Gratuitous Space Battles 2 Preview
Gratuitous Space Battles II is the sequel to Gratuitous Space Battles, in case that wasn't obvious. The quirky, unique space battle game returns in the second installment with upgraded features such as online play, modding, visual upgrades, and visual customization options while maintaining the core explode-y space battle gameplay that made the original so much fun.
The version I am playing is only in beta, so I'm not doing an official review quite yet.
Gratuitous Space Battles II focuses on huge space battles with ships that the player creates from parts won through encounters. At times, GSB2 feels like an RTS, but it's more of an "automaton strategy game." The goal is to win each engagement with the smallest fleet possible. The player creates the formations, picks the styles and types of ships to use and gives the units general orders, but the player has no direct control during the battle. The battle plays out completely hands off. The UI does give you the ability to move around, zoom in and out, and to speed up time as well as to view ship performance data during the battle.
Fleet Construction is Key
Ships range in size from fighters to dreadnaughts in a typical naval style: bigger equals more guns and more armor. Each gun, engine, armor, and other items you add takes up resources on the ship in some combination of power, crew, and hardpoints. The player is primarily tasked with maximizing these values for each ship in a way that compliments the other ships in their fleet while maximizing damage-dealing potential.
In a typical engagement you evaluate the types of ships the enemy is fielding, then place your fleet down, then run the battle. Then you either win or evaluate why your fleet didn't succeed. You move forward in the engagements if you win or adjust your fleet if you lose. Shipbuilding is its own minigame and each battle you win gives you honor points that can be spent on better items for your ships. You do have to beat your previous score on a mission to get more honor points (this keeps you from farming the easier early missions).
Ship Building - A Game in Itself
Shipbuilding is the process of balancing crew requirements, power availability and hull limitations to create a ship design that compliments your other designs and also holds its own. During the preview, I've spent an hour sending a single dreadnaught against an entire mission until I was able to maximize its solo survivability and damage output. This was with my goal of creating a dreadnaught that could act as the central nucleus of other more specific ship types. Someone else might create three variations of dreadnaught and then compliment them with other frigates. In the below
Someone else might create 3 variations of dreadnaught and then compliment them with other frigates. In the below images you can see the wide variety of ship sizes and visuals.
The Massive Dreadnaught
Another new feature is GSB2 is the ability to paint your ships. This new ability takes fleet customization in a visuals only direction that adds to the overhaul of visual capabilities the game provides. I'm confident that there are two types of gamers: those who will fly completely unpainted ships (possibly forever) and those who will spend hours attending to every visual detail.
Ship Painting: Woot!
In summary, this game is a quirky gem built by one developer, and the UI at times could use some polish since there seems to be quite a few unnecessary clicks. The game has depth, but is laser focused on the spaces battles and their visuals.
There is plenty of gameplay here, but GSB2 epitomizes the indie development scene in mostly good ways, but also the quirks. The result is a unique and quirky game, but if this sort of thing hooks you then you'll love it. You can get the beta when you pre-order the game. If a beta isn't your thing, wait for our full review after the game is released.