Questionable Space Battles

Sometimes I find myself inexplicably drawn to building spaceships and watching them explode. With Steam having a 75% sale on the Gratuitous Space Battles DLC this past weekend, it seemed as good a time as any to try and get that fix.

The problem is that I am having a hard time convincing myself that the game isn’t complete bullshit.

You can read my original review here, but suffice it to say, GSB is essentially a game about building spaceships and nothing else. I think one of the DLCs or patches gave you the ability to change orders mid-battle at the cost of high score tracking or whatever, but under normal circumstances you design ships, give general orders, and let’em go. I mentioned in the review that I quickly came across a strategy that essentially wins 100% of the time – basically missile spam with occasional target painter that makes missile 100% accurate – but it seems clear to me now that it has been nerfed to oblivion. Anti-missile tech existed in the vanilla game already, e.g. guidance scramblers and Point Defense batteries, although it seems much, much stronger than it ever was so many months ago.

It is fine having counters to things, whatever. When I was looking at alternatives to missile spam though, I kept running into problems with the ship building aspects. As you might imagine in these sort of games, you have to juggle each component’s energy usage, crew requirements, weight, and so on. Except… all roads lead to the same max-level components and heavy mixing of weapons. It feels… banal. If I want an all-beam ship, let me build an all-beam ship without gimping on shields or armor. The weakness of specialization is supposed to be being vulnerable to counters, not it being nigh-impossible to actually specialize.

Or maybe I’m just all sour grapes because this happened:

Was totally wiped out, killing zero enemy ships. They all had ~20% HP or less.

Was totally wiped out, killing zero enemy ships. They all had ~20% HP or less.

I will continue plugging along with Gratuitous Space Battles for a while longer, but in the meantime, if you have any suggestions for spaceship designing/battle games, let me know in the comments below. I was obsessed with an ancient game called Stars! back in the day, and spent 40+ hours most recently on Space, Pirates and Zombies; dunno if FTL really counts, but I spent a lot of time with that one too. It can be a 4-X game, it can be FPS, it can be whatever it is, as long as it has a ship-designing component. And, preferably, no bullshit.

It just can’t be EVE. I have little interest in experimenting resulting in the destruction of weeks of game time.

Posted on February 27, 2013, in Commentary and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Master of Orion 2?


  2. Can’t think of any recent games but I’ve sort of left this genre behind. Pax Imperia was very good, Ascendancy was easier to just play as it had a shallower learning curve.

    However just like MMORPGs can’t really hold a candle to a good session of D&D (or other tabletop RPG), I’d actually always rather sit and play a game of Starfire (the wargame) over any of these computer games ;-)


  3. WoW, another Stars! player :)
    I stopped a long time ago, but that was after a lot of battles (and writing utilities and other stuff). I would join Ephemeron and suggest MOO2.
    And of course the Star Control series is a must :) (but I have no idea if it’s even possible to run it anywhere today).


    • God, I loved Stars! so damn much. It ran on all my computers, the tech curves were interesting, and the computer was so damn insidious. I never actually completed any of the games I started though, as each turn ended up ballooning out to 30+ minutes of micromanaging.

      I still remember though, games where I decided to not bother with bombers for removing enemy cities, and instead used my Warp 13 Mass Accelerators to slam 3000K of minerals onto the surface. Once a planet was cleansed, they inevitably had plenty of minerals to build the early factories and such.

      Ugh. I would look for my floppies of the game, but I no longer own a computer with a 3.5″ drive. Still have the 100+ page instruction manual though.


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