Besiege: The Splintered Sea review: a small ship for extended sea travel

I can’t compare my experience writing a review for The Splintered Sea, the first paid expansion for the dastardly clever physics puzzle builder Besiege, to that of a journalist keeping a diary facing deadly storms on the horizon. But if we take for granted the idea that a review is only really valuable as an insight into the player’s experience, I haven’t felt particularly good this week. That in mind: Splintered Sea is more Besiege, carefully applied to the already extensive toolkit. More importantly, it’s currently bringing me deep and much-needed moments of untainted, childlike, vaguely-Orcish joy.

Besiege is broadly a game about building siege engines, but this expands to things like flying machines, agile vehicles and whatever else you can think of. There is no power limit or cash value for parts, so your only real limit is whether your device fits in the starter cube and whether it actually works. Tying ten cannons to the sails may seem like a good idea, but they will quickly buckle and collapse if not properly secured. You also need to make sure that the weight is evenly distributed across your device, at least if you want to be able to move anywhere.

To give some structure to the sandbox modes, the meat of Besiege is challenge maps. At first this could be something like ‘destroy 80% of everything on screen’ – everything on screen is a mixture of knights and structures. Later, the knights may shoot flaming arrows, or perhaps the buildings are so fortified that you need heavy weapons to tackle them. Splintered Sea adds 10 new challenge cards and 8 new water building blocks. Of these, items such as barrels with adjustable buoyancy and rotating water propellers are the most important, as these dictate matters such as dipping and steering.

In addition, it also contains a lot of water, which can also be used in the sandbox level editor. Adding water may not sound like much, but it involves all the physics simulations necessary to make building ships to navigate that water (both surface and depth) feel complex and worthwhile. I felt like a total genius the first time I tuned two spinning things so I could steer horizontally, only to realize that for the later levels I actually had to build a working submarine as well. I can’t really say much about this since I stopped paying attention in science class quite young, but I will say that this water has moxy!

My main takeaway from playing some of the base game and most of the expansion levels is this: I can’t believe I waited this long to play Besiege, although I do lay some of that blame on the marketing. In short: no one told me that this game was actually an Orc simulator. Behold, the cursed device I’ve come to know simply as ‘spikeboy1’, since this is how I kept it:

The largest machine ever built by human hands in Besiege

Image credit: Spiderling Studios/Rock Paper Shotgun

The main difference between the structures in Besiege and those built by Warhammer’s Orks is that the structures here don’t run purely on faith – you’ll have to make sure everything is in good condition. Later I would make numerous improvements to his spiky ship, most notably a series of braces to keep it from falling apart during a particularly powerful rampage. Sometimes the game gives you a quest that doesn’t require wanton destruction but deliberate movement, in which case I’d be forced to replace some of the mud decorations with more practical devices, like grapples or vacuum guns. Sometimes you have to destroy something very tall, in which case my preference was to make a column of stretchable extension pistons with a cannon on top. Usually you’ll get at least one good shot before you fall over completely.

We prepare for a confrontation with an armada of small boats in Beleg

Image credit: Spiderling Studios/Rock Paper Shotgun

Regarding the images here, I was tempted to write something along the lines of “they didn’t have to make it look that good!”. This is probably not true, as I understand the importance of standing out when someone is scrolling through Steam. Still, Besiege is a real eye-catcher, on top of the beautiful combinations of complexity and silliness, practicality and chivalry. Ambient music and pouring rain tell about a conflict that brings despair to the country. I see a mission called The Duke’s Plea, which is reminiscent of a desperate conversation to put an end to this senseless bloodshed. I load up, and it’s just me and my ridiculous death machine and a bunch of knights, one of which is holding parchment in my tracks. Was this your plan, Lord Duke? A piece of paper! Well, it won’t stop me because I only learned to read blueprints for war crimes accessories

Splintered Sea itself is even more beautiful: the gray boxes of the base game have been replaced by entire ocean scenes stretching in every direction. There are fish in the ocean, and you can kill them individually. Of course I didn’t do this. They just accidentally got caught on my spinny bits. Here you will see how I use a harpoon to steal a treasure. The fish just got in the way:

The largest submarine to ever tow a treasure chest with a harpoon gun in Besiege

Image credit: Spiderling Studios/Rock Paper Shotgun

I will say that each set of levels in Besiege, and especially the ten levels in Splintered Sea, can usually be cleared quite quickly once you’ve mastered the basics. So if you’re considering picking them up, it’s worth asking yourself where you fall on the intrinsic/extrinsic scale. In short, will you enjoy building and experimenting on its own, or might you lose interest once you beat all the challenges? If it’s the second, you’ll be done in a few solid evenings, so something to keep in mind.

You’ve probably gathered by now that there are no real stories told in Besiege, and that’s fine, because that’s not what the game is trying to do. But beyond the little snippets of scene setting achieved by the challenge layouts, I found that Besiege was telling me a story: it was a story about how some things are so ingrained that it’s very difficult for the world to extract them from us defeat. . One of these things is playing with toys, and another is taking those toys apart to see how they work, and then putting them back together.

I’m not sure I have a grand theory about how game writing should be done, but I do think we should spend less time trying to convince the doubters that “games are more than just toys” and more time focusing on celebrating the fact that toys can be great. and incredibly complex and valuable things. Besiege is a fantastic toy – which means it’s awesome, incredibly complex and valuable – and Splintered Sea is more of that, but with boats and sharks. At one point also a giant squid. It’s great and I love it. Seven out of six point five were thoroughly cracked wood.

This review is based on a review version of the game provided by the developer.

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