Gratuitous Space Battles is a Space Strategy Game developed by an UK indie developer named Positech Games. It’s a strategy and simulation game that does not contain all the traditional elements of a 4x space strategy game but rather concentrates in ship design and space battles.
In Gratuitous Space Battles you assign your ships, arrange them into fleets, give them upfront orders of engagement and then site down and watch the result of your deployment strategy: It’s all about wondering if all the decisions have been done right and if you can come out victorious from battle.
Spaceship design is the heart of the game since the construction decisions you make can ultimately mean the difference between victory and defeat.
You begin by choosing a Hull for your ship, that can be a Fighter, Frigate or Cruiser, these are the three ship hull classes available in GSB. Each hull contains a certain number of slots that can be of two types: standard modules (squares) or hardpoints (exagons). The hardpoints can be used to put weapon modules, the standard slots are used to insert the other type of modules.
Spaceship Design Modules
When designing your ships you can insert several types of modules. These are: “Weapons”, “Defenses”, “Engines” and “Other” .
In Weapons you can insert several types of missile launchers, and a collection of energy beams (lasers, plasma, proton beam, etc). In Defenses you can insert several types of Armor and Shields.
In Engines you can choose from a variety of engines, but beware that the bigger and the faster they are the more crew and energy they will require.
Finally there are the Other modules. These vary from a range of modules like crew modules, energy modules, tractor beam, auto-repair systems, etc.
In the original GSB there are 4 races the player can choose from: The Federation, the Rebels, the Alliance and the Empire. Each race has its own art work which reflects into different hulls and different modules styles. This variety alone is enough to provide a different game experience to the player.
(Races from left to right: Federation, Rebels, Alliance, Empire)
Spaceship combat is the core (and probably the single) gameplay mechanic of GSB. This is where everything happens. The player can choose from a set of missions that will be unblocked as soon as the player finishes the previous mission.
There are three difficulty levels to choose from: Easy, Medium and Hard. The harder the challenge the more enemies you have to fight for to win the battle. In the Harder difficulty level you aren’t even allowed to know the size of your opponent.
Combat is not tactical but all about Strategy
Once you hit the “Fight!” button the battle begins and all you can do is watch it unfold. All your decisions have to be made upfront before everything begins in the fleet deployment panel. Decisions to be made account the types of ships you will use, the formation of these ships, the specific orders you can set to each ship and the amount of ships you will ultimately use. However the more ships you use the less honor points you receive. Honor points can be used to unlock new modules, ships and races as I will explain next.
Among the different orders you can assign to your ships for instance you can instruct your fighters to escort your frigates and tell your frigates to protect your cruisers. There are many orders you can issue: Rescuer, Protector, Formation, Vulture, Escorter just to name a few. So that’s why GSB is more about strategy than tactics since all decisions have to be made before the battle begins. After you start the battle you cannot instruct your ships to attack A or B neither you can give orders to specific modules of the ship, albeit you can see what each module status is, what they are aiming to, recharge rate, damage, etc.
You can unlock Modules, Ships and Races
As said above the player can win honor points if he fights battles with lower odds and came victorious (that is if he wins battles with less spaceships than the ones he was allowed to use). The player can trade these honor points later in the game Fleet HQ.
The Fleet HQ is a panel screen where the player can trade his honor points to unlock new modules (new weapons, more potent shields, stronger armour, etc), new ships and new races.
Three Expansion Packs: Tribe, Order and the Swarm
Since the original GSB came out three expansion packs have already been released. These are called: The Tribe, The Order and The Swarm. Each of this expansion packs brings a new race with corresponding fighter, frigate and cruiser hulls, new modules, ship bonuses and new scenarios to fight for.
(From left to right: the Tribe, the Order and the Swarm)
Aesthetics: Music, Sound and Graphics
The Music score of GSB is certainly a plus feature. The battle sequences music transmit a dramatic feeling which helps the player to forget that he’s just watching the battle and not really taking any action. The sound is also good. From the big cruiser beam weapons firing to the small fighters blasters. Graphics are also good. In conclusion aesthetically GSB sounds and looks nice which is very positive since if this would not be the case the game appeal would drop significantly since the battles don’t require the player actions and the player must be kept entertained by other means.
GSB ultimately is a fun game to play. Since I begun reviewing the game I may have fought now 90% of all the available scenarios straight on so you can get the feeling of how addictive the game really is. Most of this addictive factor comes from the honor points and the desire to trade them for new toys and new races. The introduction of the three new expansion packs have brought another degree of depth to the game since now there are more ships to fight with, new modules to unlock and new scenarios to fight.
Considering that the game has been developed by an Indie company and the fact that the gameplay is quite limited, since you cannot fight your battles but rather take only the decisions and design your ships, it is quite an achievement for Positech Games to have developed such an enjoyable game that will keep you entertained for many hours. Haa.. and I almost forget, you can also play online by establishing challenges and then connecting your friends to them which is another good feature that indeed enhances replayability.
For more information on Gratuitous Space Battles check the official GSB site at positech games.
– The honor point system is addictive
– The music score is very good and sets the right atmosphere
– Good amount of strategic decisions that can be made
– Spaceship design screen is intuitive and provides many options
– The player cannot control ships during battle neither individual modules
– Gameplay is limited to fleet deployment and ships design
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