There are two things that budding Flotilla
players need to be aware of before they wade in to the game’s combat portion. The first is that there is no ‘up’ in space. The second is that all ships in the game have incredibly resilient armour. The third is that nobody expects the Spanish Inquis—
Nevermind. Either way, the result of these points is that the turn-based combat of Flotilla
takes place on all three dimensions and is all about getting your ships in the right position. The exorbitant armouring means that vessels are only vulnerable to attack from below or behind, so you have to manoeuvre your ships to take advantage of that whilst at the same time protecting your own rear and underbelly.
Each turn involves a series of planning of moves before it’s eventually executed. For each ship in your gang you have to select an attack order – move and fire, just move or just fire – before plotting actual coordinates. Simply dragging a line from each ship allows you to issue first horizontal and then vertical move commands. After that you decide the orientation of your unit, which usually involves rolling to protect the underside, and give a priority targets.
Crocodiles baffle me
Then you press ‘Go’ and hope for the best as your plan plays out in graceful slow-motion and the enemies make their moves too. In space nobody can hear the screams, but some calming classical music gives each battle a sense of theatre and makes each encounter look like inter-galactic ballet. With missiles.
It’s an admittedly long-winded style of combat, especially when you first delve in and haven’t learned quite how to explore and exploit the options to go above and below your enemies, but you can quickly get used to it. Most of the battlefields are big open areas too, as befits a spaceborne tête-à-tête, so you don’t really need a lot of precision. The important part is making sure you’re correctly orientated, especially when you’re fighter bigger ships or haven’t gathered enough ship upgrades for larger battles. Once you’ve got the basics straight then you can whip through simple plans easily.
Success in combat comes from getting in the right position
The interface is still probably the biggest problem the game has though, since navigating the camera through cartoon-looking battlefields is like trying to pilot a radio-controlled helicopter with someone else’s feet. The combo of WASD and the right mouse button is cumbersome at the best of times and Flotilla
would benefit hugely from some hot-key assigned cameras for getting top-down and ship-view perspectives.
It’s a little annoying that the timescale can’t be sped up as you play through battles either. Each combat turn equates to 30 seconds of real-time and you’re forced to watch each turn unfold at 1:1 speed, which can be tedious for opening gambits or prolonged duels. Surely a speed-up button would be an obvious enhancement?
Still, it’s hard to get too frustrated with Flotilla
’s fault, especially since the price is so low and replay value is so high. No adventure is the same as any other and battles unfold uniquely every time. Admittedly, the brevity of even a completely successful campaign and the fiddly-ness of the combat control are grating – but even at their worst they aren’t enough to ruin an otherwise hilarious and brazenly original debut title. And it bears mentioning that Blendo is aggressively supporting the game too, with online leaderboards and a new, extended campaign having been added since release - so Flotilla
is a game that keeps on giving too.