Battles in Space That Are Gratuitous

Beating GSB isn’t just as easy as amassing an unbeatable fleet and then just strolling through every mission though. Different scenarios will throw up radically different enemy fleets and surroundings which will greatly affect the outcome of each gorgeously represented laser-fest.

For example, having crushed one particular scenario with a mix of long range torpedo and heavily armoured beam cannon totting cruisers, I carbon copied by deployment into the next engagement, only to come up against several waves of fighters and bombers, who mobbed my poorly defended capital ships and soon left my fleet as floating space garbage.

After going back and tweaking my fleet to include more anti-fighter defences and escort wings, I restarted the mission, and while the first wave of enemy fighters was shot down in seconds, I was now vulnerable to the enemies long range torpedoes. Cue another return to initial tactics screen where an order of “keep moving” to my cruisers meant that, while my weapon accuracy dropped, the inaccurate plasma torpedo fire was less of a concern.

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However, while switching and changing your strategy to match the opposition and then watching your victory play out is extremely gratifying; the trial and error basis of it can become more than a little frustrating. Despite being shown the general makeup of an enemy force and given information on the environmental differences (such as “shields operate at 50 per cent capacity or “fighters are unable to be deployed”), you’re left in the dark as to the composition or capabilities of the enemy fleet, and this can lead to player confusion and irritation.

Should you pack point defence systems to shoot down waves of incoming missiles? Beam cannons to cut through heavy armour? You never know this information, even once the game is mid battle and you’re anxiously following the hull and shield status of your ships. It’s more than a little frustrating and a few hints at the deployment screen like “enemy has many missile weapons” or “enemy cruisers are heavily shielded” would allow you to cater your fleet prior to the battle in which they are handed their asses through no fault of your own.

Another nuisance is that following an unsuccessful battle you’re dumped back to the deployment screen with your finely tuned, pin point placed formations wiped clean. While you can manually save and load favoured formations, doing this automatically would be a great addition.

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Despite our grumbles though, GSB is, even at this early beta stage, an oddly entertaining and addictive slice of the gaming pie. Building your ships from the reactor core up, assigning orders to protect certain assests or focus fire on others and then sitting back to watch the galactic carnage appeals deeply to the sci-fi nerds in us that love the iconic space battles of Star Wars or Battlestar: Galactica. There’s just something deeply satisfying about spending time and attention to detail in designing and deploying your fleet and then watching it go Darth Vader on the enemies asses in a storm of gorgeously animated lasers, missiles and escape pods.

GSB still has a way to go though, with the array of ship designs and upgrades currently available a little limited and the beta only offering a handful of single player scenarios. We’re hoping that there’s still more to come from GSB though, with the prospect of a multiplayer component, in which you design your fleets and then challenge opponents to a sci-fi strategy showdown, particularly delicious.

If we’ve whet your appetite for some Gratuitous Space Battles the game currently available for pre-purchase for the bargain price of £15 (inc. VAT), which automatically gives you access to the beta.
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October 14 2021 | 15:04