Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gratuitous Space Battles Review

As soon as I saw this game’s name, I knew I had to buy it. Only a manufacturer confident in its product would be so blatantly obvious in titling its game such a bold way – and for once I was pleasantly surprised to find such a game title to be totally accurate.
Unlike you, Duke Nukem Forever...

GSB offers exactly what it promises with its ambitious title, and pulls it off with great aplomb. The game itself is simplicity itself. You’re presented with a number of starship hulls, each of which have a selection ‘hardpoints’. Some are for weapons, of which there are dozens, and others for engines, crew compartments, power generators, shields and the like.

Once you’ve customised your ship’s hull to your liking, you can name the ship class, pop over to a selection of space battles (each of which are unlocked by completing the previous battle) and try your designs against enemy fleets of different sizes and races.

You can issue your fleet a limited selection of orders before the battle, or pass on instructions to target a specific vessel or type of vessel. You then place your newly-designed fleet of ships on the battle grid, hit ‘fight’... and sit back and watch a gratuitous space battle, complete with shiny, brightly colored beam lasers, massive explosions, space hulks drifting about and screaming fightercraft.

If you win the battle you get honour points, which can be spent on new ships’ hulls, races, weapons and hardpoints, allowing you to build newer, more advanced ships. The less you spend in points and crews to win a battle the more honour you get for winning it. It’s a deceptively simple Pavlov’s Dogs reward system... but with explosions. And who doesn’t like explosions?

The battles themselves offer a pleasing variety of enemies and environments, with certain alien races preferring huge starfighter fleets - requiring you to design a new anti-starfighter frigate - or gravimetric anomalies leaving weapons at half strength, or shields unusable. It requires thought to win these bouts with anything but overwhelming firepower, and that’s how the game remains so addictive.

My only issue with GSB is its occasionally fiddly user interface – the buttons you have to press are all rather small for an iPad screen, and moving your fleets around on the battle screens can be very irritating, but these are minor issues, and shouldn’t stop you from jumping into what is a fantastic title.

Plus, with five playable races, dozens of hulls, hundreds of options and a charming, colourful graphical style, GSB just keeps you coming back for more.

Reviewed on iPad