Azur Lane, the Chinese mobile game that has taken the scene by storm, competing with Japanese giants like Kantai Collection and Fate/Grand Order. As someone that’s not really into mobile games, but was still interested in checking it out, a 3D shooter spin-off was right up my alley.
Excellent character designs. The main selling point of Azur Lane: Crosswave is that it is an Azur Lane game. Of course, this means that we get a game with all of our favorite ship waifus. Not only are they fully voiced, but a large chunk of them have 3D models, models that don’t even look that bad in-game. This is something that the game itself recognizes, as you can take these models into photo mode and position them however you want.
But of course, these models only look good because the character designs were top-tier to begin with. From the elaborate design of Yamashiro to the more simple design of St. Louis, all are excellently done and there’s so many offered that there’s bound to be one that you’ll like (I’m personally an Akagi fan myself). Although Crosswave does not have every character from the mobile game, it does have quite a bit.
Decent port. Once again, Idea Factory has delivered us another decent Compile Heart PC port. Although I played most of the game with a controller, I did try the mouse and keyboard controls and was actually surprised by how well they worked. Granted, they’re not ideal, but they’re far better than what we get with other ports (looking at you Koei Tecmo). They’re also completely rebindable on top of that, so you can customize them to your liking.
Aside from the controls, the optimization is also worth noting. I made it through the entire game without running into any crashes, freezing, FPS drops, or really any technical issue at all. I was a bit disappointed that the only graphics settings are window and resolution options, but the game looked fine at 1440p regardless. It could use some improvements (like being able to change button prompts and anti-aliasing), but for a PC port of a Japanese PS4 game, it’s serviceable.
Abysmal core gameplay. Unfortunately, one of the game’s major selling points — its gameplay — is also one of its biggest problems. This is due to a number of reasons, but the main one would have to be just how barebones it is. Each mission is structured the same way, takes place in environments that hardly differ from one another, and can all be completed using the exact same strategy. All you need to do is move in circles and spam every attack you have as they come off of cooldown, there isn’t really anything else to do beyond that. Regardless of what enemy you may be facing and who you may be playing, all you need to do is circle and shoot, circle and shoot, and repeat until the enemy is dead. Most enemies will not even be able to hit you when you’re doing this and the auto-aim takes care of the rest, so you’re pretty much set for anything that the game may throw at you.
Of course, some may say that the difficulty level can remedy things here, but it really doesn’t. You can change the difficulty, but all that does is make enemies massive bullet sponges, much more so than they already were. The rewards and story outcome for each battle are the same regardless of what difficulty you play on, so there’s really no point in playing on the hardest difficulty unless if you just like circling and shooting more than the average person. There’s absolutely nothing else to the gameplay and, unfortunately, it really brings down the experience.
Limited gameplay variety. The other issue with the gameplay is simply how limited it is in terms of what is offered. As I mentioned before, each mission is structured in the same exact way. You’re plopped down onto a map and told to either defeat a certain number of enemies, defeat a boss (or multiple bosses), or survive until a certain time. That’s as far as mission variety goes. Enemy variety is just as bad, with only about four or five different enemy types present across the entire game.
A lot of battles will have you go up against another character, but those are pretty much handled the same way regardless of what character they are. It doesn’t matter if they’re a destroyer or an aircraft carrier, you just use the same circle and shoot strategy to win. This lack of variety doesn’t just apply to enemy characters though, it also applies to those that you can actually play. Each character has two primary attacks and two skills that can be used in-battle. These vary depending on what category the character falls into (destroyer, light cruiser, etc.), but beyond that there’s little to differentiate between them. In fact, the only thing that differentiates those within the same class are their visual appearance. But regardless of what class you choose, the gameplay falls into the same formula, so it hardly even matters what you pick. By the time you’ve played through the first four or five battles, you’ve seen everything the game has to offer in terms of variety — it’s honestly pretty disappointing.
Subpar story elements. I feel Azur Lane: Crosswave needs a massive disclaimer on the store page so that people know what they are getting into. I say that because, despite all of the bad things I just said about the gameplay, that gameplay is actually only 20% of the game. You may be wondering, well what is the other 80%? Well, that other 80% consists of visual novel scenes. Yes, this is a game that is far more visual novel than it is action game, contrary to what the marketing makes it out to be. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for me to read through thirty minutes or so of VN scenes before I got to the next battle. Considering that the majority of these battles are completed in under two minutes, you can imagine why I think the store page deserves a disclaimer.
However, my complaints aren’t with the fact that the game is a visual novel in disguise — VNs are one of my favorite genres after all. Rather, it’s that the VN segments simply aren’t that good. The game tries to tell a semi-serious story, but it’s just so generic and predictable that it’s honestly hard to care for. And when it isn’t telling a serious story, it’s padding its game length with pointless fluff scenes. If anything, the most enjoyment I got out of the story were these character interaction scenes, but that’s only enjoyable to an extent.
As a background story to an action game, it’s definitely serviceable, but for a game that is largely composed of VN scenes, it simply doesn’t cut it. I can’t say that I expected the game to have a good story, as this is Azur Lane we’re talking about and I’m sure most don’t play it for the story, but when the majority of the game hinges on it, one would at least expect something interesting.
Azur Lane: Crosswave is a game with a number of problems. Its gameplay is boring, lacks variety, and the story segments aren’t all that good either. Sure, it has the excellent character designs that helped popularize the mobile game and is a decent PC port all things considered, but I find it hard to recommend even to existing fans. You’d have to really be into Azur Lane to get much enjoyment out of, so if you’re not already a fan, I’d recommend looking elsewhere.
You can buy Azur Lane Crosswave on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.