Splatoon 2: Early Impressions

Why do I always blink in photographs?

Over the weekend, Nintendo opened Splatoon 2 up to the public for a full-fledged stress test in the form of the game’s inaugural Splatfest. My initial Switch-buying stance caused me to miss out on the Global Testfire back in March, so this was my first hands-on time with the game, and after four hours of ink-flinging, I can confirm that the while there are some tweaks around the edges, Splatoon 2 still contains the fun and magic of the original game, at least for the multiplayer mode (which represents most of the game anyway). My specific thoughts are as follows:

  • I’m a big fan of the new map designs shown during the Splatfest. Starfish Mainstage has a lot of verticality to it and includes a ton of nooks and crannies to ink/explore, Inkblot Art Academy reminds me a lot of Blackbelly Skatepark with its central tower and side alleys (though it lacks the slopes near the bases), and Humpback Pump Track has a large central hill for the teams to fight over and an outer ring that lets players outflank the opposition. My one complaint is that the nighttime motif of the Splatfest kept me from noticing any background details that might give the maps more personality.
  • Moray Towers is my favorite map in Splatoon, and the new ink rails offer a lot more options for attacking a team’s base. It makes it a bit tougher to defend your side than before, but there’s nothing more satisfying than sniping someone out of an ink rail. (I’m interested to see how the added sponges change up Port Mackerel, as that map developed a really bad reputation in the original game.)
  • I like the idea of rotating maps during Splatfest instead of sticking withe the same two or three the entire time. It helps ensure that people who can’t stand certain maps aren’t forced to play them all day.
  • don’t like the idea of randomizing your Splatfest for every match, so I’m really hoping that was just a temporary limitation for this demo.
  • I spent a lot of time with the Splat Dualies, and while they’re functional enough, they don’t suit my playstyle very well. I tend to rely on jump-dodging to avoid foes during combat, but the Dodge Roll leaves you ground-bound in kid form, and I didn’t find the roll to be as effective as avoiding shots.I probably won’t use them very much in the full game.
  • On one hand, the 5-6 disconnections/connection errors I got during the event aren’t bad in isolation. On the other hand, Splatoon has been rock solid for me ever since I upgraded my Internet (I see a connection error maybe once a month), so seeing an uptick in disconnections here was disappointing. Hopefully things won’t be as bad in the normal lobbies.
  • Honestly, I was underwhelmed by the new special weapons. Most were just okay, and the Stingray felt particularly useless (you could barely aim the stupid thing once it fired). Would it kill them to bring back a few specials from Splatoon?
  • The Splattershot, Splat Charger, and Splat Roller are still the same weapons people know and love, albeit with the few tweaks. The weapons felt like they consumed more ink than before, and burst bombs in particular felt a bit slower than in Splatoon (all bombs seemed to have a longer throw range, however). I stuck mostly to the main weapons, but that will change once I get my hands on some Sprinklers. (Happily, my beloved .96 Gal/Sprinkler combo has already been confirmed, as has my Quick Respawn Backwards Hat.)

Overall, I had a lot of fun with the Splatfest despite getting wrecked consistently by the opposition, and I can’t wait to try out the full game (especially the expanded single-player campaign) when it drops this Friday. Splatoon 2 seems to have pulled off the impressive feat of staying true to its predecessor while offering enough new material to “stay fresh.”

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