After bringing us Gratuitous Space Battles Cliff Harris from Positech Games now brings us Gratuitous Tank Battles. If you played or know the former you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from GTB, however there are substantial differences in this new title that make it considerably different from its spiritual predecessor, and not just a theme re-skin. First of all GTB allows you to issue commands to units. It doesn’t allow you to do much more than “go that direction” or “kill that thing” I’m afraid but that’s already a big improvement from GSB in my opinion, where there you could only setup your missions, hit start and sit back to enjoy the fireworks.
That’s nice, but what exactly is Gratuitous Tank Battles?
GTB is a tower defense game that unfolds on a sci-fi alternative history setting, where Great Britain is still fighting the Nazis (or at least it seems to be them) 200 years after the second world war has ended (in normal time frame). So, imagine a WW2 setting where Allied troops are fighting the Nazis, alright, but now you have laser weapons and even mechs at your disposal. Mix that with a good dose of humor, nice effects, addictive tower-defense gameplay, a deep unit design feature and online maps that you can share with your friends and you have GTB right there in a nutshell.
A big difference in GTB from its Space cousin, besides offering the possibility to issue orders to units, is that in GSB you can only choose which units (ships) you want to deploy before each mission starts and then watch the battles unfold, while in GTB you are allowed to place your units strategically not all upfront but over time during your play session in real-time.
An interesting aspect of GTB’s gameplay is that you can choose to play not only in the role of the defender but also as the attacker. I played both game modes and contrary to my expectations I found the attack mode not less interesting than when defending (which in theory is the main game mode). The two modes play very differently. There are different units for you to choose from if you’re an attacker or defender and the strategies you employ must also be radically different which increases GTB’s value by a good order of magnitude.
You can also fully customize your own units if you like. In fact you must to in order to have a chance to finish the game’s campaign (which I found to be quite challenging, although short). You can choose a hull to customize (mech, soldier, turret, tank). There are also different types of weapons, each one better suited against shields or armor or infantry. There are shields with different strengths and costs, and other systems. There are also “specials” and you can even choose your unit colors. The “specials” give you abilities on top of regular equipment like more accuracy, range, shield penetration among many other perks. Equipment comes in different levels so as you progress you can unlock stronger weapons, better equipment and medals as you win more battles.
You can also customize your maps. You can then share them online as challenges for other people if you like. But this is the limit of what you can do online, GTB does not offer multiplayer gameplay, the online gameplay is purely asynchronous, that is, you create your maps, share with others for them to play or the other way around. But, there’s a nice and simple rating system and other statistics offered that I think do a good job on captivating the player to share maps and play online.
A few suggestions
As the game is currently in beta I take the opportunity to suggest a couple of (minor) things I took note of.
First of all, and if possible, the battlefield view should be better arranged so that we don’t lose sight of some units because they are “below” the UI :)
I would like to know what structure I placed after it got destroyed, so that I can decide if it would be best to place the same in the same spot or not.
Right now it can be a bit cumbersome to choose between units for placement at times. The scroll is a bit hard to get right, dancing all over the place.
“At night” maps can be a bit distracting and confusing. I guess it has to do with all the lights moving around, maybe an option to remove those lights or tone them down would be a good thing? “Hey, where was that tank again?”.
The music is nice but could we have a couple more scores please? :)
Maybe you could enhance the visuals a little bit further still? With even more punchy explosions and effects?
That’s it :) Only minor stuff as I said.
GTB is currently in beta stage but I found it already fully playable and enjoyable (unless there are more campaigns or maps in the gold version). I only stumbled into a couple of errors and occasional freezes during my playtesting (normal and minor beta stability issues).
Gratuitous Tank Battles was another of those examples where I started taking notes for my preview, but shortly after I stopped taking notes and just started enjoying the experience and forgot about the preview. Even rarer is the game I play just for the sake of playing because I feel like it. That happened to me with GTB as I found myself playing it when I could (“I just want to finish one more campaign battle!” or “I’ll design a formidable heavy turret now, they’ll see!”. That happened to me with GTB.
Good job Cliff! I’m liking your new game. Seriously, I’m liking it a lot! Now, surprise me with the gold version ;)
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