Splatoon, Nintendo’s Entry Level Shooter, is Making a Few Waves (of Ink) Among Players.
Splatoon is a somewhat new take on the competitive online-shooter genre. Making fundamental changes to gameplay and balance, it seeks to endear itself to more casual demographic.
Platforms: Wii U
Release Date: May 28, 2015
The gist of the game is to compete in four-on-four matches with other players to splatter the most ink on the stage and, if necessary, kill the opponent. Players can earn new weapon sets and clothes (with attached boosts) by competing in matches and earning gold. There is a small single player mode and a special local two-player mode.
Ultimately there isn’t much meat on the bones of Splatoon. The focus is clearly the online matches – and rightfully so – but is that enough to carry the game?
Regular matches are where you compete alone or with friends against another team. They are the crux of the game and where most of the development is centred around. Each match is short. Turf War (one style of battle) is three minutes in length, for example. This bite-sized approach is consistent with the game’s philosophy.
Splatoon‘s magic is that you can pick it up and jump right in. The game encourages you to dive right into the online matches, rather than tackle the (mostly training-based) single player. As someone who likes to make sure he’s mostly competent at a game before going into the multiplayer, I was surprised at how readily accessible Splatoon is.
Everyone is mostly able to hold their own with even a slight exposure to shooters.
The non-combative nature of the matches, given you’re splattering walls and can avoid people if you choose, combined with the short round is helpful for less competitive players as it reduces the frustration experienced when going up against someone with more power ups.
Nintendo have also taken steps in addition to these to reduce toxicity. I’ve found only two communication tools; one of which says ‘nice’ and the other is ‘on me.’ These initiatives make the primarily online environment a more pleasant one.
No game is without its drawbacks and Splatoon has quite an array of them. The lack of substance is a huge one. As mentioned earlier, the single player has a couple of hours in it but it’s mostly tutorial.
There are a few interesting boss fights, for sure, but without a potent narrative behind it, the story feels very much like a warm-up for the competitive antics.
With such short matches and a chaotic bent, while fun, eradicates any potential for deeper strategic innovation. I’ve got no doubts that a team of four friends will obliterate any randomly-matched team but that is down to communication in general.
For a game whose primary focus is a competitive multiplayer, lack of depth is crushing. Consequently, the matches become dry and tiresome quickly.
Splatoon is also guilty of creating a disparity between new players and seasoned ones. In the same fashion as Call of Duty granting players better weapons as they level up, Splatoon enables players to buy similarly advantageous weapons as they play more.
Once players reach the stage at which they can purchase all classes of weapons, this becomes less important but for newer players, learning to combat the roller weapons, for example, can be a source of frustration and destabilise the balance.
Splatoon is a fun little game and a very Wii U interpretation of the competitive online shooters. It makes a nice change but it’s short-lived. The colourful nature of Splatoon makes it easy to absorb and definitely helps quell the more negative aspects of online competition. Players seeking a richer experience underneath the cute exterior, however, will be sadly left wanting.
With free-to-download updates coming, Nintendo may add the depth that this game sorely needs. It needs to reward people for improving their own skills.
As it stands at the moment, however, Splatoon simply doesn’t give back in play time what it takes in money.