We want you! We want you! We want you as a new recruit! Games Distillery, founded in 2008 in Bratislava, Slovakia has brought their first title onto Xbox LIVE Arcade this week. Should you join up and serve your country? Read our review to learn all about AQUA: Naval Warfare.

After spending 5-8 hours with AQUA: Naval Warfare, I was able to experience pretty much everything the game has to offer its players. It’s a action-based title, with some squad-based combat elements, but it relies more on your own actions rather than the squad. You might say it feels like a light mix of Crimson Skies and Battlestations Midway, in terms of the way it plays and the way the thin story is told. Players take on the role of the Emperean Navy and you must defeat the traitorous Gothean Navy whom you were supposedly at peace with.

Players can control one of three ships once they’re all unlocked in the campaign, including a Cruiser, Speedboat, and Gunship. Each ship has a variety of weapons to unlock, including gatling guns, flamethrowers, missile canons and more. In addition to the weapons, a number of upgrades such as armor or damage enhancements can be added once you’ve unlocked them. At any time, a ship can be equipped with three weapons and three upgrades, improving them in various ways. You can make changes whenever visiting designated Warshops during missions. Also, through the use the Squadshop you can change your squad to fighters, healer, or a siege squad. Based on what you choose, you’ll receive varied types of support in battle. Regarding the squads, during the game you can give orders with LB, and have them cover an area, destroy turrets, or perform other basic tasks. It’s very basic and lacks true depth, therefore you won’t be even the slightest bit confused by the system.

The game offers 9 episodes to play, each broken into 1-4 chapters each. On the medium difficulty, you can expect to complete the game within 4.5 hours. You’ll unlock collector cards viewable in game or by the main menu, but aside from very basic details about enemy and allied units in the game, they serve no purpose. Missions including basic objective destruction, and various escort missions. Unfortunately, escort missions seem to be the bulk of the campaign, and they lack that something extra to really make them fun. You’ll be filled in with basic plot details throughout the campaign, illustrated in hand-drawn art style, and comical and over-enthusiastic voice actors. For what it is, I enjoyed the basic plot and the Captain Grey and Polly Edison were voiced well. It was comical to say the least.

The gameplay in AQUA: Naval Warfare borrows elements from the popular twin-stick shooters, and adds in the ability to use torpedoes and water-mines through use of the triggers. Regardless of what direction you are moving, you can shoot anywhere, and easily switch between turrets with the ‘A’ button. In that sense, the game feels great, making for quick battles with easy maneuvering. By killing enemies, you also build up a special attack meter, allowing you to release various high-powered attacks from raining down missiles or calling in a support plane to destroy the masses. All ammo meters and radar is located in the lower left of your screen.

Visually, Naval Warfare has adopted a Steampunk style, and it’s reflected in all ships and in the small port areas. While the game runs at 720p, it doesn’t look too great. By no means does it look bad, but it lacks detail and polish. Explosion effects are nothing to write home about. However, ships are nicely designed, as are the port areas, though they’re small and offer no interaction aside from docking in the shops. Most of your time is spent on the open seas, and the water effects aren’t too bad. Sadly, the game suffers from noticeable screen tearing very often, and a few times I experienced horrible flickering issues for 2-3 seconds. Hopefully Games Distillery is already aware of the issue and we hope to see a patch to repair this unfortunate technical issue. Anyhow, the game lacks extra details, and it would have been great to see more small structures, and maybe more interaction within the environment.

The music in game was typically very fitting, and everything sounded satisfactory. Sound effects for weapons were quite gratifying with the pounding canons and rapid gunfire adding to the intensity of the battles. As mentioned earlier, the voice acting is comical at times, which I believe was meant to be. Overall, Games Distillery has done a splendid job on the soundtrack.

Looking past the campaign, the game has a few other features. At any time you can play single episodes once unlocking them in the campaign, and you can choose specific chapters of them as well. Plus, the game offers a Skirmish mode, where you’ll be able to test your skills against difficult waves of enemies.  Skirmish is tough, and you won’t find many health pickups, but you do get three lives, and if you beat 25 waves, you’ll unlock a hard-earned achievement. Speaking of achievements, majority are earned through the campaign, including one for finding all the collectables, and one for multiplayer. Yes, there are 1-2 collectables in most levels, but outside of the achievement, they don’t have  a purpose for existing. Finally, a 2 player mode is included; sorry folks, it’s not Xbox LIVE-enabled. Though, it does offer a small selection of maps to either race against each other, or battle waves of enemies co-operatively.

When the war is over, AQUA: Naval Warfare is a decent title, and I did find it enjoyable for the time I spent with it. Once earning all achievements, it’s not a title you’ll likely re-visit  though. Despite the technical issues and thin story, the game supports enough content for its 800 :MSPoints: price tag, and download content access is built-in, so we have hopes to see more missions and features added to the war effort. Games Distillery has made a solid effort with their first title, and as always, it’s a learning experience.  We hope they move forward both in improving AQUA: Naval Warfare, and creating new titles in their future projects.

For more information, or to grab the demo, head over to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace.