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Gratuitous Space Battles: Collectors Edition

Score: 91%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Positech Games
Developer: Positech Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Editor/ Strategy/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Imagine, if you will, a gargantuan clash of unmatched magnitudes... a horrific space battle where one civilization takes a stand against another in a monumental standoff for control of a section of the galaxy - winner take all - where there are no losers... only salvage to be cleaned.

Can't imagine it? You don't have to... Gratuitous Space Battles renders this spectacle as high-resolution, Direct-X driven graphical eye-candy, replete with 'splosions, particle effects, lasers, torpedoes, shields, EMP effects and more, all taking place above breathtaking deep-space vistas. You'll get to look around quite a bit during gameplay, and Gratuitous Space Battles aims to make your view as pleasing as possible, with 4 races and 13 single player missions. Gratuitous Space Battles: Collectors Edition adds in the Tribe, Order and Swarm race expansion packs, with additional ships, weapons, and missions.

Don't worry that your ears will get jealous, however; GSB's space-opera inspired, dynamic orchestral scores will keep you in the spirit, while the location-based sound will lend context to what you're viewing.


Gameplay:

Gratuitous Space Battles isn't like most games; this game is all about planning ahead. When the actual fighting begins, all of your interactivity is limited to tweaking how you watch the action.

You play the part of a commander of a vast fleet of spacecraft, from small Fighters to mid-sized Frigates and up to large Cruisers, each of which is piloted by highly-skilled pilots and manned by an adept crew. You job is to apprise the upcoming battle, load-out ships with the weaponry, defenses, gear and crew to serve your desired intent, and then add these ships to the battlefield. You can then group them as you see fit and give them general orders, from the target priority to whether they should cooperate to formations and how much damage to take before heading back from the front lines to seek repairs. There are quite a variety of orders to mix and match, and different ships and environmental conditions will call for different strategies. Planning the big attack is where your decisions come in.

Once you think you're ready, you click on the "Fight" button and the battle commences in its graphical glory. After that point, you can pan around the map, scroll in and out, and choose ships to observe and follow while watching the fight. You can also modify the speed of the fight, to slow it down to have more time to take it all in or to speed it up to get to the exciting bit. While you're unable to affect the battle at this point, however, the intent is that you watch the outcome and take notes on how to tweak your strategy to improve your outcome. If you fail, you can reload your deployment plan, tweak it and try again.

Gratuitous Space Battles is certainly not for everyone, but I found it to be great fun, and found myself trying several different approaches to certain levels, often thinking of a change I wanted to make shortly after starting the fight and then quitting the fight prematurely to make those adjustments.

Win a battle (especially on a lower budget than your enemy and without heavy losses) and you can win "Honor," which serves as a currency in GSB. You can spend Honor to unlock new ships, weapons, and other gear for your ships, as well as access to other alien races.

Once you've played some of the levels in Gratuitous Space Battles and you think you're pretty good at it, you're ready to try your hand at the Challenges. This is an Internet-enabled game mode, which facilitates the download of user-created battles. While you will never play "head to head" against another player online in Gratuitous Space Battles, the Challenge feature allows you to attempt to defeat some other player's setup. When you complete a Challenge (win or lose), you can optionally leave a message for the Challenge's creator.


Difficulty:

There is a unique challenge to Gratuitous Space Battles. Most videogames are more interactive, throughout the game. GSB relies on your ability to build up a strategy and to think ahead, but doesn't offer the ability to choose to change your strategy mid-game. If we concentrate on the activity of selecting just the right selection of ships, formations and orders, then GSB could be seen as a sort of puzzle game, where you watch the battle play out to see if you selected the correct "answer" to the problem you were presented with. This actually might be the best way to consider it, although there can be several "right" answers, as long as they get the job done. Quite frankly, not being "into" the game and getting bored with it is really the main obstacle to progress.

The first level has tutorial pop-ups which walk you through how to play. From there, the levels that come with the game are designed to open up in order of increasing difficulty. Bear in mind, there's no need to "win" the first time you try a level and, quite frankly, making it past a level doesn't mean you're done playing that level; it merely means that you found one approach that works. You can return to the same level and use different ships or different placements or different orders and attempt to beat the level that way - or merely tweak your existing approach to minimize your losses and, hence, increase your winnings in "Honor."

If you get stuck on a level, you can return to previous levels, and, with the Honor you win on those levels, unlock new races, ships and equipment which will give you the opportunity to try out new approaches to any of the available levels. Thanks to this, the difficulty is never too much to bear.

If you find yourself breezing through the included levels, you can try the online Challenges, where other players have carefully crafted new situations to make you squirm.


Game Mechanics:

Gratuitous Space Battles is a unique game - a niche, to be certain, but great fun for just the right audience. This is the kind of game that would probably not have enough of a target audience to be a console game. For a PC game, however, numbers aren't as important unless you're trying to support a large online community. Gratuitous Space Battles includes online and community aspects, but does so in a way that isn't overly taxing on servers, doesn't have a real-time component, isn't susceptible to lag issues and doesn't require a large number of active players to be successful. The documentation describes this as being "Massively Single-Player," as was first used to describe Spore, but Gratuitous Space Battles really takes this concept and makes it its own.

If you are a "tweaker" who likes to fiddle with stats and bonuses on characters (or in this case, starships), a fan of puzzle games and strategy games, and you have either a great fondness of graphical effects or a lot of patience to wait for the battle to complete to see how the battle turns out, then you might enjoy this game. If you can view the outcome of a battle as "feedback" and then use what you learned to adjust your setup to forge your way toward victory, then you're unlikely to get bored with this game.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:



(Not Listed)

Ensure you have the latest video card drivers for your PC before trying anything else. If in doubt, try the demo first. This game uses Microsoft's DirectX9, which should be already installed on your computer. Your video card must support a minimum screen height of 768 pixels. Some smaller netbooks do not support this and will not run the game.

Test your machine for compatibility - Use the links below to try the demo first.

 

Test System:



MS Windows XP Home Edition, AMD Dual-Core, 3.11 GHz, 2 GB RAM, Award Modular BIOS v6.00PG, Gateway HD2201 21" HDMI Monitor, Sony SDM-HS73 Monitor, ATI Radeon HD 2400 (256 MB) , A30 Gaming Headset, Realtek HD Audio, Creative SB X-Fi, 1.5 TB Western Digital Caviar Green SATA Hard Drive, Sony DVD RW, Cable Modem, Logitech Wireless Gaming Mouse G700

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