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Sometimes it is nice to be surprised by a game. To load up and realise that the gameplay is not what you expected, that there is a plot twist or mechanic that you genuinely did not see coming or to find something really original and unique. Sometimes I just want to blow a lot of stuff up in space. Gratuitous Space Battles 2 (GSB2) bills itself as the ultimate space fleet strategy management game and it is certainly very very comprehensive.
GSB2 is what the developer refers to as a ‘hands off’ simulator. Every battle has a set number of points and pilots you can spend. Rather than a turn based system or a real time system you design your ships, lay out formations and give them their orders and start the fight. At this point it is entirely hands off – you have no control of events.
I found this really odd at first and kept trying to work out ways to get ships to do what I wanted. Once I relaxed a little and thought about it I realised I was looking at it wrong. The control is still there but in the pre-battle setup and design and this allows hugely complicated setups which would be far to complicated to control all at once.
Ship Designs both for function and looks
You start with basic designs for a dreadnought, frigate, cruiser, destroyer, gunboat and fighters. As you complete battles you gain honor which can be used to buy new hull shapes and designs, modules that fit on the hulls and cosmetic add-ons. In addition there are three extra races which have their own perks and drawbacks.
Ship design and a good mix of capacities is something that I found was more of an art than a science. As long as you hit the basics of enough power and crew onboard there is no right or wrong way to fight a battle. There are better and more efficient ways and ways that do not work at all but no really wrong ways. I found that I tended to prefer using a combination of big missile armed dreadnoughts with very few engines and a large number of smaller fast energy armed gunboats to annoy the enemy but its just one of a great many possible options.
GSB2 comes with 11 included battles which can be played on an easy, medium or hard level and there is a lot of replayability involved there trying to work out the best most efficient way to win. Once these have been exhausted a completely new aspect becomes available. Players can design maps – enemy ships designs, formations and orders – and put them online for other players to challenge.
This gives a huge range of extra maps for the player and can allow for specialising. For example I might play a map that recommends that challengers only use lighter ship classes. It also adds an entirely new aspect in designing ships and formations for a map that can stand up to whatever combination the other user decides to throw at it.
Gratuitous Space Battles 2 is one of those games that seems perfectly designed for the twiddler or the perfectionist. Move this turret down here, adjust this formation and get a slightly better result. Or as the blurb says “build a battleship with purple rotating radars and 64 engines” just because. And its fun.
I came into it sceptical about a game that gave me no control at all of the actual battle and GSB2 showed me the release in setting it all up and seeing how the dominos fell with no way to influence it. GSB2 also turned out to be very accessible to those with control issues – if you can use a mouse, even very slowly, you can play. Recommended for strategy fans, space combat fans and table top gamers.
Product: Gratuitous Space Battles 2 | Developer: Cliff Harris| Publisher: Positech Games| Platform: PC Windows | Genre: Space Strategy Management | Players: 1 with some multiplayer interactions | Release Date April 2015 |Content Rating: not rated