Millions of kids and squids alike play Splatoon. Nintendo’s foray into the shooter genre may have been high-risk in its uniqueness, but has rewarded them well. In spite of initial skepticism that there may not have been enough to do in Splatoon at launch, Nintendo has made good on their promise to fill the game with fresh content on a regular basis. Three months later, new modes, maps, and gear are still pouring in. And it’s all been free so far, with no indications whatsoever that Nintendo will be squeezing our wallets for anything more than Inkling amiibo in the future.
I loved Splatoon. My initial review adventure through Inkopolis found plenty to do even without all the upcoming features–a game well worth its price tag. In light of the big August update, I decided to revisit the world of the Inklings and see how things have colored themselves since then.
You’ve Got A Squid In Me
At release, skillful inklings could, by winning and losing enough matches in Regular and Ranked Battles, level up as far as 20. The leveling system bestows no benefits beyond unlocking new weapons at Ammo Knights up to 20, but still serves as a useful indicator of the combatants’ skills, and serves as a sorting mechanism for Regular Battles to ensure the teams are relatively even. Of course, three months in, level 20 inklings saturated the games…until the level cap was increased to 50.
While not providing immediately tangible benefits, the 50 cap does offer a wider gauge for skill level, since before the cap two level twenties could display very different skill levels. It also gives ambitious squids something to shoot for. I haven’t seen anyone in matches even as high as level 40. As time goes on, more skillful players will reach the cap, but hopefully a constant influx of new players will keep the match pool varied and not too punishing.
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Both original and new options for playing with friends have enabled me to enter matches easily with pals. I can either look for friends already playing in Regular Battles and join their matches when a spot opens, or form teams for Ranked Battle. Even with the random team selection, I found Regular Battles more fun due to the low-stakes. Ranked Battles pit you against other squads, and unless you’re a highly-coordinated team, you’re likely to get stomped. There’s no rank-matching in Squad Battles, so a team of C’s might play against a team of S’s, to painful results.
With the exception of Squad Battle, the lack of voice chat hasn’t bothered me in the slightest. Players readily use the “C’mon!” and “Booyah!” buttons to push their teammates, or celebrate a victory, respectively. Communication isn’t an issue for most of Splatoon. What is an issue is, sadly, connectivity.
While the majority of my matches go smoothly, I’m sorry to say that Nintendo’s servers can’t always handle the load during peak hours. I’ve disconnected several times, and in Ranked Matches (where a d/c means a loss of rank points) this is especially grating. Sometimes my entire team will be disconnected at once, only to regroup in the queue again. This can happen multiples times in a row, usually resulting in me shutting off my Wii U in frustration. If there’s anything Nintendo needs to fix soon, it’s this.
Climbing The Ranks
In my initial review, I was unable to test Ranked Battles due to a lack of players online at any given time. Since then, I’ve dabbled in plenty of Ranked matches and delighted in the different play style, even though my skill levels aren’t nearly high enough to soar past B rank. Fortunately, the Ranked system ensures that you’re always playing against and with other people of your skill level, and isn’t overly punishing for unlucky mishaps. I’d recommend checking out the maps and reading the rules before stepping into any Ranked Mode, though, or you’ll quickly be left out in the ink.
Splat Zones provide one or two marked areas on each map that must be covered in ink. When a team claims both, a clock begins ticking down. The winner is the first to reach 0 in the time allotted for the match, or the team that made it the farthest by the end. While Splat Zones can be fun, I found in some cases the gameplay mode was not suited to the battlegrounds, such as in the case of Saltspray Rig (where half the map goes unused).
Rainmaker and Tower Control are the two new Ranked Battles, and I like both considerably better than Splat Zones though again, they suffer on some stages. Tower Control places a block on a track at the center of the stage that can be taken over by either team. While controlled, it plays some awful little carnival music for no apparent reason, and slowly moves along the track toward the opponent’s goal. If the team loses control by being splatted off the tower, the other team can take it over and work their way back. The team that makes it all the way to the goal, or has gone the farthest within the time allotted, wins.
Tower Control provides an interesting twist on regular play by forcing teams to use new vantage points, and continuously move across the map. The downside is that you often need to know the map very well to be competitive, else you’ll find yourself being splatted continuously from high points you never knew existed.
Rainmaker Mode is, on any given day, my most favorite or least favorite play mode. A “Rainmaker” is placed in the center of the map, surrounded by a shield that can be burst if enough ink is thrown at it. Once picked up, the Rainmaker can be charged to shoot ink tornadoes, similar to the Inkzooka weapon. The player holding the Rainmaker cannot use any other weapons or subweapons during this time. The goal is to carry the Rainmaker to the opponent’s goal. If splatted while holding it, the Rainmaker will drop and a new shield will form. As before, the team that makes it to the goal first, or makes it the farthest in the time allotted, wins.
Rainmaker can be a blast–with ink flying everywhere, close matches, and tight teamwork securing wins. It can also be the most frustrating mode in the game, as you watch your teammates run the wrong direction with the Rainmaker, or scatter instead of helping protect you while you hold it. Rainmaker is another mode where lots of map knowledge is key to win. If you don’t know how to get to the opponent’s side efficiently in, say, Kelp Dome, it’s game over.
Next: New clothes, new weapons, new worlds, new everything!