Many of you may remember one of Supercell's past games called Boom Beach – a mobile RTS that saw you build bases and defend them à la Clash of Clans. Well, Boom Beach is back, but this time it's not quite as you remember it. Supercell has taken a backseat here, lending the IP to Space Ape Games, who've used the setting and characters to develop the team-based shooter Boom Beach: Frontlines.
At first glance, you wouldn't be blamed for thinking this was a Supercell game, though. Whether it's the iconic art style or the Brawl Stars-esque dual-stick controls, it feels very reminiscent of their previous titles. And as someone who likes Brawl Stars, I mean that in a good way. However, in terms of mobile team-shooters, it's still able to differentiate itself from Supercell's back catalogue.
Boom Beach: Frontlines is a 9v9 team-shooter, and as soon as I said that, I know what you were thinking: "Oh lord, the matchmaking." But just like Brawl Stars, it's easy to jump into a game, and each match is usually over within ten-ish minutes, meaning it's decent for casual players. The game has just soft-launched in Canada, but Space Ape Games has been relatively quiet about release dates for other regions so far. I guess when the game demands that many players, it makes sense to establish itself before rolling out to new locations.
Each Boom Beach: Frontlines battle is a little reminiscent of a MOBA match.
Each Boom Beach: Frontlines battle is a little reminiscent of a MOBA match, as you choose a character and then beeline to capture and hold the nearest checkpoint. There are always two of these on each map (known here as 'Operations'), but that number could increase in others. Another MOBA similarity is that as the game goes on and you defeat opponents, you gain currency that you use to construct turrets and sniper towers to defend checkpoints, or purchase deployable power-ups like baby turrets, mini-robots, and even airstrikes.
Most unique of all? You can buy vehicles, including tanks, armoured cars, and 4x4s. You can even hop into the back of a jeep with the rest of your squad and shoot out at opponents as your teammate haphazardly drives you around the battlefield. It's honestly a pretty weird feeling to be riding shotgun in a top-down mobile shooter, but Frontlines handles it very well.
As you complete battles and earn XP, you unlock new characters, power-ups, constructible emplacements, and vehicles. On the whole, there's a pretty wide selection. The initial characters are Assault, Heavy, and Medic, but soon you'll be toting around a rocket launcher as the Zooka, or sharpshooting as the Sniper. For the record, the Sniper is absolutely the best, boasting increased range and damage – it's not even close. But with so many players on the map, it can be easy to outmanoeuvre even the best characters.
The two ways that Boom Beach: Frontlines differentiates itself from typical MOBA gameplay are its cover and flanking systems. Cover is what you'd expect: get behind something and you take reduced damage. Flanking on the other hand is slightly more janky. Shoot someone in the side or the back and they'll take more damage, but with players being players, this of course leads to spinning around each other in elaborate dances of death while you try to get that sweet flanking damage. Don't get me wrong, it's a great idea, and the cover system definitely makes organised defence of checkpoints easier.
One area I'm less fond of is the endless upgrade-fest.
One area I'm less fond of is the endless upgrade-fest. Drawing cards you already have from Boom Boxes allows you to upgrade them, increasing their effectiveness and damage, but you also need Silver to do this. You can get two free Boom Boxes per day, and the basic level of Frontline's 'Boom Pass' is unlocked from the get-go, granting you further boxes. You can also earn Silver through battles, too. I understand the game has to be monetized, and Frontlines is by no means aggressive in that sense, but I'm just not a big fan of players being able to upgrade their power in a competitive game, even if there is still potential to outplay them on the battlefield.
So is Boom Beach: Frontlines the next big Supercell game (that's not actually made by Supercell)? I'd say, tentatively, yes. All of this, of course, depends on whether the game sees enough success to be rolled out to other regions, but I think it's a good title to take a chance on, one that offers unique features and that iconic Supercell visual style that a lot of players line up for.
The one thing Boom Beach is currently missing is character supers. I can see why the developer didn't include them when there are power-ups, but when the game is already channelling so many elements of Brawl Stars and the MOBA genre, it feels like it needs that little bit of extra drama. In that sense, unique character abilities would definitely not go amiss. Other than that, Boom Beach: Frontlines is one to keep an eye on, for sure.