beach has a social aspect where players attack your base, and you attack the bases of others. Opponents are randomly selected, so you can’t seek out friends, nor can you communicate with those attempting to invade. The only thing differentiating the bases of real players from A.I. bases is their layout and a username, so using the word “social” ends up being a misnomer. You aren’t so much playing with real people as much as you are playing at the same time as real people, which is a strange departure considering how popular and important the social element is to Clash of Clans.
Boom Beach gives you more strategic options than its predecessor, but it is still designed to create lulls that encourage you to pay to speed up the clock, limiting the average player’s access to its best features. If you don’t mind having your games constantly interrupted by timers you may enjoy this game, but despite its undeniable polish and a charming visual aesthetic, I couldn’t wait to delete the app from my phone.
Email the author Kyle Hilliard, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.