GDC 2009: Battlestations: Pacific Skirmish Mode Impressions

It's time for another bombing run as we check out a new mode in the upcoming World War II air and naval action game.


Battlestations: Pacific

In our previous coverage of Battlestations: Pacific--the upcoming sequel to Midway that will put you in both the American and Japanese perspectives during the second World War's biggest naval battles--we've looked at both the single-player experience and the multiplayer mayhem that you can expect when the game ships in May this year. Developer Eidos chose the 2009 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco to show us yet another mode, Skirmish, a way for players to experience what the online side of the game has to offer without having to be online.

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Skirmish mode is essentially multiplayer without the multi, and will let you play all of the game's competitive maps and scenarios solo against the game's AI. Just like multiplayer, Skirmish will sport five different modes, each with its own unique scenarios to battle through. Island Capture is perhaps the most complex and sees you fighting for various checkpoints over a huge open map. Siege is similarly large-scale. If you're the attacker, you're charged with winning a landing operation via strategic naval and air support; if you're the defender, your job is simply to repel the invaders. Competitive mode is a straight-out point-scoring race, with the winner determined by who does the most destruction during a mission. Duel is all about quick action, pitting you against the AI in a chosen unit class over several rounds.

The final mode is Escort, and it's what we got to see during our time with Battlestations: Pacific at GDC. In Escort, you have to destroy a specific unit on the enemy's side for victory while making sure that your own stays alive. The mission that our Eidos tester played through involved a life-or-death struggle between the USS Iowa on the Allies side and the Japanese battleship Yamato. Playing as the Allies, our tester took to the skies in a variety of different units, beginning with a squadron of speedy Corsairs to initially pinpoint the enemy's position on the large, open map. Although you take direct control of only one unit, our tester said that the game will let you change the other units' AI to tailor the difficulty to your liking. Visibility was poor because the mission took place in heavy rain, which helped showcase some of Battlestation: Pacific's impressive weather effects. But the Japanese fleet was soon spotted, and the Yamato wasn't alone.

Skirmish takes all of the online fun offline.
Skirmish takes all of the online fun offline.

Our tester began with strafing runs on two smaller vessels that were acting as escort for the giant battleship. But even these small cruisers proved a challenge, and the squadron of Corsairs was soon shot down. Our tester then selected a group of bombers for his next unit, deciding that a direct attack on the Yamato was the better option. As you'd expect, the Yamato itself was very heavily armed and had its own formidable array of antiaircraft weaponry. But several downed planes later, our tester emerged victorious, sinking the Yamato while the Iowa suffered only minimal damage.

From our brief time with Battlestations: Pacific's Skirmish mode, it looks like it has the capability to significantly expand the game's longevity, with dozens of different scenarios spread over the five modes. It also looks like an ideal training ground for solo players hesitant about taking on real-life opponents in multiplayer, given that it'll familiarize you with maps and missions before heading online. Check out GameSpot for more on Battlestations: Pacific as it steams toward its May 13 ship date.

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