Gratuitous Space Battles Beta Preview

Publisher Positech
Platform PC
Release Date TBC

Describing Gratuitous Space Battles (GSB) to someone who hasn't encountered it before is more than a little difficult, as it’s so unlike anything else you’ll have played. It’s not a conventional RTS by any means as once the action starts you have no control over what’s happening on screen, but neither is it turn based. In fact, the best description I’ve heard was the one Joe used when first telling me about it – “It’s like Football Manager with giant space ships.”

While it’s perhaps a little over simplified the analogy is startlingly accurate, with GSB as much a management title as it is a strategy one. You’re the galactic commander of a gun totting fleet of space ships and tasked with thejob of engaging and defeating an opposing fleet of equally gun-loving enemies. The only difference is that all the strategy - all the tinkering - is done prior to the actual battle, and once the lasers and missiles start flying, you’re only able to sit and watch as fleets clash and your strategy either sinks or swims.

Gratuitous Space Battles Beta Preview Gratuitous Space Battles Beta Preview
Click to enlarge - the game is gorgeous - you can zoom in to a surprising level

While this might sound a bit boring (imagine playing Red Alert as a mere spectator) there’s a surprising amount of technical and strategic depth involved in tinkering with and setting up your force to perfection before the battle, and it’s here where GSB is currently at its best.

As well as picking and choosing your ships and their formation and individual tactics during the battle (such as prioritising fighters, frigates or hulking cruisers as targets) you're able to design and build your own ships with which to make intergalactic war – a mechanic that soon becomes crucial.

Given a veritable toy chest of space faring war machines, you're able to choose between a number of hull designs, each of which offer different tactic and logistical advantages. Once the keel's been laid down you're then able to fully customise a ship's loadout, from picking which weapons it should carry, to its level of defensive shielding, all the way down to its engines and crew compliment.

Gratuitous Space Battles Beta Preview Gratuitous Space Battles Beta Preview
Click to enlarge - theres plenty to tinker with tactically

You see it’s not just as easy as throwing the biggest guns onto the biggest ship and then sitting back to watch the fireworks. You’ll need to balance your ships' power requirements, shielding, hull armour, targeting systems, weapons systems and the number of crew required to make the whole thing tick. It might sound a bit complicated, but it’s all managed from a very capable and simple to use ship creator, with more advanced weapons and upgrades for your ships unlocked as you earn honour from defeating scenarios with smaller and smaller fleets.

Building and tweaking your fleet soon becomes a lot of fun, and we quickly favoured tasking particular ships with different duties. Heavy cruisers stacked to the gills with long range weaponry and minimal shielding and armour serve well as space artillery, mobs of torpedo laden frigates are handy for overwhelming enemy cruisers, Fighters equipped with fast firing lasers are vital escorts for larger ships and wings of torpedo laden bombers can crush an unprotected fleet.
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